[Reposting this open letter written by my union of student workers at University of California. UAW 2865 is formed of teaching assistants, tutors, and other student workers. This letter was shared with UAW Local 22, UAW Local 600, UAW Local 2865, the Detroit People’s Water Board, the office of Detroit Water and Sewage Department Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the office of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.]
To All, Who Should Be Concerned:
We write to condemn strongly Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan, and Detroit Water and Sewage Department Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who are now presiding over unprecedented, unjust residential water shut-offs and overseeing efforts to privatize Detroit’s water supply. This ongoing campaign is meant to deprive people of a most vital resource: skyrocketing hikes in the price of public water in a city with 50% unemployment, massive layoffs of city water workers and other public sector employees, and bringing in corporate-friendly crisis managers like Mr. Orr who have ignored the public’s concerns and outrage.
As the stewards of one of the most valuable water plants, with the most highly trained public workers, and which sits near the largest body of fresh water in the world, we believe the City of Detroit and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department have an obligation to service their surrounding communities. We acknowledge the difficult and costly work of providing clean water free of harmful pollutants. But rather than viewing this service as a private benefit few can afford, we believe it is a public obligation essential for community health and vitality. We therefore support the implementation of the Detroit People’s Water Board’s proposal for offsetting the cost of water treatment and ensuring sustained access.
Furthermore, we write in support of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’s censure of the mass water shut-offs, which have disproportionately impacted working class families, the elderly, and residents of color. Indeed, these residents have also unfairly borne the brunt of Detroit’s foreclosure crisis at the behest of banks and other private entities, the evisceration of public education and other essential services, the sell-off of city infrastructure and community holdings, and layoffs of public workers following drastic cuts to their retirement earnings.
Finally, we write in solidarity with the many community activists working to oppose this public health crisis and the privatization efforts driving it. We salute our fellow UAW workers of Local 22 and Local 600 who have vocally campaigned against this devastating state of affairs, some of whom were recently arrested while trying to prevent further deprivation of water to their communities. Like us, these workers see the water shut offs as a sign of Detroit’s divestment from working class communities and people of color, paving the way for their sickness and death amid gentrification. This is shameful. We uphold the UN’s ruling that access to clean water, like air and land, is a basic human right. As student-workers we write, train, research, teach, and mentor for a future where vital resources are held in public common and not exploited.
We write in solidarity with and admiration of the many inspiring individuals who daily resist the logic of privatization. From California to Detroit, we stand with you in the fight for renewed investment in the public.
In Deepest Solidarity,
UAW 2865, the Academic Student Workers of the University of California