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June, 2006

Detroit water battle surges ahead

From the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization Demanding water in Highland Park. - PHOTO/SYLVIA ORDUNO

Dear American Water Warriors,

Critical street battles are taking place. On March 10, 2006, Detroiters suffered a set-back in our fight to make water accessible to the poor. The progressive members of the local Detroit City Council were out-maneuvered in a successfully rigged vote that increased the water rates.

Michigan Welfare Rights, aligned with a coalition of grassroots organizations and individuals, had locked in the Water Affordability Plan. Prior agreements made with critical members of the Council were designed to force the Water Department to implement the program without delay, and to force a moratorium on the 45,000 water shut offs already budgeted for the year.

Betrayal happened by Council members who prefer the company of well-to-do residents, and who see financial opportunities for themselves by showing they have no love for poor people. The progressive residents, angered by this act against the most vulnerable Detroiters, organized pickets at the homes of these renegade politicians. Calls for a candidate recall are being raised, and the city is in turmoil because more and more residents are holding elected officials accountable for betrayals that affect the life or death of thousands.

This fight is about the basic humanitarian right to have water, regardless of the ability to pay for it. This right is being threatened by privateers who are positioning themselves to accept city contracts worth millions to privatize water.

Detroit, like other major cities, is struggling with double-digit unemployment, rampant political corruption, a rise in homelessness, hunger, and people without healthcare. The rich corporations don't seem to have enough money so the poor are being stripped of the basics needed to live.

The Water Affordability Plan will allow everyone, no matter how poor, to have water based on a formula that lets everyone pay on a scale. It prevents shut offs. Families on welfare assistance are candidates to have minor children taken away and placed in foster care when water is disconnected, so this Plan is critical to the lives of millions in state.

Protest at one of the Michigan governor’s houses over the right to water. - PHOTO/SYLVIA ORDUNOClass Warfare

Detroiters are approaching straight-up, hand-to-hand class warfare. On one side, we have the rising class of people who have already lost work, their benefits, and their homes and cars have been repossessed. They have NO ties to the existing political parties who do nothing to help. On the other side, we have General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Daimler-Chrysler, the City of Detroit, and other corporations, laying off workers, reducing or eliminating benefit packages, making life for those still working a living hell.

The water fight is just the tip of the iceberg. Detroit is caught-up in the transformation from a human-labor manufacturing center to a non-human- labor manufacturing center and is on the cusp of what all Americans must face. These corporations are like "JAWS." Their appetites are insatiable. They swim and eat anyone in their path.

Detroiters are learning that corporations are not our friends. They have one goal: to make profits. They are experts at engaging various ideologies to help deliver us to their feeding frenzy. In Detroit, contention between African-Americans and other people of color is stirred up, while corporations gleefully keep stealing from us all. We don't yet fully understand the nature of the class struggle we are in, so when privatization contracts are suggested by people of color, we don't recognize the treachery of the messenger.

PHOTO/SYLVIA ORDUNOPoised for Victory

We are poised for victory as greater numbers of Detroiters and people in surrounding communities are asking why water is being held hostage. If we can secure access to water and get the Water Affordability Plan implemented, we will push toward an affordable light and gas plan, affordable housing, healthcare, and access to all that should be available to every person -- to each according to their need. That victory will come tomorrow.

As long as we continue to anoint the treacherous Republican or the equally treacherous and gutless Democratic Parties as the "deliverers" who will guide us out of the swamp, no progress toward a higher standard of living for us all is possible. We must take steps toward understanding the class nature of politics in Detroit. We must form a new path, not based on the color of those in the fight, but instead based on class and the character of those in the fight. In Detroit, we are marching, and our slogan is, "You get what you organize to take"!

Contact the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization at http://www.mwro.org/. Phone: (313) 964-0618. E-mail: info@mwro.org.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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