A lot has already been written about the ongoing atrocity in Flint, where a city of 100,000 people that is largely responsible for building the conditions that created prosperity in postwar America has been deliberately poisoned with lead and legionella by a dictatorial emergency financial manager system created by Rick Snyder, the sitting governor. The widely-reported reason of why the poisoning happened (to save a comparatively small amount of money) has also come under question, adding another dimension of horror to what’s already a horrible story. In a just world, what has been done to the people of Flint would result in a cigarette, a blindfold, and a firing squad for a lot of right-wing technocrats. We do not, however, live in a just world, more’s the pity.
There is one part of this story, however, that deserves attention for how good it is. The labor movement has stood up strong trying to help the people of Flint. It started with the United Autoworkers, who well remember “the strike heard ‘round the world,” delivering water to the city that turned it into a powerful union. Teamsters from Indiana came next, bringing a convoy of water for distribution to the people. The Laborers contributed aid, then Plumbers and Pipefitters, then International Longshoremen’s Association. The Plumbers and Pipefitters deserve to be singled out for special credit, as they have taken to going house-to-house to make sure water filters are installed correctly.
On the left, there’s a lot of talk these days about solidarity and what it means. I submit the labor movement’s reaction the poisoning of Flint as an example of solidarity at its finest. People are hurting and the unions answered the call, not because they see themselves as saviors or will profit significantly from it, but because there but for the grace of God could go them and these people need help.
Make no mistake, bringing pallets of clean water to a poisoned city will not undo the harm done by Snyder and his pack of detestable jackals, who are in the process of picking clean Michigan’s public sector. They’ve already done grievous harm to Detroit’s schools under the same financial manager system that’s killed ten people in Flint. Michael Moore is on the right track in that donated bottles of water is a short-term solution at best and that the only way that Flint can be made whole or something close to it is if the lead is removed from the water system, period. The only way that will happen is through political action and, at a minimum, hounding the right-wing scum that poisoned Flint out of power.
In the end, the working class can only count on itself. Unless it is organized politically, there will be more Flints and more working class people slain by a system that only sees them as a way to extract rents or make a profit. Only through solidarity of the kind shown to Flint these past few weeks, directed and weaponized, can the blandly vile barbarism of Snyder and his emergency managers be overcome.