The Spark

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

Chicago:
Midwest Power Pollutes Workers’ Communities

Jun 20, 2011

The Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) are two neighborhood groups in Chicago taking on a multi-million dollar power company, Midwest Generation.

These and other groups have staged several actions in the past few months: they’ve held neighborhood meetings; hosted an art contest around this issue; taken part in some protests at the plants. A student group at Juarez Academy, the local high school, held a march to protest the pollution as well.

Recently, PERRO and LVEJO gave testimony in a public hearing before the city council. Their aim is to force Midwest to clean up or close down.

For decades Midwest’s coal-fired power plants have polluted the air of Chicago’s Hispanic working class Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. The Crawford and Fisk power plants spew tons of mercury, lead and dust into the air nearby. A public health study carried out in 2001 estimated these plants contributed to 2,800 asthma attacks, 530 emergency room visits and 41 deaths in these neighborhoods every year.

Midwest Generation is owned by Edison International, which had 1.2 billion dollars in profits last year. They threaten to close the plants if they’re forced to clean up, in which case 200 unionized workers would lose their jobs.

Working people and activists in the neighborhood are right. There is absolutely no reason to allow a big company to dirty the air of Chicago while they swim in profits. And no reason to accept job cuts.