Oct 1, 2012
Picket lines were set up outside Detroit’s largest sewage treatment plant at 9300 W. Jefferson Ave. on Sunday, September 30.
Workers at AFSCME Local 207 voted to strike last week, expecting to go out on Monday. But when management asked workers to empty tanks to increase waste water storage capacity – a move seen as preparing for a long strike – about 40 Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) workers walked off the job.
The strike began after attacks on all City of Detroit workers have escalated for months.
All departments face 10% wage cuts and horrific increases in healthcare costs. Public safety workers – EMS, fire, and police – have been protesting mandatory 12-hour shifts without overtime pay for police officers.
Earlier in September, Detroit’s Board of Water Commissioners authorized a contract with Minneapolis-based consulting firm EMA to begin implementing cuts to the workforce. EMA’s study recommends cutting 81% of jobs from the water department.
DWSD workers had been informed they would be training contractors to do their jobs as of October 1, which probably pushed people to focus on a strike for that day.
In a dangerous plant where workers shovel fecal matter and where too many have died on the job, workers know the only way to protect themselves and the public is to fight back. They understand job cuts proposed by the mayor will mean the drinking water system for 40% of Michigan will be put in danger.
Union leaders expect the Bing administration to seek a back-to-work court injunction. Union leaders plan to fight to continue the strike.
In the words of union president John Riehl, “This strike gives the people of Detroit a much needed and long-awaited opportunity to change the balance of power.... If our strike becomes Detroit’s strike, we can win....”