When SEIU Local 1 heard about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., they looked for a way to make a difference and bring justice to the lives of the people of Flint – including the nearly 9,000 children poisoned by lead and the thousands of others impacted by the crisis.
On Saturday, January 30, Local 1 members delivered 860 cases of water, as well as a pallet of baby wipes to aid in washing children, to two churches in Flint — Our Lady of Guadalupe, which works closely with the undocumented immigrant community to ensure they have clean drinking water, and Eternal Life Ministries. This donation was made possible by the support of more than a hundred contributors to a Local 1 generated Go Fund Me page.
The Detroit members were especially committed to this project because they too are experiencing the impact of the political decision by Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) to circumvent the democratically elected officials of predominantly African American cities in Michigan and appoint Emergency Managers to cities and departments. From the beginning, Emergency Managers, like Darnell Earley, who made the decision that ruined the lives of thousands of Flint residents, were sent to mostly-poor, mostly African-American cities in Michigan, like Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Highland Park, stripping them of their rights to self-representation and local rule.
“By allowing our children to be poisoned and the education system to be degraded, the Governor has put our state and our future at risk,” said SEIU Local 1 Executive Board Member Pam Owens. “Local 1’s mission is to raise up our cities and our states so we must work to help Flint and to fix the Detroit Public Schools, and we must hold the Governor, the emergency managers and our other elected and appointed officials accountable.”
The generosity of the contributors will allow Local 1 to have an on-going presence in Flint, and the Local has promised to help as the city move forward from the crisis. The Local will join together with other labor and community groups to make sure that the people behind the crisis are held accountable, including the Governor, but to also end the misguided cost cutting measures that led to the crisis in Flint and are damaging Detroit’s children in the public schools.
Background on Flint and Detroit Public School Crisis:
The appointed decision-maker in Flint, Darnell Earley, who chose to cut costs at any cost to the citizens of Flint in 2013, is now doing the same to the Detroit Public Schools, where Local 1 members work.
Since last January when Earley was promoted to Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools, he has aggressively pushed for more cuts to schools, teachers, and student services – including janitorial services — in order to pay down the district’s debt.
Detroit Public Schools had a surplus of $80 million dollars prior to state emergency management. That surplus has turned into a deficit of $515 million dollars, driven by state mismanagement, school closures, and students leaving the district. Vermin now infest the city’s schools and teachers recently walked off the job to protest. This is unconscionable. Earley’s tenure at both institutions has been to cut budgets at any cost, and the results have been disastrous.