Nurses: Water Shut-off Measure in Detroit Endangers Public Health

18 Jul

National Nurses United

 

Mark Ruffalo NNU

Actor/activist Mark Ruffalo poses with NNU’s Jean Ross and Bonnie Castillo

Media Advisory, Photo Opportunity                                   July 18, 2014
Contact: Liz Jacobs, RN, 510-435-7674, Bill Gallagher, 818-355-8691, or Sarah Cecile, 510-541-9570

Big March and Rally Today in Detroit to Protest Water Shutoffs by City:  ‘Turn On the Water, Tax Wall Street’

Responding to the controversial decision of Detroit and Michigan officials to shut off water for tens of thousands of city residents, a broad coalition of national, international, and Detroit area organizations will hold a major protest march and rally today in Detroit.

Marchers will voice support for the many in Detroit who have been calling for a declaration of a health care emergency in the city and call for an immediate moratorium on the water shutoffs and restoration of water service to those who have had their water cut off.

Lack of access to clean water is a major health threat that can lead to the growth and spread of infectious diseases and even pandemics, says National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses and the lead sponsor of the march and rally.

Activists also warn that the widespread water shutoffs are a national test case, promoted by the banks and other financial interests who have been pushing privatization of public resources in economically embattled Detroit. If successful in Detroit, the scene could be repeated in scores of other communities where residents continue to struggle financially.

The march begins at 1 p.m. at Cobo Center in Detroit. The rally, outside Hart Plaza, will be live streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/national-nurses-united

Support for the action has been rapidly building with major endorsements and participation from among others the International Union United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW AFL-CIO), Netroots Nation which is holding its convention in Detroit this week, Food and Water Watch, Michigan Sierra Club, Utility Workers Union of America, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and scores of Detroit area community, labor and faith groups.

Internationally known actor Mark Ruffalo and musician/songwriter Tom Morello also voiced support for the action, urging support, on twitter.


 

Listen to the NNU Radio ad here:


 

 

The event will also call for a tax on Wall Street speculation which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars for communities like Detroit which have been pummeled by recession, unemployment, and other pain directly linked to the Wall Street meltdown and plunder of major urban areas. The Robin Hood tax on Wall Street trading, is embodied in HR 1579, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison, to rebuild Detroit and the rest of America.

Rally supporters charge that Gov. Rick Snyder and emergency manager officials are enforcing the water shutoffs to promote the privatization of the public water supply, the latest gift, they say, to Wall Street financial interests who have bankrupted the city.

Notably Snyder’s handpicked emergency manager Kevyn Orr in one of his first acts hired his former employer, the Jones Day law firm to supervise the city’s bankruptcy even though that same firm represents banks that hold the city’s debt. Further, city activists note that though commercial enterprises owe nearly half of the debt to the water department, it is low and moderate-income residents who have been the main target of water shutoffs.

‘Dangerous public health crisis’

“Cutting off water to community residents is a disgraceful attack on the basic human right of access to safe, clean water,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Nurses know the critical link between access to water and public health. Lack of water, like unsafe sanitation, is a major health disaster that can lead to disease outbreaks and pandemics. The city must end this shutoff now.”

“The water crisis is just the tip of the spear of what is a much greater systemic problem in America,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, citywide outreach coordinator of We the People of Detroit and member of the People’s Water Coalition. “People need housing, good jobs, equal access to quality education and affordable health care and of course what we are now dealing with here, access to clean affordable water which is a basic human right. It is my hope that everyone who is coming to Detroit to take part in the protests also takes away the story of resilience and perseverance of the people of Detroit. I’ve been going to door to door to assist people and what I’ve witnessed is that in the midst of all these trials folks are together forging the beloved community.”

“It appears the black out on this water crisis is broken and the consciousness of the world has finally been piqued. People around the world are beginning to focus on this domestic terrorism and we welcome every eye!” said Maureen Taylor, state chairperson of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

“The situation in Detroit is a major crisis, said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “When 45 percent of water customers struggle to pay their water bills, it is clear that this is not just a problem with delinquent payment–it’s indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of policies that put profits before people. These shutoffs are a thinly veiled precursor to privatizing Detroit’s water, which will only make matters worse. We urge Detroit’s leadership to turn the taps back on and keep water there in public hands so that all residents can have affordable access to this vital resource.”

“This dangerous public health crisis is further proof that we don’t have a bankrupt city – we have a bankrupt system,” said John Armelagos, RN, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “It’s disgraceful to have children in the wealthiest nation on Earth on the edge of living in third-world conditions. When people don’t have access to water to bathe and brush their teeth with, they and their families, and the whole community, are at risk for disease. Water is a human right and (Emergency Manager) Kevyn Orr should put human needs above any agenda set by corporations that only want to further exploit Detroit.”

“We’re proud to stand in solidarity with the organizers working hard to stop these water shutoffs,” said Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation. “It’s vitally important for us to use our platform to amplify their message.”

Other endorsers of action include: People’s Water Board, Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, Michigan Nurses Association, We the People of Detroit, Moratorium Now!, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, AFSCME Council 25, CWA Local 400, National Action Network-Michigan, UAW Locals 600 and 4911, Detroit Eviction Defense, Detroiters Resisting Emergency, National People’s Action, Health GAP (Global Action Project), East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Color of Change, Franciscan Action Network, Detroit Water Brigade, Detroit Public Schools Education Task Force, Michigan Election Reform Alliance, Student Global AIDS Campaign, New York State Nurses Association, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Detroit Active and Retired Employees.

 

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