In 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. started a campaign of mass water shutoffs that targeted low-income, residential customers who were two months behind in payments or $150 in arrearages. At the same time, rumors started to surface about poisoned public water in Flint, MI. Both issues were the start of another night of terror for blue-collar workers, a night that has not yet ended.
Despite multi-level battles to stop these draconian practices, residents have not been able to demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of water shutoffs or water poisonings. Attempts to “privatize” what has always been a “municipal common” held in trust has only been slowed. The City of Detroit is focused on re-classifying access to clean water and sanitation as a commodity to be bought and sold, supported by the notion that if you can’t pay for it, residents can’t have it…SCANDALOUS!
The City of Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, was first to feel the pain of “water privatization” attempts that came on the heels of that community losing more than 50% of its population. The population in Detroit fell from 1.9 million to today’s census figures of 700,000 over twenty years. Our standard of living fell right along with the loss of working people replaced by robotic production (robots). Elected officials have no other answer but to reduce our quality of life. Democrats, Republicans, all genders and all nationalities have and continue to capture then sell-off city assets that once belonged to the people. We have been left with no choice but to fight for our lives as we envision what a different kind of world might look like.
The new gauntlet has again been thrown down that threatens the existence of tens of thousands in Detroit. Just last month, in March of 2018, the City of Detroit wrote in local newspapers that effective mid-April, some 17,000 plus separate addresses in Detroit alone, are scheduled for mass shutoffs for being two months behind in payments, or $150 in arrears…SCANDALOUS!!
When water is turned off, neighborhood issues surface.
When water is turned off, children can be removed from the household and placed in foster care.
When water is turned off, infectious diseases connected to the build-up of surface algae and other contaminants that grow on the inside of water pipes surface.
When water is turned off, it means elected officials have initiated the steps to sell public water to private companies in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.
We join with the Poor Peoples Campaign as part of a collaborative effort that focuses on raising these issues that are directly connected to poverty. We stand in strict opposition to practices that torture low-income populations. We reject any and every effort to produce narratives that try to excuse these practices under the label of “standard procedures” because torture is not customary or normal to people with moral character. Welfare Rights fights for the elimination of poverty, so we are in lock step with all who want to accomplish the same.
The immediate answer to stop mass shutoffs is to adopt a Water Affordability Plan that allows residents to pay monthly charges on the basis of their income, not on the basis of a separate rate structure. All attempts have been ignored to offer this fail safe pilot program/concept for 6 months to one year as a test to determine what lessons can be learned.
We are left with methods of survival as the only option for Detroit, for Highland Park, for Flint and for the other cities and townships across the country who are facing shutoffs as the corporate answer to how to treat poor people, poor children, poor retirees, poor disabled persons, and poor veterans.
State Chairperson – MWRO