Let me start this rant off by saying I’m from Flint. I grew up there. I went to their schools. My family still lives there and so do I. I’ve known about and have been speaking out about the Flint water crisis for over two years. I know this issue like the back of my hand.
Some people are saying the Flint water crisis was caused by racism and they pull the demographic that Flint is almost 60% black. I’ve seen so many goddamn posts here that’s just a picture of Flint’s race demographics as if that was explanation enough as to why this has happened to us, and that annoys the FUCK out of me. It annoys me because the entire root of the problem, the entire issue that’s been going on for years, gets simplified by people who’ve known of Flint’s existence for less than a half an hour to just “racism”. This was never a race thing, the water crisis and Flint’s demographics have literally nothing to do with each other.
This began in the early 1990s. Flint was a factory town, much like Detroit. In the 90′s, factories started to outsource their work to other countries. Nearly every factory in Flint shut down. 90% of Flint’s jobs had disappeared in less than 20 years. Over 100,000 people left. Because of this, the entire economy destabilized. Thousands of people were laid off, including most notably, teachers and law enforcement. This became one of the reasons why Flint has one of the highest crime rates per capita in the United States.
By the year 2002, Flint was over $30 million in debt. They went to emergency managers, but to no avail. Mayors and emergency managers have been in and out of the city like you would not believe, rarely serving their full term.
Flint struggled along through the housing market crash until 2011. That’s when this all started to kick off.
On September 30, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a review team to review Flint’s financial state with a request to report back in 30 days (half the legal time for a review). On November 8, the Michigan State review panel declared Flint of to be in the state of a “local government financial emergency” recommending the state again appoint an Emergency Manager. On November 14, the City Council voted 7 to 2 to not appeal the state review with Mayor Walling concurring. Governor Snyder appointed Michael Brown as the city’s Emergency Manager on November 29, effective December 1. December 2, Brown kicked out the almost entire administration.
On March 20, 2012, days after a lawsuit was filed by labor union AFSCME (
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), and a restraining order was issued against Brown, his appointment was found to be in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act and Mayor Walling and the City Council had their powers returned. The state immediately filed an emergency appeal, claiming the financial emergency still existed. On March 26, the appeal was granted, putting Brown back in power.
Michael Brown was re-appointed Emergency Manager on June 26, 2013, and returned to work on July 8. Flint had an $11.3 million projected deficit when Brown started as emergency manager in 2011. The city faced a $19.1 million deficit from 2012, with plans to borrow $12 million to cover part of it. Brown resigned from his position in early September 2013. He was succeeded by Saginaw city manager (and former Flint temporary mayor) Darnell Earley.
The Flint Water Crisis
In an attempt to save money, in early 2014, Flint began the undertaking of a water supply switch-over from reliable supplies from the City of Detroit. Initially, the drawing of water from the Flint River was viewed by the City as a temporary fix prior to the City’s ultimate switch to a permanent supply which would be provided after the Karegnondi Water Authority’s construction of a pipeline from Lake Huron, thereby eliminating Flint’s long-time dependence on Detroit City water. By doing this, Flint would no longer have to buy it’s water from Detroit, and it was hoped that it would help to lessen Flint’s deficit.
After the change in water source, the city’s drinking water had a series of issues that culminated with lead contamination, creating a serious public health danger. The corrosive Flint River water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply, causing extremely elevated levels of lead. As a result, residents had severely high levels of lead in the blood and experienced a range of serious health problems. The water may also be a possible cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the county that has killed 10 people and affected another 77.
In January 2015, a public meeting was held, where citizens complained about the bad water. Residents complained about the taste, smell and appearance of the water for 18 months before a Flint physician found highly elevated blood lead levels in the children of Flint while the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality insisted the water was safe to drink.
While the local outcry about Flint water quality was growing in early 2015, Flint’s water officials filed papers with state regulators purporting to show that “tests at Flint’s water treatment plant had detected no lead and testing in homes had registered lead at acceptable levels." The documents falsely claim that the city had tested tap water from homes with lead service lines, and therefore the highest lead-poisoning risks; in reality; the city does not know the locations of lead service lines, which city officials acknowledged in November 2015 after the Flint Journal published an article revealing the practice after obtaining documents through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The Journal reported that the city had "disregarded federal rules requiring it to seek out homes with lead plumbing for testing, potentially leading the city and state to underestimate for months the extent of toxic lead leaching into Flint’s tap water." Only after independent research was conducted by Marc Edwards, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, and a local physician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, was a public-health emergency declared.
In September 2015, a team working under Edwards published a report finding that Flint water was "very corrosive” and “causing lead contamination in homes” and concluding that “Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water. This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder." Edwards was shocked by the extent of the contamination and by authorities’ inaction in the face of their knowledge of the contamination.
On September 24, 2015, Hurley Medical Center in Flint released a study, led by Hanna-Attisha, the MPH program director for pediatric residency at the Hurley Children’s Hospital, confirming that proportion of infants and children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled since the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River as its water source. Using hospital records, Hanna-Attisha found that a steep rise in blood-lead levels correlated to the city’s switch in water sources. The study was initially dismissed by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Brad Wurfel, who stuck to the claim that: "Repeated testing indicated the water tested within acceptable levels." Later, Wurfel apologized to Hanna-Attisha.
On November 13, 2015, four families filed a federal class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Governor Rick Snyder and thirteen other city and state officials, and three separate people filed a similar suit in state court two months later. Separately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Michigan Attorney General’s office opened investigations. On January 5, 2016, the city was declared to be in a state of emergency by the Governor of Michigan, before President Obama declared the crisis as a federal state of emergency, authorizing additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security less than two weeks later.
Three government officials - one from the City of Flint and two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - resigned over the mishandling of the crisis, and Snyder issued an apology to citizens.
On January 13, 2016, Snyder said 87 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a waterborne disease, were reported in Genesee County from June 2014–November 2015, resulting in 10 deaths. Although the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said that there is no evidence of a clear link between the spike in cases and the water system change, Edwards stated the contaminated Flint water could be linked to the spike, telling reporters, "It’s very possible that, the conditions in the Flint River water contributed. We’ve actually predicted earlier this year, that the conditions present in Flint would increase the likelihood of Legionnaires’ disease. We wrote a proposal on that to the National Science Foundation that was funded and we visited Flint and did two sampling events. The first one, which was focused on single family homes or smaller businesses. We did not find detectable levels of Legionella bacteria that causes disease, in those buildings. But, during our second trip, we looked at large buildings and we found very high levels of Legionella that tends to cause the disease.”
That’s what happened in Flint. It wasn’t an act of racism, it was an act of politicians cutting corners to save money, and it’s killing us. They denied any knowledge of the water being poisoned for almost a year, they denied that we were in danger, and they knew we were being poisoned.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees turns 75 years old today. AFSCME is a 1.6 million member union of public sector employees. There may not be a union more hated by Republicans.
A new video by AFSCME does a great job trying to reorder Congress’s misguided priorities. Congress, do you really want to reduce the deficit? Then make jobs your priority. Once our economy is restored, the deficit will shrink dramatically.
The public employees of MAPE and AFSCME have taken to the airwaves with a new ad. Their message is simple: We want to work for Minnesota. These cuts don’t have to happen if we tax the richest 2 percent.
In Wisconsin, now that workers aren't FORCED to join unions, nobody's joining unions
A funny thing happens when you outlaw forcibly taking union dues out of people’s paychecks…people suddenly stop wanting to be in labor unions. That’s exactly what has happened in Wisconsin after Scott Walker fought to give people the right to work, regardless of their union membership.
from Washington Post:
Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers.
Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving public-sector unions were not just shrunken — they were crippled.
Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.
Here in King, Magnant and her fellow AFSCME members, workers at a local veterans home, have been knocking on doors on weekends to persuade former members to rejoin. Community college professors in Moraine Park, home to a technical college, are reducing dues from $59 to $36 each month. And those in Milwaukee are planing a campaign using videos and posters to highlight union principles. The theme: “Remember.”
One union member interviewed in that article actually says, “The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.” He’s exactly right.
If workers want to voluntarily join a union and collectively bargain for better pay and benefits, that’s perfectly fine. However, forcing people to join unions in order to get government jobs is immoral and just takes bread off of family tables and lines the pockets of corrupt leaders and politicians.
I never knew or cared to know what the hell AFSCME was in little league. I always thought it was some busted up, last place, no good club, probably located on the west side of town. I now know I was mistaken. While I was getting discounts on snow globes at the Cricket’s store, this AFSCME squad was up all night negotiating public labor laws and establishing a hard-pipin’ powehouse of a union so we could live in a civilized place. Probably sat around smoking butts and ripping through packs of Big League Chew and Bubble Tape like it was nobody’s business. No wonder they were in last place, they were too busy doing all the shit work like assigning broads to man the crosswalk and making sure your kids weren’t drinkin piss water.
Today in labor history, April 21, 1967: New York governor Nelson Rockefeller signs the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act (“Taylor Law”), giving public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively. However, the law prohibited strikes and established a board to settle disputes and impose sanctions on striking public employees. (Photo: AFSCME members in New York City protest the jailing of hospital workers’ organizer and strike leader Lillian Roberts for breaking the Taylor Law).