WHERE: Roosevelt Park, Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216
WHEN: October 3, 2015 12:00PM
Detroit didn’t just put the world on wheels.
The Motor City created a living wage and made social justice a reality for workers across America. And in a Wall Street economy where justice too often takes a back seat to profit, Detroit is still fighting for a living wage — and for clean air, access to drinking water, and freedom from pollution that is disrupting our climate and threatening our lives.
It’s a fight that touches all of us, every day, but it’s a fight some of our leaders want to ignore.
Here’s something our leaders can’t ignore: thousands of workers, families, doctors, children, teachers, faith leaders, and activists from all walks of life — all marching in the streets of Detroit.
Join the petition campaign for a state-mandated Detroit referendum vote on the seizure of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department by the GLWA, endorsed by Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), the People’s Water Board, Moratorium Now!, Stand Up Now, We the People of Detroit, and many more.
Join the March for Justice and bring the fight for justice to the streets. Sign up now!
Join us on October 3 to march in Detroit and tell the world that we need real leadership to help move us forward. We need complete justice. That means housing justice, water justice, environmental justice, worker justice, food justice, social justice, and much more.
PROTEST HAZARDOUS RADIOACTIVE WASTE IN DETROIT’S BLACK COMMUNITY
Mt. Elliot neighborhood near US Ecology.
US Ecology 6520 Georgia.
Ban fracking campaign will hold demonstration at US Ecology site in Detroit in protest of frack waste facility’s tenfold expansion plans
Oct. 2, 2015
CHARLEVOIX, MICH. – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a grassroots ballot initiative campaign gathering signatures for a ballot proposal to ban horizontal fracking and frack wastes, will join a protest rally on October 3, at 10 a.m. outside the U.S. Ecology hazardous waste processing facility. The address of the site is: 6520 Georgia St, Detroit. Attached is a flyer for the event.
Hazardous waste worker
Fracking and the disposal of frack wastes continue in the state. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permitted 10 more horizontal wells in Grand Traverse, Manistee and Crawford counties in 2015.
The hazardous waste processing facility in Detroit, which takes 40% of its wastes from out-of-state, including some from oil and gas operations, is likely to be approved by DEQ to expand its operations ten-fold. Reporting on the expansion Friday, the Detroit Free Press cited US Ecology’s admission that liquid waste treated by the facility is going into the Detroit Water and Sewer Department system, which provides water to the entire metro Detroit area. The ballot initiative would prevent such wells and frack waste processing and disposal.
Hamtramck Senior Plaza on Holbrook near US Ecology.
The public is on the Committee’s side in knowing the dangers of fracking and frack wastes. In May, a poll by Public Policy Polling indicated a strong majority of fifty-five percent (55%) of Michigan voters would vote yes to support the Committee’s ballot proposal to ban fracking and frack wastes statewide, change the current law that requires the State to foster the gas and oil industry and put in its place a requirement that human health and the environment be protected during oil and gas development, and give Michigan residents the right to sue if the fracking industry violates the ban. Only 32% oppose the measure, and 12% are not sure.
An overwhelming majority, sixty-four percent (64%) of those polled, support a ban on frack wastes being disposed of in Michigan, including frack wastes produced in other states, after hearing that currently frack wastes, including radioactive drill cuttings, muds and sludges, and millions of gallons of fluids containing toxic chemicals, are disposed of in Michigan landfills, injection wells and at Michigan gas drilling sites.
Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is a ballot question committee registered with the State of Michigan Bureau of Elections. The Committee’s website is: www.letsbanfracking.org. To learn more about the poll results, click here.
Bert Dearing, Jr. (l) speaks at rally in Hart Plaza July 15, 2015. Bert’s Marketplace was being auctioned off for over $2M July 21. The Wayne Co. Register of Deeds currently shows a “lis pendens” (lawsuit pending) on the property’s status.
Detroit, MI — Renowned Detroit Black business owner Bert Dearing, Jr. forestalled the seizure of Bert’s Market Place at auction by filing a federal lawsuit Aug. 19. It alleges that prominent white-owned businesses and individuals committed numerous counts of egregious fraud in their attempt to seize the venue.
One, Charles Aliahmed, is an ex-felon. He was convicted of Insurance-Fraudulent Acts (Conspiracy) in Wayne County Circuit Court in 2002 after pleading no contest.
Bert’s is a well-known restaurant and entertainment venue in Eastern Market that has operated since 2003. It features soul food, jazz musicians, and special events and is especially popular with the Black community.
Protester at July 15 rally.
“I’ve done business in Detroit for over 47 years,” Dearing, Jr. said during a downtown rally against the “Black-Out” of Detroit July 15. “My club was at 150 W. Jefferson beginning in 1957, but I was displaced from there and forced to move to Eastern Market. What programs is our government putting together for people of color to survive in Detroit?”
Joining him were other Black Detroit business-owners, cab drivers, homeowners, city retirees, and residents campaigning for streetlights in the city’s darkened neighborhoods.
Dearing’s lawsuit, B & D Property Mgt., Dearing Development, and Bert Dearing vs. Ciena Capital et al, (2:15-cv-12960), is being heard in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge David Lawson. A telephone status conference with Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford is set for Friday, Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. between the parties. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss.
STOP THE BLACK-OUT OF DETROIT rally at Coleman A. Young Center July 15, 2015.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit has halted the foreclosure and sale of the Bert’s Eastern Market site on Russell St. The Wayne County Register of Deeds currently lists its standing as “lis pendens,” meaning the lawsuit’s outcome will determine whether a foreclosure sale can proceed.
“The scam has ultimately resulted in the perpetrators gaining over $70,000 in commissions and security deposits, rent payments ($50,500 to date), deeds to multiple properties and land and potential profits from the auction where the closing bid was $2,084,250.00,” Dearing said in a release Sept. 20. “Those involved used manipulation and undue influence to steal money . . .and to secure their bad faith contracts and bogus property deeds. The perpetrators intended to defraud [me] of the Market Place property as well as six . . .other Detroit properties through misrepresentation and concealment of intertwined personal and business relationships.”
DWSD worker Andrew Daniels-El holds city charter during rally Jan. 23, 2009 at Bert’s, sponsored by Agnes Hitchcock and Call ’em Out. The late John Riehl, Pres. of AFSCME Local 207, at Agnes’ left, and his members were fighting to stop the giveaway of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Dept. without a vote of the people, as required by the Charter. Political events such as this have no doubt played a role in the attack on Bert Dearing, Jr.
Defendants in the suit include Ciena Capital, which first serviced Dearing’s mortgage of his Eastern Market site from Business Loan Center, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ciena, in 2003. Ciena is now a subsidiary of $9.1 billion giant Ares Capital, according to disclosure statements it filed during lawsuit proceedings.
Dearing paid regular installments on the mortgage through 2013, until he became seriously ill and executed payment arrangements with Ciena. He then made six payments, only one of which was cashed by Ciena, says the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that Ciena, unbeknownst to Dearing, then executed assignments of the mortgage to several trusts it created, which in turn assigned the mortgage to banks including HSBC in Feb. 2014. HSBC then assigned its interest to the newly-created Eastern Market, LLC, run by one Charles Aliahmed of Grosse Pointe.
“Eastern Market 1, LLC, is a new company, formed on May 14, 2014, which was only two weeks prior to receiving the assignment of the mortgage from HSBC Bank, USA,” Dearing said in his release. “Typically, a well established bank would not/could not assign the mortgage note to a newly formed company that’s outside the securitization chain. To investigators it would appear that there is a connection between the parties.”
A “well-established bank” should also have checked the criminal background of Aliahmed. According to court records, he was convicted in 2002 of “Insurance-Fraudulent Acts (Conspiracy),” MCL 500.4511, a felony which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Somehow, by pleading no contest, he obtained a two-year adult criminal probation sentence. (See links in third paragraph of story.)
Aliahmed formerly owned Quest Financial Solutions, now defunct, the subject of a stinging expose on “Ripped-Off Online” which accused him of running Ponzi schemes and various other scurrilous activities.
Jazz band performs at Bert’s during benefit for musician facing eviction.
“He runs many scams from his office, ranging from investing in low income housing projects in Detroit, to False Credit repair and high risk refinancing scams, which cost his customers more in the long run than they imagine they save in the beginning,” says the poster. “Charles eludes his customers after taking substantial monies from them, and never following through on his claims. His investments are frauds and ponzi schemes. He has one employee left working for him.”
The document, including Aliahmed’s rebuttal and 47 negative comments from other Quest customers, is linked below story and can be read by clicking on Quest Financial Charles Aliahmed.
Aliahmed demanded immediate payment of $471,000 from Dearing, who disputed that amount since the principal left on the mortgage was far less. Aliahmed’s attorney posted a notice of foreclosure in the Detroit Legal News July 11. Dearing followed with a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court which was never resolved. The Wayne County Sheriff held an auction on the property in Aug. 2014, with a redemption date of Feb. 21, 2015, says Dearing’s suit.
A Saturday afternoon at Bert’s in Eastern Market.
Dearing was the only party to appear at that auction, but the Sheriff’s Office nonetheless assigned the property to Eastern Market 1, LLC which recorded a document saying they had received payment from the unknown “Simon Holdings Group–2727 Russell, LLC” of $496,994.18.
Emre Uralli of Luke Investments, address 712 Cass (currently a parking lot which Uralli claimed he would turn into Detroit’s tallest building), had earlier contacted Dearing to offer him a deal to pay off his debt, which Dearing declined. Without Dearing’s knowledge, Uralli created the “2727-2739 Russell Street Trust,” and registered it.
Later, in Dec. 2014, after dealing with other lenders including Victor Simon (a/k/a Faiz ‘Victor’ Simon) of Soaring Pine Real Estate Investments, the Simon Holdings Group, and Atlas Oil, Dearing accepted Uralli’s offer verbally. He then called him to decline in favor of Simon’s offer, but Uralli refused to accept his decision.
David Stott and Free Press buildings, purchased by Emre Uralli in 2013, then eventually by Dan Gilbert in 2014. Was Uralli a front for Gilbert?
Uralli, a realtor from Florida who moved to Detroit, purchased the David Stott and Detroit Free Press Buildings in 2013, then sold them to the shadowy DDI Group, based in Shanghai, China at a profit. Multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert, known for using front groups to snatch up downtown properties, purchased both buildings in 2014 at much inflated rates.
Unknown to Dearing, Uralli and Simon then joined forces in a joint venture called “Simon Group Holdings–2727 Russell,” later amended to delete the Simon name. Dearing signed a two-year lease with 2727 Russell, LLC, but finally revoked all deeds and leases he had signed under false pretenses in four notices in the Detroit Legal News, with copies sent to Uralli, Simon, and Aliahmed.
Uralli nonetheless got the Sheriff’s office to proceed with an auction of Dearing’s property July 21-2013. The final bid was over $2 million. Dearing received notice of the bid, but no notice of who the successful bidder was.
“Bert was not aware of the complexity of the foreclosure fraud and the defective sheriff’s deed until after the expiration of the presumed 6 month redemption period,” says his release. “However, by that time the perpetrators had already recorded their bogus documents in the Wayne County Register of Deeds office; they were collecting monthly rent payments and despite the fact that Bert was only four months into an alleged 2-year lease, scheduled the property for the July 21-23, 2015 auction. This shows obvious bad faith because not only did they demand a $50k security deposit; a 2-year buy-back lease with exorbitant rent payments ($10,100/mo) and deeds to multiple properties, after only four months into the alleged lease agreement they scheduled the Market Place property for auction.”
Nicole Small, sister of Darnell Small, former owner of the Tangerine Club which was run of business by the white-owned Atwater Brewery, spoke during the July 15 rally.
“We’re the majority in the city,” Small said. “How dare you say we can be anywhere except downtown Detroit and ‘midtown’? We want prime real estate for $1 just like Gilbert and the rest. Gilbert just got a $1 million grant for Capitol Park through the City Council and the Mayor.”
Dearing and his allies say the battle for Bert’s Market Place is still going, and are calling on all Detroiters for their support.
SAVE BERTS MARKET PLACE AND THEATER!
Bert’s Market Place
2727 Russell Street – Eastern Market District, Detroit, Michigan 48207
Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin flanked by military leaders/ Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces have been battling ISIS-led rebels for years, defending civilian population
(Links to stories on U.S./CIA-led creation of ISIS at conclusion)
BY NATALIYA VASILYEVA
September 30, 2015
Russian air strike in Syria.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian military jets carried out airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State group in Syria for the first time — a move that came after President Vladimir Putin received parliamentary approval to send Russian troops to Syria.
The airstrikes targeted positions, vehicles and warehouses that Russia believes belong to IS militants, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.
Putin sought to portray the airstrikes as a pre-emptive attack against the Islamic militants who have taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Russia estimates at least 2,400 of its own citizens are already fighting with extremists in Syria and Iraq.
“If they (militants) succeed in Syria, they will return to their home country, and they will come to Russia, too,” Putin said in a televised speech at a government session.
U.S. Pres. Barack Obama and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin met privately after UN General session in New York./EPA
State Department spokesman John Kirby told The Associated Press that a Russian official in Baghdad informed U.S. Embassy personnel on Wednesday that Russian military aircraft would shortly begin flying anti-IS missions over Syria. The Russian official also asked that U.S. aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during those missions Wednesday. Kirby did not say whether the U.S. agreed to that request.
The US-led counter-ISIL coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria, Kirby added.
Russian lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to allow Putin to order airstrikes in Syria, where Russia has deployed fighter jets and other weapons in recent weeks. The Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, discussed Putin’s request for the authorization behind closed doors, cutting off its live web broadcast to hold a debate notable for its quickness.
Russia’s lower house of Parliament meets during earlier event.
Putin had to request parliamentary approval for any use of Russian troops abroad, according to the constitution. The last time he did so was before Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.
Putin on Wednesday insisted that Russia is not going to send troops to Syria and that its role in Syrian army operations will be limited.
“We certainly are not going to plunge head-on into this conflict,” he said. “First, we will be supporting the Syrian army purely in its legitimate fight with terrorist groups. Second, this will be air support without any participation in the ground operations.”
Putin also said he expects Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russia’s long-time ally, to sit down and talk with the Syrian opposition about a political settlement, but added he was referring to what he described as a “healthy” opposition group.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Russia’s first airstrike on Syria came after Putin’s meeting Monday with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, where the two discussed Russia’s military buildup in Syria.
Putin and other officials have said Russia was providing weapons and training to Assad’s army to help it combat IS. Russian navy transport vessels have been shuttling back and forth for weeks to ferry troops, weapons and supplies to an air base near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. IHS Jane’s, a leading defense research group, said last week that satellite images of the base showed 28 jets, including Su-30 multirole fighters, Su-25 ground attack jets, Su-24 bombers and possibly Ka-52 helicopter gunships.
Putin administration says airstrikes comply with international law, unlike those conducted by U.S. and other countries
Sergei Ivanov, chief of Putin’s administration, said in televised remarks after the parliamentary vote that Moscow was responding to a request from Assad asking for help. He said the biggest difference between Russian airstrikes and those being conducted by the United States and other countries is that “they do not comply with international law, but we do.”
Moscow has always been a top ally of Assad. The war in Syria against his regime, which began in 2011, has left at least 250,000 dead and forced millions to flee the country. It is also the driving force behind the record-breaking number of asylum-seekers fleeing to Europe this year.
Worried by the threat of Russian and U.S. jets clashing inadvertently over Syrian skies, Washington agreed to talk to Moscow on how to “deconflict” their military actions. Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter had a 50-minute phone call with his Russian counterpart — the first such military-to-military discussion between the two countries in more than a year.
On Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Carter had instructed his staff to contact Russian officials about establishing talks on ways to keep each other’s air operations in Syria from colliding or otherwise getting in each other’s way. Cook said it was not yet clear when these talks would start.
Israel has taken similar precautions, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Moscow last week to agree with Putin on a coordination mechanism to avoid any possible confrontation between Israeli and Russian forces in Syria.
Russian Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matvienko said in a live news conference on Russian television that parliament’s decision on Wednesday reflected Russia’s growing role in global affairs.
“We as a great power cannot but take part in fighting this great evil,” Matvienko said, adding that the Soviet Union and Syria signed a security cooperation agreement in 1980 that guarantees that Moscow would help Damascus if asked. “We couldn’t refuse Bashar Assad and keep on seeing how people, women and children are dying.”
In Baghdad, Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, said his government was in talks with Russia “in the hope that shared intelligence will further our abilities to defeat the terrorists within our borders.”
Julie Pace in New York, Albert Aji in Damascus and Viviam Salama in Baghdad contributed to this report.
In local after local, auto workers are voting down their union’s national deal with Chrysler, aiming to force their bargainers back to the table to do better.
The four-year pact announced September 15 would include raises and bonuses but maintain the two-tier system, trap people in Tier 2 who had expected to move up, and create even more tiers.
“I feel like the people who hire in at the lower wage deserve the chance to get to where I’m at, to be able to live in a comfortable manner,” said Nancy Collins, a team leader at Kokomo Transmission in Indiana.
Women workers at Chrysler’s Kokomo, Indiana transmission plant.
When she started at Chrysler 20 years ago, she was a single mom supporting three young kids. Today her daughter and son-in-law, with three kids of their own, work at the plant too.
But “how they make it on $19 an hour I’m not real sure, and that’s with both of them working,” she said.
“They live paycheck to paycheck. … They do the same jobs we do. There’s no reason they should be paid so much less.”
In her United Auto Workers Local 685—one of the biggest, representing four plants in Indiana—78 percent of production workers and 65 percent of skilled trades workers voted no.
“Bridge to nowhere”
Most locals to vote so far have decisively rejected the deal, including Locals 7 (Jefferson North Assembly, Detroit), 1264 (Sterling Stamping, Michigan), 1102 (Kokomo Casting, Indiana), 372 (Trenton Engine, Michigan), 1435 (Toledo Machining, Ohio), 1248 (Mopar in Center Line, Michigan), and others.
Warren Truck plant vote, as posted on Ford, GM, Chrysler Workers Unite! Facebook page.
Just three locals have voted it up: 723 (Dundee Engine, Michigan), 1302 (salaried workers in Kokomo), and 1284 (Chelsea, Michigan). (VOD–Warren Truck Plant assembly workers voted it up Sept. 29, but skilled trades voted it down.)
An estimated one-third of Chrysler’s workforce still has votes ahead this week, including Sterling Heights Assembly (Michigan), Toledo Assembly Complex (Ohio), and Belvidere Assembly (Illinois), through September 30.
Workers are abuzz on Facebook, swapping contract information, local vote tallies, and photos of ballots marked “no” and protest T-shirts.
“It’s a bridge to nowhere,” said Alex Wassell, a welder repair worker at Warren Stamping near Detroit. “It looks like they’re not planning on closing that gap, just raising the lowest-tier workers up to this level and then waiting for traditional workers to quit, retire, or die.”
Non-union workers make up 81 percent of the U.S. auto workforce. Tiered contracts are worsening the union jobs that remain. “This job that built the middle class, now it’s going to build the poor working class,” said Asar Amen-Ra, a 20-year Mopar employee in Center Line, Michigan. Graphic: Sonia Singh.
The second tier, earning $15.78-$19.28 an hour, now comprises about 45 percent of the company’s workforce.
Sergio Marchionne made $72 million last year.
Meanwhile Tier 1 workers—those hired before 2007—have been frozen at $28 for years. CEO Sergio Marchionne has made no secret of his desire to phase out the top tier altogether.
“This job that built the middle class, now it’s going to build the poor working class,” said Asar Amen-Ra, a 20-year Mopar employee in Center Line, Michigan.
The lower tier wasn’t supposed to balloon forever. “When we were hired, the company was just starting to turn around,” said Denny Crum, a forklift driver in Toledo who started two years ago.
“We were told by several people within the union, ‘These tiers are going away, we’re going to fight to get rid of them. These were just brought in to keep the company afloat when the economy crashed.’”
Fiat Chrysler’s TOTAL $4.1 BILLION operating profit in 2014 fueled by North America earnings–Automotive News
Meanwhile, the automakers have certainly bounced back, even Chrysler. The company’s latest figures, for the second quarter of this year, showed $1.4 billion in profit in North America, a robust profit margin of 7.7 percent. In the same quarter Ford pocketed 11.1 percent and GM 10 percent.
“That’s why we’re all wondering,” Collins said. “They say they don’t have any more money to offer us. I don’t see how that can be.”
Many members are especially angry that the union and Chrysler abandoned a longstanding promise to move a segment of Tier 2 workers up into Tier 1. The 2009 settlement agreement and 2011 contract summary reiterated that the lower tier would be capped at no more than 25 percent of the workforce as soon as the contract expired in September 2015. Continue reading →
While a college degree is widely understood to be an essential tool to compete in today’s tough job market and rise up the economic ladder, diminishing state and federal support of public higher education has sent tuition skyrocketing. As a result, most students now must borrow to attend college—turning what was once a path toward upward mobility into a game of risk.
This risk is not shared equally. The “new normal” of borrowing is particularly acute for Black students—who are more likely to borrow and to borrow at higher amounts than white students due to greater financial need.
The financial risk is considerable: 4-in-10 Black borrowers drop out of college, leaving them with debt but without the benefit of a degree. Around 7-in-10 Black dropouts cite student debt as a primary reason for not completing school, compared to fewer than half of white students.
A few hours before Pope Francis arrives in the District of Columbia for the first leg of his U.S. visit, Capitol food service and other government contract workers will walk off their jobs. The workers will strike Tuesday to renew their call for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize. They plan to proceed to the Capitol and convene across from the East Front with religious leaders and presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., to pray for lawmakers to heed the pope’s message about economic inequality.
Catholic Pope Francis
On Sept. 10, more than 40 Capitol workers requested an audience with Pope Francis to discuss their struggle to make ends meet while serving wealthy lawmakers. Around 40 workers from the Senate and Capitol Visitor Center also went on strike in July, the third in less than a year. These workers represent about a third of the workers in the Senate and CVC. Labor organizers say there are roughly 90 Senate workers and 30 in the CVC. On the House side, there are around 125 cafeteria workers and 40 workers with the banquet agency, Capitol Host.
Many of these workers are returning to full-time work after the six-week August recess, a period indicative of the challenges facing the food service workers at the Capitol, who struggle with low wages and uneven work schedules.
Abraham Tesfahun, 21, works in food service at the Senate and makes $10.70 an hour. Many of the Capitol’s food servers, who make the meals, bus the tables and run the cash registers in the restaurants and carryouts that serve lawmakers, earn less than $11 an hour. Some make nothing at all when Congress is in recess. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
James Powell, 27, who works as a chef in the Senate Dining Room said in a recent interview that during August, he used up all of his 80 vacation hours so he could get some money while his work hours were cut. “That still doesn’t cover [me] in the last week,” Powell said. “By me taking all of my vacation and all of my sick days that actually leaves me no days off for the year” Powell, who has a 3-year-old son, said he has worked in the Senate cafeterias for around five years and makes just more than $13 an hour. He is one of the workers pushing for a $15-an-hour wage. “It would make a huge difference,” Powell said of the wage increase. “I wouldn’t have to live from Friday to Friday, check to check. I would have more leeway. There wouldn’t be a struggle.”
Powell was working in the Senate in 2012 when workers opted not to unionize. He said he voted against a union, and he regrets it to this day. Powell said the food contractor, Restaurant Associates, informed workers that a union would only take workers’ money, not actually help them, and he believed it. “Why didn’t I just vote yes? Why was I brainwashed?” Powell asked. “I think about it every day I go to work.”
Unite HERE Local 23 workers newspaper.
The cafeteria workers on the other side of the Capitol are represented by a Unite Here Local 23, and attempted to bring Senate workers into the fold at the beginning of 2014, but were stopped when the Service Employees International Union asserted legal jurisdiction over the Senate workers.
A spokesperson for the SEIU local chapter told CQ Roll Call on Sept. 11 there was no current effort to organize Senate workers. For the House workers, watching their Senate and CVC counterparts go on strike and detail their struggle in op-eds to no avail is frustrating.
“To me it’s kind of sad,” Jamia Vaden, a 31-year-old cook in the Longworth House Office Building, said in a recent interview. “Because people have family, you have kids, it’s like, you have bills. And to know that somebody is working on Capitol Hill and is homeless, with congressmen and senators, I just, it’s just mind boggling.”
“I feel they need to be represented by a union. To me, it doesn’t matter which union it is. I wish it was our union,” said House cook Rickie Toon. Toon, 60, works in the Rayburn House Office Building and has been working in House cafeterias for more than three decades. He helped organize the House union effort shortly after the House privatized food services in 1986.
Rayburn House cafeteria.
Both Toon and Vaden make $17.25 an hour. The wage is is nearly three times Toon’s starting wage. He attributed the increase to unionization, and said working with the union also earned him respect among management. Toon and Vaden work as union stewards, serving as union representatives during grievance meetings. They described standing up for their fellow workers, and resolving issues in meetings that include managers involved and their supervisors.
On the Senate side of the Capitol, workers with recent grievances have turned to Good Jobs Nation, a coalition of labor groups that has been organizing the recent contract worker strikes. The group has filed a number of unfair labor practice complaints against Restaurant Associates, alleging retaliation against workers who have spoken out or gone on strike.
Powell, who works in the Senate, said having a union would allow him and his Senate workers to have an ally when voicing complaints against management. “[A union] would make a huge difference because I feel I would actually have a voice in what goes on,” Powell said. “They couldn’t just push us around anymore because we have somebody that’s going to stand up against them.”
Water main break under Detroit Water Board Building had streets, parking lot for customers flooded for weeks this month. Main breaks, sinkholes have plagued DWSD as workforce downsized by 41 percent; GLWA plans to cut even further.
DAREA retirees, other groups continue state-mandated campaign to put GLWA contract on Detroit ballot: #OurWaterOurVote
GLWA will increase debt, water shut-offs, rates, workforce decimation (41 percent of DWSD workers gone now), pollution of Detroit River, Lake Erie
Coalition says stop the takeover, fight DWSD for the people’s rights
By Diane Bukowski
September 16, 2015
The late renowned activist Mary Shumake and others march outside Detroit Water Board Building.
DETROIT – Several major stumbling blocks remain before the contract handing over the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the regional Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), signed June 12, can take legal effect Jan. 1, 2016, according to GLWA officials.
The Coalition to Save the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department thus has time to finish collecting the 15,000 signatures necessary to place the issue on the Detroit ballot, under Public Act 233 of 1955. The petitions began circulating June 21.
“We fight because we are right,” said Bill Davis, President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), which is spearheading the drive. “Each of us should be a warrior in this fight. If each retiree and active city worker turned in just ONE petition with 15 signatures of registered Detroit voters, we would have 480,000 signatures.”
DAREA activists after Detroit General Retirement System meeting June 10, where they publicized DAREA appeal of bankruptcy and recruited members.
There are 32,000 active and retired City of Detroit workers in its two pension systems.The Coalition said in its recent newsletter that it opposes the GLWA because of expected rate increases to service debt, lack of an income-based water affordability plan, job elimination, union-busting, down-sizing, and ongoing privatization.
The Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment (POA) set six major requirements for the GLWA takeover:
Approval of takeover by 51 percent of DWSD bondholders
“The goal of 51 percent bondholder approval has not been met at this juncture; we are still assembling that,” GLWA Chair Robert Daddow, of Oakland County, told VOD after a joint meeting of the GLWA and the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners Sept. 14. He said he could not discuss details further because U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox has placed a gag order on the proceedings.
GLWA board chair Robert Daddow, of Oakland County, is interviewed June 12, 2015 after GLWA contract signed.
Wall St. pledge that GLWA bond ratings will not drop below DWSD ratings
No major Wall Street ratings agency has yet pledged that GLWA bond ratings will not be lower than those of the DWSD. GLWA Interim CEO Sue McCormick said in her Sept. 14 report that “no formal rating review for GLWA has been requested,” but touted recent bond upgrades given to DWSD by Moody’s and Fitch Ratings.
New master bond ordinance
Daddow told VOD Sept 14. that a GLWA master bond ordinance is not complete.
Agreement on pension obligations with Detroit General Retirement System
Michael Van Overbeke, attorney for the Detroit General Retirement System (DGRS), said negotiations with the GLWA on handling of pension obligations for DWSD employees are not complete, but are “proceeding,” also under a gag order from Judge Cox. He said he expects them to be wrapped up soon. If DGRS’ approval of the Bankruptcy Plan and its earlier withdrawal of its Sixth Circuit Court appeal of bankruptcy eligibility for Detroit are any indication, the outlook for retirees is not positive.
Consent from customer communities
GLWA Interim CEO Sue McCormick at June 12, 2015 meeting. Detroit GLWA Director Isaiah McKinnon is at right.
“The favorable response from our customer communities continues in the assignment of their service contracts resulting in 99.83% of sewer contracts, by revenue assigned, with the remaining unassigned contract scheduled for consideration,” McCormick said in her report.”Water contracts are at 82% by revenue assigned, with 17 contracts remaining to be assigned.”
The DWSD water division has contracts with 127 communities; its sewer division has contracts with 76 communities. Under terms of the GLWA contract with the City of Detroit, Detroit would become another contracted community, relinquishing its ownership of the six-county system through personal property and revenue SALES, not leases, with real property sales of the system’s infrastructure open to board approval.
Legal opinions on tax-exempt status of new GLWA bonds
No such opinions are included in the minutes of the GLWA since it began meeting in December, 2014.
McCormick and GLWA co-chair Gary Brown gave extensive slide presentations at the meeting on complex structural measures underway to move DWSD into the GLWA by Jan. 1. They said if all measures are not complete by Jan. 1, a temporary partnership between the two entities lasting from six months to two years would be put in place.
Detroit “mayor” Mike Duggan says Detroit will give up all of DWSD except some pipeline infrastructure within the city limits, during GLWA Consent Agreement announcement Sept. 9, 2014.
Apparently the complexity of handing over the nation’s third largest public water and sewerage facility to the Great Lakes Water Authority was underestimated during the bankruptcy.
The original date set in the Plan of Adjustment was Jan. 1, 2015. An extension was granted to June 12, 2015, when the current GLWA contract with the City of Detroit was signed. A further extension to Jan. 1, 2016 for the six other requirements was included in the contract.
Brown’s presentation included pledges to more quickly deal with water main breaks, sinkholes, and other problems plaguing the DWSD infrastructure, as well as a promise to decrease water shut-offs through ongoing revamping of assistance plans.
Little discussion was held by board members on the contracts. During the Aug. 15 meeting of the GLWA, a contract with global PR firm Fleishman & Hilliard was approved despite the fact that the board did not have a copy. Board committees are still being set up, and none had vetted the contract.
Moody’s, Fitch bond upgrades based on DWSD water shut-offs, lay-offs, privatization, downsizing; 41 percent of DWSD workers already gone
Gary Brown as VP of Detroit City Council, with former Pres. Charles Pugh, who has just been sued for sexual harassment of a minor. Brown went from Council to aide to EM Kevyn Orr to COO under Duggan, and vice-chair of the GLWA.
A DWSD release said Moody’s cited “increased efficiency, improved billing collections and providing better services” in its report on recent two-level DWSD bond upgrades from Baa3 to Ba2, and from Ba3 to Ba1, with “positive” outlooks. Until recent years, the DWSD had bond ratings in the A ranges due to its separation from the City of Detroit as an enterprise agency, with bond repayment predicated on revenues.
Brown said at the meeting that customer service will be the top goal for the GLWA, because Mayor Mike Duggan has pledged to make the return of residents to Detroit the hallmark of his administration. The Detroit News today trumpeted that the city’s white population increased by 8,000 from 2013 to 2014. Its total population in 2014 was 680,250, however, compared to 713,777 in 2010.
But the GLWA contract says clearly and repeatedly that the agency’s first priority is revenue collection for debt pay-off. Under the contract, DWSD debts have increased to $5.7 billion due to re-financings under the bankruptcy, and are likely to increase more under the GLWA if it continues to hand out contracts to board cronies sight unseen. Wall Street also barred a proposed $2.3 billion impairment of DWSD debt during bankruptcy proceedings.
Larry Young of Highland Park tries to clean out sewer on his street in Aug. 2014 after storms resulted in massive floods actually caused by inoperable sewage pumps at Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant.
DWSD meanwhile is allegedly increasing revenues with new measures. A “stormwater run-off” fee of $19.66 a month has been charged to Detroit residents only, since July 1, 2015. The fee has been ruled illegal under the Headlee Amendment, as a tax not approved by voters in two Lansing-related cases, in 2011 by a State Appeals Court, and in 1998 by the Michigan Supreme Court, Bolt v. Lansing.
However, the City of Detroit claims on its website that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its legality in 1986 in City of Detroit v. State of Michigan and County of Wayne.
Mike Shane of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, which is also a member of the Coalition to Save the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, is disputing this fee.
“The charge has nothing to do with water consumption or the treatment of the sewage created by that water usage,” Shane says. DWSD says on its website that customers are being charged for the cost of transporting and treating stormwater flowing into sewers to the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Downspout on left is connected to sewer; downspout on right has been disconnected to allow stormwater to flow in home’s lawn.
“Many homeowners have disconnected their downspouts from the sewer system, allowing rainwater from the roof to drain into the yard, removing a huge storm water load from the DWSD system,” Shane counters.
Another measure ironically aimed at increasing revenue is water shut-offs, despite Brown’s claim at the meeting that the city is working to reduce shut-offs under the guidance of Duggan and a shadowy “Blue Ribbon Panel.” The GLWA and the BOWC have both said earlier that drops in DWSD revenue have been due in large part to reduced water usage.
In her written report, McCormick told the board that 13,409 residential accounts have been permanently shut-off for “illegal” usage, from January 1 through Sept. 5, 2015. See GLWA CEOReportSept15.
She added, “Since May 11, 2015, the Department has posted 42,414 door hangers notifying customers of pending shut off of services. A total of 12,352 of those customers have either paid their bills, or entered into a payment plan agreement. Currently, there are a total of 38,867 active payment plan agreements with the total combined balance of $31,308,592.96. There are 2,267 customers receiving assistance from the Detroit Water Fund (DWF) for a total liability of $831,680.93 through September 4, 2015, and a remaining balance of $1,136,021.07 available for assistance.”
Nearly half of the city’s 300,861 residential accounts are past due. The average amount is $732.
Water rates in Detroit have increased over 120 percent in the last decade, particularly since the DWSD started billing on a monthly, not a quarterly, basis. DWSD has also been installing remote “SMART meters” in customers’ homes, forcing them to pay for the cost of adapting their plumbing to meet the meter requirements.
Demeeko Williams of the Detroit Water Brigade said that his group has received numerous complaints from customers whose water was shut-off after they refused to have the meters installed, or could not afford the cost of plumbing adaptations. He also questioned whether computer-generated charges can be manipulated to increase GLWA revenues. Channel 7 News reported recently on the case of Paulina Richardson at http://www.wxyz.com/news/mom-small-children-without-water-for-weeks-because-of-switch-to-smart-meter.
The Authority has already declared that, come hell or high water, its “Water Resident Assistance Program” (WRAP), whose final version was presented at its Aug. 17 meeting, is not and never will be the income-based water affordability, no-shut-offs plan that thousands have demanded over the last two years.
In a televised interview Aug. 20, 2015, McCormick said DWSD has slashed the number of its workers “from 2178 in early 2012 to 1322 on July 1, 2015,” approximately 41 percent, half-way to contractor EMA’s recommendation of 81 percent. During the Sept. 14 board meeting, she noted that numerous DWSD jobs are slated for outsourcing to private companies, including maintenance and security positions, with skilled trades jobs next on the list.
GLWA’s “WRAP” Plan is NOT an plan that assigns income-based water rates, and it does NOT bar water shut-offs.
See entire slide presentation at WRAP-Presentation-PowerPoint-081715. Note that its “advisory panel” includes neither Water Affordability Plan expert Roger Colton nor Demeeko Williams of the Detroit Water Brigade despite rumors to the contrary.
GLWA’s revised “Master Plan” includes massive downsizing
At its July 9 Joint GLWA/BOWC meeting, officials reported frightening future plans to downsize the entire facility by:
Dropping spending for water main replacement to $25 million a year, enough to repair only one one percent of the lines , despite ongoing massive breaks and sinkholes in Detroit and the region;
Shutting down treatment plants and booster stations;
Reducing capital improvement spending from $9 billion to $2.9 billion;
Rescission of planned upgrades for 14 sites;
Reducing GLWA’s daily pumping capacity from 1,760 million to 1,040 million gallons;
Reduction of water intake sites from five to three.
Video below covers one of dozens of sinkhole problems reported in the DWSD area for the past several years.
GLWA PLANS “GREEN AND BLUE INFRASTRUCTURE,” BUT INCREASES POLLUTION WITH $630 MILLION BIO-SOLIDS PLANT
McCormick also discussed plans for “green and blue” infrastructure in the GLWA at the Sept. 15 meeting.
City of Detroit “mayor” Mike Duggan, with state and federal agencies, announced Aug. 9 that he had just snagged $8.9 million in federal “disaster recovery” funds to establish “flood prevention areas” in broad sections of Detroit’s predominantly Black neighborhoods.
The money, part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, would fund demolition of homes, “vacant lot greening,” and large “stormwater infrastructure projects” in designated areas including Brightmoor, Mt. Elliott, and McDougall-Hunt on the city’s lower northwest and lower east sides.
“We are deeply appreciative . . .” Duggan said in a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development release. “With this funding, we are going to be able to make an impact in our neighborhoods through additional blight removal, beautification of vacant land and new strategies to make us more resilient to the kind of flood damage we experienced a year ago.”
Detroit freeways flooded during crisis of Aug. 2014.
Those floods “resulted in over 10 billion gallons of combined sewer overflow, with 6 billion gallons of the flow coming from Detroit’s system, which serves more than 70 communities in southeast Michigan, according to a release from HUD. “Of that overflow, nearly 80% was not treated, which threatened the overall health of the Great Lakes water system and Metro Detroit’s water supply.”
Nearly 60,000 households in Detroit alone were affected by the flood, with overall damage levels estimated at $10 billion.
The plan takes advantage of large parcels of vacant land cleared by the flood of predatory lending and illegal foreclosures in Detroit over the past decade.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The grant is too little and too late said Bill Davis, who retired from the city after 34 years, a large number spent as shift supervisor at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).
DAREA Pres. Bill Davis presents award to activist Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People of Detroit at DAREA prayer breakfast June 27, where petition campaign to save DWSD was kicked off. We the People is an endorser.
Davis lives in the Brightmoor area, where the construction of underground tanks in Oakland Avenue’s median strips, topped with trees and lawns, to soak up excess stormwater, is proposed.
“The only way this would work is if a whole lot of these structures were built all over the city,” Davis said. “More foreclosures resulting in a lot of vacant land would be needed to have sufficient retention basins, if they are not planning to make improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.”
He said last year that the failure of three major sewage pumps at the WWTP pumping stations caused the discharge of the 4.8 billion gallons of untreated sewage flow, referenced in the HUD release, into Metro Detroit, the Detroit River and Lake Erie, also causing an Aug. 2014 crisis in Toledo, Ohio and Southeastern Michigan which made water unpotable.
Davis said the HUD project is far too small to make up for the cutbacks at the WWTP, which included elimination of 24/7 maintenance and hundreds of jobs by EMA, a contractor which recommended that 81 percent of the DWSD workforce be cut and is now running the WWTP.
Bio-solids plant at DWSD will cause further phosphorus pollution of Detroit River, Lake Erie
DWSD Senior Chemist Saulius Simoliunas, a recognized expert internationally, and four others also weighed in on GLWA plans in a document included in the board’s Aug. 15 packet.
It blasted the GLWA as an entity made up of “two policemen from Detroit” (co-chair Gary Brown and member Isaiah McKinnon), an “airport manager from Wayne County” (Joseph Nardone), “two CPA’s from Oakland and Macomb Counties (Chair Robert Daddow and member Brian Baker), and “a retired lawyer from the Governor’s office” (Earl Hood of Dykema Gossett).
“The discussion at GLWA meetings concerns finances, but not the technical operation of the facility,” Simolianus et. al pointed out.
The ongoing construction of a $630 million biosolids sewage drying plant run by the notorious New England Fertilizer Company (NEFCO) was on the agenda at GLWA’s Aug. 15 meeting, but no discussion took place regarding technical aspects of NEFCO’s operation, its reputation, or likely negative effects of its operation.
Detroit’s former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr handed out the NEFCO contract in 2013. The plant will convert sewage sludge from the Wastewater Treatment Plant into dried pellets, or “cakes,” that can be used for land application in agriculture, as well as energy generation for utilities like DTE.
NEFCO’s plan for $630 million bio-solids plant linked to DWSD Wastewater Treatment Plan.
NEFCO facilities have incurred the wrath of communities across the U.S. where they are placed, and where cakes of dried sludge, or “bio-solids,” are applied on farms, causing noxious odors and health threats.
An Aug. 2013 report called “Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority” (LEEP), referenced by Simiolianus in his document, says phosphorus from agriculture and industrial wastewater treatment plant threatens increasing contamination, or “eutrofication” of the Lake.
Lake Erie’s algae bloom has grown to alarming proportions since last year. Note origin at bottom left from Detroit.
The report was issued before the August 2014 crisis during which 400,000 residents of Toledo and southeastern Michigan could not drink or use water processed from Lake Erie, even after boiling it, for several weeks.
The report says farmland run-off is now the primary cause of Lake Erie pollution, whereas wastewater treatment plants were previously the main source. But Davis points out that Detroit’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, by teaming up with the NEFCO facility, will indirectly cause both types of pollution.
The Erb Family Foundation has awarded the University of Michigan a $3 million grant to study the Detroit River watershed and its role in increasing algae growth in the Lake. In the 1970’s, Lake Erie was essentially considered a “dead” lake, largely due to sewage sludge outflow from Detroit’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. It was cleaned up after the U.S. passed the Clean Water Act, but in the last decade, problems have again increased.
DAREA pursues drive to stop GLWA while appealing bankruptcy
DAREA newsletter, front page
DAREA also is appealing the entire bankruptcy in U.S. District Court before Judge Bernard Friedman, and plans to take its appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, Davis said. It recently mailed its first print newsletter to retirees, many of whom do not have computers to access sites like Facebook pages for DAREA and The Coalition to Save the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department.
Stopping the takeover of DWSD, Detroit’s largest asset, can be done quickly through a people’s vote while court appeals of the bankruptcy itself proceed, DAREA says. A successful referendum against the takeover would also send a message to DWSD Wall Street bondholders to back off, Davis noted.
DAREA is pursuing this campaign despite some lack of interest from groups busy campaigning against water shut-offs with the Detroit City Council and DWSD. They do not seem to understand that their efforts will be null and void Jan. 1, when and if the GLWA will be in charge of determining water rates and making water shut-offs, according to its contract.
The Coalition needs to collect a total of 15,000 valid petition signatures meaning it must collect at least twice that to allow for invalid signatures. Signers must be Detroit residents who are registered voters. CIRCULATORS DO NOT HAVE TO BE DETROIT RESIDENTS.
With a $1.3 trillion buying power, Black people are the leading consumers compared to every other race. In a country built on capitalism, where “MONEY IS POWER,” one would think that Blacks in America would control everything with that amount of money, but we DON’T! In fact, Blacks are last in EVERY racial disparity, except consuming.
In this NEW ERA, this generation is open to the most resources ever available in HISTORY. There is also a never before seen amount of Black millionaires. Meaning, the Blacks living today are the most informed, most equipped, most experienced, and most qualified to rid those disparities and better our people’s lives.
NEW ERA DETROIT (NED) plans on using those RESOURCES, that MONEY, and that POWER to take back our communities and start up a SOLELY BLACK-OWNED COMMUNITY. We’re aiming to create black owned and operated schools, banks, grocery stores, hospitals, law offices, recreation centers, and more!
A community is not one without U-N-I-T-Y. NED is committed to uniting our race with tactics never before used. We are dedicated to eliminating the separation between the Black older and younger generations, Black-owned businesses and Black consumers, and Blacks of different religious groups.
Once we, AS A PEOPLE, accomplish becoming a COMMUNITY, Blacks in America will have the POWER our ancestors had in Ancient Africa.
UPDATE: DEADLINE FOR OBJECTING EXTENDED TO OCT. 12
U.S. Ecology wants to expand east-side facility
Company has decades-long record of environmental contamination
Detroit becoming hazardous waste dumping site for Michigan, U.S.
Predominantly Black, poor communities targeted
State Rep. Rose Mary Robinson asks residents to contact MDEQ
US Ecology hazardous waste site at 6520 Georgia in Detroit wants to expand capacity from 64,000 to 666,000 gallons of waste including highly toxic chemicals, and low-level radioactive products of fracking. MDEQ has announced intent to approve permit. Comments from the public must be submitted by today. See email address at end of story.
.By Ron Seigel
Sept. 12, 2015
Jeffrey Feeler, Pres/CEO US Ecology. Company had $447M in revenues in 2014, operates in numerous U.S. states including three sites in Detroit. It is headquartered in Boise, Idaho.
DETROIT — An individual would probably face life in prison if he poisoned a relative to get an inheritance.
What about company executives who spread poison in people’s neighborhoods or the water they drink in order to make a profit?
Should heads of regulatory agencies who allow this to happen be viewed as accessories or accomplices?
State Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), charges this may soon happen in Detroit. A company with a long record of environmental violations is seeking to expand its hazardous waste facility at 6520 Georgia St., on the east side of Detroit near I-94 and Mount Elliott. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is considering the company’s application for a permit.
Protest at US Ecology’s Belleville, MI plant against plan to dump national fracking waste, held Aug. 21, 2014.
Robinson warns if the firm does get MDEQ permission to expand the facility, the building will hold 500,000 tons of hazardous waste from across the state and around the country, some of it radioactive and, some contaminated with PCB’s. What, she asked, if some of this leaks out?
Robinson declared that MDEQ never did a study on possible health effects. Steven Boyle, a Detroiter involved in environmental issues, said that MDEQ documents for this facility contain no plan to deal with disasters.
MDEQ officials were not available for comment and did not return our many phone calls.
Robinson says in her newsletter that nearby schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, and public buildings would be most affected if there was a leak.
Hamtramck Senior Plaza on Holbrook, short distance away from US Ecology on Georgia.
“How close is it to your school, place of worship, worksite or neighborhood?” she asks.
She says it is four miles from the Detroit Medical Center, eight-tenths of a mile from the Lodge Playground, three and one tenth of a mile from the Considine Little Rock Family Center on Woodward, one and six tenths of a mile from the Hamtramck Senior Plaza, and one and four tenth of a mile from the Hamtramck City Hall.
Robinson adds the facility is only half a mile from Detroit Water & Sewerage Department facilities, and warns a leak could poison the whole metropolitan Detroit water supply.
VOD has discovered that the firm has had a long record of violating environmental safety regulations.
US Ecology opens its facility in Nye County, Nevada. The County is also known for the years in which the U.S. conducted nuclear testing there.
In 2010 the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made U.S. Ecology pay $497,982, nearly a half-million dollars, for “numerous violations” in Nye County, Nevada. According to a November 2010 EPA newsletter, its unit was “smoking in the air.” PCB’s were “improperly labeled, stored and handled,” and inspectors “detected PCB’s at elevated levels both inside and outside the building and other PCB discharges, which were not reported as required by law.”
The October, 2012 issue of the EPA newsletter stated U.S. Ecology paid nearly $800,000 ($788,120) for violating federal hazardous waste laws in Roberson,Texas.
In April, 1996 Deborah Hastings of the Associated Press wrote that 10 years earlier plutonium and other radioactve material leaked at U.S. Ecology’s nuclear waste facility in Mazey Flat, Kansas and said the EPA superfund listed it as one of “the most polluted sites.”
Hastings also said in 1976 the firm’s employees in Nevada:
Told state inspectors they illegally poured liquid radioactive wasted directly into the ground for eight years.
Took contaminated cement and poured concrete slabs into the foundation of a house. She added some slabs set off the inspector’s geiger counter.
With help from the company’s president, some opened radioactive containers before the contents, dishes and hand tools, could be sold in the town. They were then buried.
Former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan
Mike O’ Callaghan, who was then Nevada’s Governor, said in a published quote, “It was out of control. The whole town was hot.” U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer ID-Cal.) added, “Every site they’ve run has leaked. They left a mess wherever they’ve gone. Their record, I think would give anyone pause.”
U.S. Ecology representatives were not available for comment and did not return our call.
If there are violations, can the public can trust environmental regulators in this state to protect people’s safety?
Several months ago VOD revealed that MDEQ funds were used to demolish houses in Detroit’s Brush Park area in ways that allowed the spread of hazardous asbestos by the wind.
One problem that is being widely ignored is the fact that hazardous and radioactive waste from all over the state and the country will be transported. What if a truck which such material gets into a crash? What will happen to people in the surrounding area?
One question in the forefront of people’s minds is why is such material is slated to come to Detroit. Olivia Brown, a precinct delegate in the area of the facility, asked, “Why do we have to be a dumping ground?”
Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer opposed national laws banning environmental racism.
Some believe the answer is “environmental racism,” a tendency to put such dangerous substances where Black people or low income people live.
When the Clinton Administration in the 1990’s proposed federal civil rights laws banning such practices, opponents, including then Mayor Dennis Archer, argued local officials could be trusted to protect their communities.
Brown wrote letters to local officials, including Mayor Mike Duggan, members of the Detroit City Council, and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, asking them to speak out on this issue.
“What are you doing at the city level to protect the health and safety of the residents?” she asked them. “Silence can be an abuse of power. Please stand up and take action to protect your residents.”
Neither Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan nor City Council President Brenda Jones responded to calls for comment.
While Black people and the poor may be hardest hit by any possible environmental harm, even affluent white people will not be immune.
As Detroit city officials push some Black residents out of the east side, current officials are boasting about bringing white people in.
The environmental damage may therefore spread to the suburbs. If the hazardous waste poisons the our city and its waters, it will damage our entire state, now labeled “the water wonderland.”