The Spark

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

Power Goes Out in Michigan

Aug 5, 2019

On July 19 and 20, storms with gusts of up to 70-mile-per-hour winds swept through Michigan. Utility companies DTE and Consumers Energy reported 800,000 customers without power in the state – well over a million people. Heat indices topped 110 degrees in some blackout-affected areas.

It took more than two days to get about 570,000 customers back on line with projections that the remaining 230,000 customers would have power restored in five days, by the end of Wednesday.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, which is supposed to regulate the utilities, apologized for them, citing “the weekend’s extraordinary storms.” But for ordinary people, there was nothing “extraordinary” about the utility’s and the Commission’s utter lack of proper maintenance of the power grid that everyone depends on. It is the utter lack of regular maintenance on tree trimming that resulted in nearly 5,000 downed power lines, mostly from falling limbs and trees.

Management’s policies are written to supply shareholders with profit: paying the yearly dividend. For DTE, paying nearly a dollar a share to the owners of 183 million common-stock shares; for Consumers Energy, paying $1.42 per share to the owners of 284 million shares. So the shareholding interests are blocking what workers need, and what workers would be able to do.

Like everywhere in this society, the people who do the work, do not make the decisions of how to organize the work. But if workers’ knowledge and their ability to fix the problems was not blocked, that could drastically change the outcome of storms and high winds. It can change the outcome of how all of society functions.