The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1091 — October 14 - 28, 2019

The Whole Government Apple Barrel Is Rotten

Oct 14, 2019

The pressure to impeach Donald Trump has built over the past two weeks. Evidence mounts of Trump’s use of Rudy Giuliani as a shadow state department, and his involvement of top government officials like Attorney General Barr, Secretary of State Pompeo and Vice President Pence, all to serve his own political and personal interests. In addition, Trump’s moves to thumb his nose at State Department officials over Syria have caused Congressional Republicans to question some of their support for him.

 Polls have shown a recent quick shift toward public support for impeachment and even removal of Trump, even rising a bit among Republicans and Trump voters. In the wake of this shift, some Republicans in Congress have come out in support of “allowing the process to play out.”

Over nearly three years of hirings and firings, Trump has bullied and harried any State officials slow to do his bidding. But it appears that career staffers, especially in the Justice and State Departments, are now starting to push back. State Department officials are defying orders not to testify, and are beginning to appear in front of Congress. Judges and appeals courts are ruling against Trump’s attempts to block information from coming out.

It seems that an important section of the state apparatus, and of the capitalist class behind it, are viewing Trump as a liability.

Make no mistake, if the politicians and the apparatus were really determined to remove Trump, they would do it right now—immediately. If they ultimately do remove Trump, they will be doing it for their own reasons and their own interests. They will do it because his cronyism and complete self-interest are throwing too much chaos into a process that the ruling class needs to depend on to act smoothly in the interests of U.S. imperialism as a whole—not just in one man’s political or financial interests. The capitalists will want to get this system back to “normal”—a system running smoothly for them, one they can depend on, especially on the international stage.

Politicians come and go. They are window dressing on a much larger apparatus, hundreds of thousands of people who are unelected and who stay in their positions decade after decade, through Republican and Democratic administrations. This is the stable system that the ruling class needs to act in its interests, quietly, no matter who is in office.

Part of the job of politicians is to take the heat, take the hit—and be replaced occasionally, keeping the system as a whole in place.

If Congress is reluctant to begin impeachment proceedings, there’s a reason. The ruling class would much rather let the electoral process play out, keeping the appearance of a system running smoothly, letting people feel they have made a difference in voting out one politician from one party and replacing them with another from the other party. Impeachment calls into question that process. It could be like an earthquake, shaking up the whole system.

So, the politicians would be taking a minor gamble in using impeachment in trying to get things back to “normal.” But whatever they do, their “normal” doesn’t work for the working class. We’ve seen our living standard deteriorate through forty years of “normal.” And we have no interest in waiting on the Democrats and Republicans to get through this chaos and reestablish their “normal” order.

Both parties, by what they’ve done over decades, have created the situation that led to this chaos. Sure, let them push Trump out—he’s rotten and corrupt, and holds nothing for us. But why should we focus on that? Push them ALL out. Grab this turmoil and push our own agenda, fight for our own interests. We have the forces to change the direction of any fight that starts. We can fight our own fight. We can build our own political organizations, and we can find our own leaders.

Pages 2-3

Shootings on the Rise in Washington, D.C.

Oct 14, 2019

There has been an up-tick in killings in Washington, D.C. in the past three years. The city is starting to feel like a war zone, with homicides listed nightly on the news.

On October 10th, a D.C. Housing Authority worker was shot and killed near Capitol Hill. Police think he was robbed while eating lunch in his car. On October 8th, 24-year-old Kevin Better of southeast D.C. was shot in the head and later died. That killing was one of three that night. And on October 9th a 15-year-old Anacostia High School student was shot and killed. The week before had just as many killings. And these are coming on top of 134 homicides so far this year.

Earlier this year, a teenager was shot in the back when 40 or more bullets were sprayed in front of a barbershop in the middle of the afternoon. In July, a man was shot and killed near Sheriff Road.

D.C. has one of the highest crime rates in the United States, compared to all communities of all sizes—from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime is one in 17. Murder, rape, robbery, and assault are all higher in D.C. than the national average.

And this in the shadow of the White House and the Capitol. This city, the political center of the United States, is home to an enormous wealth gap. Just look at infant mortality. In D.C.’s Ward 8, the poorest ward, infant mortality was 14.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In contrast, the infant mortality rate in Ward 3, D.C.’s most affluent ward, was only 1.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

This is a city where Under Armour’s Kevin Plank can put his Georgetown estate on the market for 24.5 million dollars—a property he purchased for 7.85 million in 2013. And in the same city, there are homeless people living in tents!

This is a city where wealthy children go to some of the best schools while poor and working class children are left behind in a destroyed public school system.

This is a city where there is nothing in poor neighborhoods. No transportation, NO JOBS, no grocery stores. And all this nothing exists right next door to enormous wealth and opportunity completely closed off to poor and working class people.

It is not surprising that people are angry, that they turn on each other, prey on each other. They see no way out of a desperate situation. Without a collective solution, without an organized working class to lead the fight for jobs and against poverty, there is no real way out.

Florida Prisoner Documents Barbaric Prison Conditions

Oct 14, 2019

A Florida prisoner, Scott Whitney, recorded videos inside the Martin Correctional Facility since 2015. He managed to have some of them smuggled out, clips from 2017 on, and the Miami Herald published some on its website. Whitney’s videos provide an exceptional glimpse into the conditions under which prisoners are forced to live.

They show, for example, walls in the prison kitchen completely covered in mold. They show prisoners fighting one another, with no intervention by guards, using weapons varying from homemade knives to locks they swing at one another. Whitney demonstrates a knife-proof vest he made for protection, with mattress material and books stuffed into pockets lining the vest.

Whitney’s video shows drugs smoked openly and easily accessible. The most common drug is K2, also known as Spice or “twak.” Prisoners can make K2, a synthetic marijuana-like drug, using common household items. It’s harder than other drugs to detect in a urine test. It also varies, however, in its make-up and potency, and prisoners often overdose on it.

It took a great deal of courage for Whitney to take the videos and get them smuggled out of the prison, supported by other prisoners. He once had a phone confiscated and was put into “confinement” as punishment. Since the Miami Herald recently posted his smuggled videos, he has once again been returned to confinement.

Whitney’s videos show the conditions of life at Martin Correctional are like those in medieval dungeons. They are, however, hardly unique to one Florida prison.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the famed Russian novelist, once wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Scott Whitney managed to capture the barbarism of prison life in his prison and in so doing show the barbaric nature of life under American capitalism.

Chicago Unions Set a Strike Date

Oct 14, 2019

The Chicago Teachers’ Union, along with the union for school staff and Parks District workers, have all set the same strike date: Thursday, October 17th.

Chicago’s new Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has been waving modest raises in front of teachers—3% a year for five years—almost enough to keep up with inflation. The teachers’ union is legally limited to bargaining and potentially striking over only a few issues, such as pay, and they cannot legally strike over things like class size and staffing.

But teachers have long been saying there are other problems: having a nurse on duty at every school full-time, a librarian in every school, a case manager for Special Education services, and smaller class sizes.

The Service Employees Union Local 73, which represents 7,000 security guards, classroom aides, and custodians, waited a full year in negotiations in order to line up a strike date with the teachers’ union. Moreover, Service Employees Local 73 also represents the Chicago Park District workers, who have set the same strike date as the teachers and the school staff workers.

Certainly what’s needed is a coordinated strike by the workers in all three unions, one which could engage a broader layer of the city’s working class, beyond just one group. But that depends on the teachers, other school workers, and parks workers themselves.

GE Guaranteed Pensions:
Plunder Is Our Most Important Product

Oct 14, 2019

GE just announced that it is going to freeze pensions for 20,000 of its current salaried employees. These current employees retain the benefits they have accumulated through the end of 2020, but they won’t receive credit for additional years of work after that.

GE also intends to replace monthly pension payments with lump sum payments for 100,000 former employees who haven’t started collecting pensions yet.

According to the current CEO, GE has to find ways to pare down its debt of roughly 100 billion dollars that it had at the start of 2019! Debt that was incurred not because pension obligations were strapping GE, but because of deals GE has been embroiled in over the past two decades.

Previously, GE was an “acquisition machine, scooping up businesses in the industrial goods, media, health care and financials industries.” It wasn’t investing in production, it was on a shopping spree, buying up other companies and “handing a new burst of fee revenue to its favored bankers.”

And, in 2016 and 2017, the former CEO went on a $24 billion spending spree to buy back GE’s stock at what turned out to be extremely high prices.  This also increased its debt.

In other words, executives at GE plundered the company. They speculated. They bought and sold and lost. They hid massive losses by taking on a mountain of bad debt and they incurred astronomical fees to the banks. They paid out dividends to their major stockholders and gave astronomical salaries and retirement packages to themselves.

And now they want the workforce to pay for it, robbing them of the guaranteed pensions they are rightfully owed as part of their compensation. 

But GE isn’t alone in this grand theft.  GE is doing what companies throughout the economy are doing: taking on record amounts of debt and then expecting their workforces to pay for it—whether it’s in slashed wages, benefits, or in this case, guaranteed pensions.

Google Exploits Homeless for Face Recognition

Oct 14, 2019

Google hired temps to go out to collect face scans from a variety of people on the street, using $5 gift cards as incentive, according to the New York Daily News. Google hired these temps through a temp agency, Randstad, and asked them to specifically target dark-skinned and black people. This was supposed to improve the Android face-recognition software on Google’s smartphones.

Randstad instructed their temps to conceal the fact that people’s faces were being recorded. They were sent to scan homeless people in Atlanta and also scan unsuspecting students on college campuses around the U.S. One temp worker told the New York Daily News that, “They said to target homeless people because they’re the least likely to say anything to the media.”

So, these makers of so-smart phones, miracles of 21st-century technology, rely on tricking and exploiting low-income working class and homeless people for their future profits. No surprise, is it?

Pages 4-5

U.S. Imperialism’s Latest Betrayal of the Kurdish People

Oct 14, 2019

On Sunday, October 6, the White House announced that Donald Trump had given his endorsement for a Turkish military invasion of northeastern Syria. The 50 to 100 U.S. troops who had served as a trip wire along the border were quickly pulled back and relocated to bases deeper in Syria. Within days, the Turkish military invaded northern Syria. Syria, which had already been torn apart by eight years of bloody and destructive civil war, was descending into a new stage of that war—apparently with Trump’s blessings.

Trump was immediately attacked, not only by the Democrats, but by many of his most ardent supporters in the Republican Party.

U.S. Alliance with Kurds and Turkey

After all, the Turkish military had just attacked the U.S. military’s most loyal and effective ally in the Syrian civil war—the 60,000 troops of the Kurdish militia, called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). For five years the Kurdish militia had taken on and methodically defeated ISIS fighters, with U.S. air support, along with some Special Forces and ground troops. In October 2017, the Kurds, with U.S. support, drove ISIS from the city of Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria. Finally, in March 2019, the Kurds, aided by U.S. bombs, routed ISIS in Baghuz from its last major holdout.

In return for this vital support, the U.S. government had promised to support the Kurds in their effort to build up their own autonomous region in northeastern Syria.

The 30 million Kurds in the Middle East have no homeland. Instead, they are spread out over four countries, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. They often suffer great oppression, especially in Turkey, where 17 million Kurds live. The Turkish government made clear that it would not tolerate an autonomous Kurdish region along its border with Syria, since it could be an encouragement and aid for the Kurds within its own borders to rebel.

The dilemma for U.S. policymakers is that the U.S. is allied with both the Turkish government and the Syrian Kurds. As long as the U.S. military needed the Kurds to help defeat ISIS, the U.S. government held the Turkish government off from invading and occupying the Kurdish part of Syria.

However, once the Kurds had defeated ISIS in its last stronghold in March, U.S. imperialism tilted toward the demands of the Turkish government, which is a much bigger and more strategic ally that also happens to be a key member of NATO.

A Worsening Refugee Crisis

The Turkish government says that it launched its military operation in Kurdish-controlled territory in order to create a “safe zone” along its border, 20 miles deep and 300 miles wide. It then intends to settle at least one million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees who are now living in camps inside Turkey.

But in just its first few days, the Turkish invasion forced 100,000 Kurds to flee south, adding to a refugee crisis that has displaced more than half the Syrian population of 22 million people.

A History of Betrayal

This current betrayal of the Kurds by the U.S. government is not new. In February 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, in which the U.S. and key allies attacked Iraq, President George Bush urged the Iraqi people, “to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”

After Bush halted military operations in the Persian Gulf two weeks later and a big part of Hussein’s military surrendered, Iraqi Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north took Bush at his word and launched a rebellion against Hussein, gaining control of a number of Iraqi cities and towns.

Then the Bush administration reversed course. Fearing that a successful rebellion in Iraq might destabilize the explosive Middle East region, it turned around and helped Hussein to quell the uprising. They returned Hussein’s army to him, as well as helicopters and other heavy weaponry, which Hussein used to drown the rebellion of the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq in blood.

In the Middle East, in order to impose its domination, U.S. imperialism divides and plays off the populations and ethnic groups against each other, thus creating a series of unending wars that feed into each other.

Anger at the Government

Oct 14, 2019

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

For several weeks now, significant mass demonstrations in Haiti have demanded that President Jovenel Moïse resign. On September 27, thousands of Haitians protested in the capital, Port au Prince. The Revolutionary Workers Organization active in Haiti described the events as follows in their journal, Workers Voice.

The government and gas importers had maneuvered to create an artificial shortage of gas. On September 17, people from the exploited classes, like motorcycle taxi drivers and penniless young people from the poor neighborhoods, began showing their anger against the aggravation this caused. The movement spread to other cities.

When politicians opposed to the president called for a protest against the government on September 20, many exploited people didn’t pass up the opportunity. Big numbers took to the streets to show their anger against the corrupt government and call for it to step down.

But the media do not show young people from the slums arrested by police. Nor do the media show the demands concerning bad living conditions of the working masses. Instead, almost exclusively, the media feature the opposition politicians. These opportunistic middle class politicians participate in the struggles only to take the lead in order to come to power. Workers and their supporters need to know that these politicians are there to take advantage of the situation in order to take power. Once in power, they will turn against the masses.

The fights of the working class and the masses will have real results when they gain the means to analyze, to prepare, and to lead these movements—with the help of a party of their own, a revolutionary workers’ party.

Revolt Against an Unbearable Situation

Oct 14, 2019

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Since Tuesday, October 1, thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated every day in the capital, Baghdad, as well as in many other cities including Nasariya, Diwaniya, and even Basra and Najaf in the south of the country. Violent repression of these demonstrators has already killed at least 100 people and wounded more than 4,000.

The army issued a communique recognizing an excessive use of force. That’s an understatement. In Sadr City, the big neighborhood in the capital, videos showed demonstrators diving for cover from uninterrupted bursts of shots, some fired from heavy weapons. The mostly young demonstrators demand functioning public services, jobs particularly for the youth—one young person in four is unemployed—and the end of corruption that in six years has swallowed up four times the amount allocated to the state budget.

The demonstrators also demand the end of the Abdel Mahdi government that has been in power for a year. They chant: “The people want a change of regime,” “Give us back our country!” “In the name of religion, the thieves loot us.”

On Sunday, October 6, the government announced a series of reforms, but because the political class is so discredited, these promises have few chances of calming the anger expressed in the streets.

For a very long time, the Iraqi population has paid for the consequences of the government’s mismanagement and the imperialist interventions in the region. The last U.S. military intervention in 2003, which was followed by many years of occupation, destroyed the country and left the population to be the prey of militias and of extremely corrupt puppet governments. Since 2011, popular revolts have appeared periodically. One took place during the summer of 2018, when an important social movement swept the entire south of Iraq. For weeks, the population of Basra, the big oil city in the south, demonstrated to demand basic public services, in particular the distribution of water and electricity; for jobs; and for the end of the regime’s corruption. This revolt spread throughout the province and into those of Dhi War, Maysan, and Najaf, which are farther north, near the capital of Baghdad.

The current demonstrations were sparked by the removal of the counter-terrorism chief Abdelwahab al-Saadi, who became popular during the war against ISIS. Different calls to demonstrate also circulated on social media, reflecting perhaps what happened in Algeria.

While the protests seem to have appeared spontaneously, there is no shortage of political and religious leaders who are trying to fix their limits, including the Shia religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr. He called at first for peaceful sit-ins, then on Friday, October 4, he called for the resignation of the government ... which includes the coalition that he built in the last legislative session. He gained his popularity by opposing U.S. and British occupation troops, at the head of the militia he had created, and which he sometimes also led against the new Iraqi authorities. But from the movements of 2018 to today, while he encourages the demonstrators in words, he continues to participate in a coalition with al-Abadi, the last head of the government.

The anger of the Iraqi youth, the workers, and the poor classes goes well beyond rivalries among the politicians or religious and ethnic conflicts. After years of war, in a destroyed country, faced with unbearable conditions of life, the demands come from the aspiration to be able to live with dignity and to hope for a better future. In Iraq, as in other countries in the region, permanent war and the poverty it has produced have created a situation that is more and more unlivable, and the masses of the population are looking for a way out. The only real solution will be in removing the imperialists and in overthrowing the local ruling classes linked to them.

Pages 6-7

G.M. Strike:
Their Fight Is Our Fight!

Oct 14, 2019

This was the editorial in SPARK workplace bulletins, for the week of October 7, 2019.

For three weeks, Ford workers from the Rouge in Dearborn, Michigan, have been joining GM picket lines in Romulus. Chrysler workers from Warren and Sterling Heights added themselves to GM lines at Hamtramck Assembly and Warren Transmission. Workers laid off by companies producing parts for GM went up to the Flint plants. So did hospital workers. Workers from other industries in Arlington, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas, came to help at GM assembly plants in those cities.

No matter where else they worked, they came to GM plants with this thought in mind: “Their fight is our fight.”

And, truly, it is. GM workers are fighting for a contract that will set the pattern—first for Ford and Chrysler workers, then for the rest of the auto industry, then for workers in almost every heavy industry—and a great many others. What happens in auto ripples throughout the economy.

How much stronger our fight would be if all the workers concerned were fully part of it—not just reinforcing the GM lines, not just coming down to give a hand out of solidarity, but joining in as full partners in the fight.

Look what GM workers by themselves have done in just three weeks. They refused to cave in, facing a daily campaign denigrating their union. They ignored headlines like this one in the Detroit News, “A strike that shouldn’t have happened.” When reporters tried to get them to say they were tired of the strike, many replied, like this Flint worker did: “I may be tired, I may be short on money, but I’m here for as long as it takes.”

With their decision to keep on with the fight, GM workers encouraged other workers. No one made the others come down to the lines—they did it because they wanted to be part of the fight.

GM strikers are only part of one company, in only one industry. Yet, even in three weeks, they had an impact on the economy. You can bet that the moneyed class behind GM management has noticed that—just like they noticed other workers joining in. The last thing they want is a strike that spreads. 

How much bigger the impact would be if GM workers and Ford workers and Chrysler workers and parts company workers were part of one united fight. Remember, those parts company workers were once part of GM, Ford or Chrysler. The companies “spun them off.” That divided us, weakened us and let everyone’s wages be lowered.

How much faster our demands will be recognized when we join in common fights that span many industries.

All of us have as much reason to fight as GM workers have. GM is not the only company that schemed to get workers to give up concessions to “save the company.” Throughout the economy, profits soared, dividends soared, executive incomes soared—while workers fell further behind. All of us know people who can’t get a decent paying, permanent job. Almost all of us have wages that don’t keep up with inflation. Almost all of us skip needed medical appointments because we are short of money. Almost all of us go to work in jobs that take more energy out of us every day than what we replenish when we finally fall asleep at night.

We all have a reason to fight.

Most workers in this country have never been on a strike. Most of the workers at GM had never been on strike before either. But a lot has changed in a few weeks.

It’s true that labor law prohibits us from fighting all at the same time as one class. But labor law divides us, weakening us. Finally, it serves only our class enemies.

We’ve been obeying the law’s prohibition for a long time. And where has it gotten us?

We have the force as a powerful class to get back what we’ve given up—and to do much more than that. We have the strength to tear up the greedy demands of profit, the strength to shape a new society that will answer human need.

Page 8

California Shasta Dam:
Politicians in the Service of Big Capital

Oct 14, 2019

California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 1, a California Senate bill, which his fellow Democrats said would protect the state’s federally controlled lands against the Trump Administration’s weakening of environmental requirements.

Newsom’s excuse was quite lame. He said he vetoed the bill because water districts in California’s Central Valley threatened that, if SB 1 passed, they would pull out of ongoing talks with environmental groups about water standards.

Those water districts opposed SB 1 on behalf of big agricultural companies in the Central Valley, which had been lobbying for raising the Shasta Dam’s water level. That way the dam, which is operated by the federal government, would send much more irrigation water to the Central Valley—and less water to the farmers and salmon growers in coastal water districts. In fact, the federal government’s own scientists said that a higher Shasta would endanger plant and animal life in the area, and could seriously harm the salmon industry on the West Coast.

In other words, Newsom has sided with Central Valley capitalists in this dispute. So has the Trump Administration, which has already started the process of increasing the water volume in the Shasta Dam.

It doesn’t take much detective work to see through the Trump Administration’s motives in this controversy. Trump’s current Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, was both an attorney and a lobbyist for the Westlands water district, the largest water district in the Central Valley, until late 2016—shortly before he got a position in the Trump administration, that is. And Westlands, created and controlled by some of California’s wealthiest farmers, has consistently spent big for lobbying the federal government for a steady flow of irrigation water.

Newsom and Trump—and the Democratic and Republican Parties behind them—may fight each other on some issues. But they are in complete agreement on one thing: to use their positions to help Big Capital amass more profit.

Utility Companies Turn the Lights Out

Oct 14, 2019

Last Wednesday, the utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) started a planned power outage. It affected 500,000 households in a large area of Northern California. According to the California officials, as many as 2.5 million people could be impacted, perhaps for days.

Although PG&E was supposed to give sufficient notice, many Northern Californians said they were not notified on time. Now, they are in a rush to buy batteries, generators and canned foods to survive the power outage. Schools and other educational institutions like U.C. Berkeley and Humboldt State University cancelled their classes and closed their campuses.  Hospitals and their patients who rely on electrical devices are also threatened by these power cuts.

Last year, PG&E equipment caused the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. Early this year, PG&E declared bankruptcy to avoid full responsibility. Now, to evade the costs of the next disaster, PG&E takes the easy way out by cutting electricity to people who depend on it. Two other utility companies in Southern California, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, are planning to do the same.

California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, where the population invents, manufactures, and hosts some of the most modern and advanced technologies in the world. But the population is taken hostage by the utility companies, who protect their profits by using outdated power grid equipment, and then cutting power when their equipment poses risks.

Instead of being a modern place to live, California now resembles an impoverished country, with millions of its residents without electricity. This is the product of capitalism, promoted and defended by the companies and their rich owners. And, sending us into the dark.

What Regulation?
Mills Poison Lake Michigan

Oct 14, 2019

On August 11, ArcelorMittal’s giant Burns Harbor steel mill in Indiana released a plume of concentrated cyanide and ammonia into the Little Calumet River, which flows into Lake Michigan. For four days, the public was told nothing—until thousands of dead fish began floating past a crowded marina. Only then did officials shut off a nearby drinking water intake and close beaches.

It turns out that since 2015, this mill has violated clean water laws more than 100 times, releasing cyanide, ammonia, oil, and sewage sludge into the lake.  Neither the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nor the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had done anything to stop this dumping. The non-profit Environmental Law and Policy Center is now threatening to sue, trying to force these regulators to do their jobs.

And this wasn’t the first time a steel mill got away with dumping poison in Lake Michigan. A similar investigation in 2017 found that U.S. Steel’s Midwest Plant, just down the road, had dumped hundreds of pounds of highly toxic hexavalent chromium into the lake. When they reported one leak, U.S. Steel had the nerve to send a letter to the Indiana state agency responsible for ensuring water safety asking for “confidential treatment” of the information!

After another environmental law group threatened to sue, U.S. Steel wound up paying a fine of just $900,000—much less than it would have cost them to prevent the spills in the first place. So even when they were caught red-handed, they profited from polluting.

Lake Michigan provides drinking water to about seven million people in the Chicago area alone. By allowing these steel mills to get away with threatening our vital drinking water, the federal and Indiana governments make clear that in this system, the companies’ profits come before our lives.

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