Category Archives: Flint Water Crisis

“We’re Here to Stay!”

Detroit’s immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ and Communities of Color honor Dr. King with a message of defiance and unity

Hundreds of people from across Southeast Michigan gathered at UAW Local 600 Saturday afternoon to honor Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. in a show of unity across lines of color, gender, ethnicity, religion and immigration status. Michigan United joined the United Auto Workers and community based groups in a mass call to action to defend the rights of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and the members of the LGBTQ community. In addition to the King holiday, groups cited the well documented rise in hate crimes in Michigan since the presidential election as inspiration for the event.

“We have no doubt that Reverend King would be pushing us to stand with people who are under attack because of their immigration status, the color of their skin or who they love,” said Michigan United member, Reverend Samuel Johnson of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “Mobilizations like this are crucial to show that the majority of people will not tolerate hate crimes and attacks. The fight to keep immigrant families together is connected to the fight to keep all families safe.”

The Congress of Communities, Chadsey Condon Community Association, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights worked with members of the LGBTQ community to host the event. The intersection of struggles and resistance was at the heart of the gathering.

“Some victories such as marriage equality or the Deferred action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which protects immigrants brought here as children are recent,” said Seydi Sarr, General Secretary of the Senegalese Association. “Some, such as the 1960s civil rights legislation are decades old. We stand to defend them all. We fight to keep immigrant families together here in the US, for refugee families fleeing violence to be safe here. We must defend human and civil rights won for the LGBTQ community and people of color. We can win if we see that all these struggles are connected.”

“No event, not even a presidential election will stop us from standing up and fighting for human and civil rights,” said Sergio Martinez, Michigan United board member. “As Gay man who has benefited from DACA and advances in LGBTQ rights, I refuse to go backward just as Dr. King and those who fought with him resisted the backlash against civil rights laws. Those of us fighting for justice are the majority. Making that clear with gatherings like this will push us toward victory.”

Michigan United Goes Door to Door Seeking Racial, Economic Justice

Voters engaged on crucial issues months before historic election

Dozens of Michigan United members in Detroit and Kalamazoo spent Saturday morning directly engaging voters on two of the most crucial issues of the upcoming presidential election: racial and economic justice. It  was part of a “National Doorstep Convention” for racial and economic justice. The outreach effort was prompted by extremist rhetoric from the presidential campaign and violence against people of color and other marginalized communities.

“Bigotry is real. Mexicans and Muslims have been vilified on the campaign trail and people of color have been poisoned and imprisoned for profit. We can’t stand by and watch this happen,” said Shaina Smith. “We have a moral obligation to engage with people to confront these issues, to work toward a society where we are all safe and welcome. That is what this canvass is about.”


Canvassers had no scripts just a general outline. This allowed them to have more open conversations about what is really on the minds of voters.

“We want to have honest conversations about what it means to live in a country with people of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities and religions. We are going door to door to put those issues out in the open” said LaTifah VanHorn.  “Communities of color face more environmental hazards like the expansion the US Ecology hazardous waste site on Detroit’s Eastside. Black and brown people are disproportionately locked up and then even after serving time, returning citizens are prevented from getting work. The reality of struggles on the ground and the divisive campaign rhetoric means we all need to step up.”

Michigan Legislature caves to community pressure, passes funding for Flint Water Crisis

House leadership does a 180 in the face of public pressure for immediate action

By a vote of 71-37, the Michigan House voted in favor of HB 5294, a $165 million supplemental appropriation for the Flint Water Crisis. The move comes after months of work by Michigan United and other member organizations in the Flint Rising coalition to make sure lawmakers acted before this session came to a close.

“After 2 years of national pressure, the legislature is finally taking responsibility and sending some real long-term help to the people of Flint. This is a big step in the right direction, though only a down-payment on the years of support that the children and families of Flint will need,” said Quincy Murphy, Flint resident and Michigan United organizer.

Even putting the bill up for a vote was a complete reversal for the house leadership. Just last month during their annual Capitol Day trip, Michigan United members from Flint were told in a meeting with House Speaker, Kevin Cotter’s office that there was no interest in funding the recovery from the water crisis this fiscal year, choosing instead to put it off until October. After that meeting though, the group formed a bucket brigade, passing safe water out of the capitol building to a waiting barrel outside and symbolically taking it back to Flint. Two days later, coalition partners dropped off petitions from constituents asking their lawmakers to act quickly.  Cotter then said the house wouldn’t take up the senate bill, but they would do “something”.

Rep. Michael McCready (Left) meets with Michigan United members Quincy Murphy (Center) and Abel DelGado (Right) Photo Credit: Erik Shelley, Michigan United
Rep. Michael McCready (Left) meets with Michigan United members Quincy Murphy (Center) and Abel DelGado (Right) Photo Credit: Erik Shelley, Michigan United

But without any sign of what “something” might be, organizers kept up the pressure. They directed phone calls into the offices of house leadership, urging them to take action quickly. They showed up at their public events, like Rep. Michael McCready’s coffee hour in West Bloomfield, to push for the the supplemental funding and demonstrate public support for it. Ultimately, the lawmakers were forced to see that if they did nothing before the recess, it was going to be a long, hot summer.

“I think it’s important to realize that as significant as this win is, this is just the beginning.” Murphy said. “$165 million dollars is progress , but pales in comparison to the scope of the problem in Flint. We’re going to follow this money and make sure it gets to the people who need it this summer then we’re going to keep pushing the Snyder administration to fix what they broke.”

A number of groups have worked together on this issue, including the Flint Concerned Pastors, the Water Warriors, Democracy Defense League, Michigan Faith in Action and Progress Michigan.

Michigan residents stage daylight raid of state offices to recover natural resources

Bucket brigade takes water out from capitol;
Occupation sucks air from Governor’s office.

Michigan United members and supporters from across the state, gathered in Lansing for its annual ‘Capitol Day’, lashed out at a legislature hesitant to help Flint recover from a tainted water fiasco and a governor who has reneged on a promise to protect the air. After meeting with lawmakers to discuss the Flint Water Crisis, the Clean Power Plan, Elder & Child Care, reducing Mass Incarceration and allowing immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, the group formed a bucket brigade that extended from sinks inside the Capitol building to a water barrel outside.

Gina Luster, a Flint resident who along with a young daughter have suffered from the effects of toxins in her water, addressed the protesters after the barrel was full. “This is going to be a long battle. We’re still experiencing ill effects on our mental, developmental and reproductive health. This will affect us and our kids for generations. We don’t need to just fix the pipes, they need to be replaced. Our lawmakers need to act now.”

Photo credit: Erik Shelley
Photo credit: Erik Shelley

Luster was one of a dozen people from Flint who expected to meet with Rep. Cotter’s office to discuss a supplemental appropriations bill but were turned away when they got there. A staffer for the Speaker of the House instead met with just five of them in a conference room surrounded by dozens of empty seats. In that meeting, he told the group that Rep. Cotter had no intention of addressing SB777, the supplemental Senate appropriations bill that would immediately provide Flint with $123.5 Million for health and infrastructure. Instead, Rep. Cotter will put this issue off for the rest of the summer and wait until the next fiscal year to deal with the crisis in October at the earliest.

After the protesters were finished with the legislature, they turned their focus on the Governor and the march continued across the street to the Romney building.

Last year, while the EPA was constructing a set of rules for energy production called the Clean Power Plan (CPP), Governor Snyder said Michigan would come up with its own plan, an option the EPA gave states that didn’t want to use the new federal guidelines.  But when the CPP was challenged in court, Snyder halted the process for coming up with a CPP for Michigan. Earlier this year, the Michigan United Environmental Justice Team requested a meeting with Snyder’s office that has yet to materialize. So on Capitol Day, they returned in greater numbers.

Photo credit: Zachary A. Clark
Photo credit: Zachary A. Clark

The demonstration filled the lobby of the Governor’s office.  Some protesters filled balloons while others chanted. “We can’t leave it up to the market to decide whose neighborhood gets cleaned up first.” said Vicki Dobbins, a Detroit resident living in the shadow of the Marathon refinery. “We are on the frontlines and our lives depend on the Clean Power Plan being implemented and implemented now!”

Photo credit: Zachary A. Clark
Photo credit: Zachary A. Clark

Representatives from the Governor’s office came downstairs to tell the crowd that they needed to fill out a formal request to get a meeting but were informed that the group had submitted one the last time they were there. With that, the protesters sat on the floor of the lobby and began chanting “No more forms!” as a contingent went up to the Governor’s office to negotiate with the constituent services director for a meeting with a Snyder environment official to discuss the CPP and ultimately meeting with the Governor in person.

The protesters then left with their balloons full of air they took from the governor and crossed the street to retrieve the water they took from the legislature.  As they did, they walked past a truck delivering bottled water to Snyder’s staff.  The irony was wasted on no one.

Bucket brigade tries to convince state lawmakers to pay to fix Flint’s water system

Activists came to the state Capitol today to dramatize the need for tens of millions of dollars to fix Flint’s damaged water system.

A line of people passed little buckets of water from a faucet inside the Capitol building to a 20-gallon drum outside.

Ryan Bates with Michigan United says they wanted to show what it’s like to live in Flint without tap water people can trust.

Bates says state lawmakers should be doing more to help.

“There’s a bill in front of them that they can vote on today that would appropriate $123 million that could provide health care, infrastructure money for Flint,” says Bates. “They could do it, but they’re chicken.”

State lawmakers may vote in the next few weeks on sending more money to Flint.

Money for Flint is tied up in budget talks in Lansing. Those talks have become more complicated with word state revenues are below projections.

Michigan revenues are more than $300 million lower over this fiscal year and next than projected, forcing Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers to scale back the spending plan that’s been in the works for months.

The Snyder administration and legislative economists agreed to revised numbers Tuesday, a key step before the next state budget is finalized in the coming weeks.

State Budget Director John Roberts says spending levels should still rise, but not as much as anticipated in the governor’s proposal. Roberts says the administration remains committed to addressing Flint’s water crisis, though it’s possible some of money could be appropriated in the fiscal year starting in October instead of this year.

Activist Melissa Mays worries Flint’s money will be among the budget items on the table.

“I think very important things are going to get cut,” says Mays.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is urging state lawmakers not to reduce planning funding for the city’s water crisis.

“I would certainly hope that these potential budget cuts do not come at the expense of Flint residents. The people of Flint have suffered enough due to this man-made water disaster. It would be down right wrong to neglect the citizens of Flint yet again by not providing the funding needed to ensure that residents have safe drinking water, new pipes and the food, early childhood education and health care they need to mitigate and treat the effects of lead exposure.”

Flint residents to demand federal intervention before President’s speech


“Flint Rising” coalition seeks disaster declaration

On the lawn outside Northwestern High School where President Obama is scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon, representatives from Flint Rising will hold a press conference to appeal for federal assistance in the recovery from the Flint Water Crisis. They will be joined by Flint City Councilman, Eric Mays who will ask the President to pressure Governor Snyder to end his use of emergency management.

The Flint RIsing coalition is made up of local, state and international groups, organizations, unions that have banded together to keep pressure on government to solve the problems caused by the contamination of the Flint water supply.

Press Conference before President Obama’s speech in Flint


  • Desiree Duell, Flint Rising
  • Gina Luster, Flint resident and parent
  • Eric Mays, Flint City Councilman
  • Flint Rising members and supporters

12:30PM, May 4, 2016

South lawn of Northwestern High School in front of school sign
2138 West Carpenter Road, Flint, MI 48505


Capitol Day 2016

Join hundreds of Michigan United leaders and allies from across the state as we take over Lansing in the name of economic, environmental, and racial justice!

Click here to register for Capitol Day 2016 NOW!

We will meet with our legislators to push for grassroots solutions to injustices our communities face. Following the meetings, we will join with allies from across the state to amplify our voices against those causing pain in our communities by carrying out a DIRECT ACTION.

Michigan United will provide buses for transportation from Detroit and Kalamazoo. Detroit will depart from 6451 Schaefer Rd, Dearborn & Kalamazoo will depart from their office at 1009 E Stockbridge Ave, Kalamazoo. A logistics email will be sent to all registered attendees a week before the event with many details, including depart times and locations.

Please click here to register if you plan to attend. A space to enter attendees’ names will appear once you choose how many places you would like to reserve. Please include the names of everyone for whom you reserve a spot.

A light breakfast and lunch will be provided. Please indicate any dietary restrictions when registering.

Childcare will also be provided. Please indicate if you will require childcare, along with their names and ages. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide childcare for children under the age of 2 years.

This is a FREE event. However, we greatly appreciate donations to help offset the costs. Click here to donate now! A donation of $60 more makes you an official member in good standing!

For additional information about Capitol Day 2016, please contact our office, 877-507-7774, ext 725 or email

Organizations Urge Flint Officials to Reject Deal with For-Profit Water Providers

Groups Urge City Leaders to Support Democratic, Public Control of Water System

As the City of Flint hosts a meeting with potential bidders for a study of the water system, local and national labor and social justice organizations called on the City Council and the Mayor to reject any deal with a water privatizing company that could use this study as a foot in the door to take over the operation or management of the system.

The organizations issued the following statement:

“As the water crisis in Flint has unfolded over the last two years, and our community has faced the devastating consequences of lead poisoning, it has become abundantly clear that this crisis was a result of the suspension of democratic governance of our water system via the emergency manager system. It has also become clear that investing in infrastructure and replacing the lead pipes that continue to cause devastating health problems for the community must be at the top of the city’s priority list.

“And yet, just last week we learned that the City of Flint issued a request for proposal (RFP) that could open the door for private water corporations to obtain contracts with the city that could threaten democratic control of the water system. This RFP is a red herring – it does not address replacing the lead pipes and will not ensure the health and safety of Flint residents.  Instead, it looks to private water corporations with track records of privatizing water systems and cutting corners in order to increase their own profits.

“The private water industry has already failed Flint once. Veolia, one of the world’s largest for-profit water corporations, carried out a  $40,000  water quality assessment contract in 2015, which Veolia executive David Gaddis promised would “ensure water quality for the people of the city of Flint.” Instead, the corporation gave the city’s poisoned water a clean bill of health. Veolia had the opportunity to use its ‘expertise’ to sound the alarm on the lead crisis. Instead, it used its expertise to position itself for another contract.

“Under other contracts like the one Flint is considering, Veolia and its competitors in the private water industry have a history of making dangerous recommendations to cities.  These recommendations range  from laying off workers and cutting corners on environmental safety programs, to implementing new billing systems that systematically overcharge residents.  While they cut corners, they siphon money out of public water systems, often seeking to deepen their involvement in the management of water systems. In many cases, Veolia and its competitors have used these contracts as a foot-in-the-door strategy to increase private control over–and profit from–municipal water systems.

“The City of Flint cannot afford to let that happen. We must not allow our city to be used for private gain at the expense of democratic governance. We must invest in fully public solutions that address the true crisis at hand. Therefore, we call on the city to:

  • Reject any deal with a water privatizing corporation, and
  • Seek and invest in fully public solutions for Flint’s water needs.

“In order to truly address the crisis, we also call on the state to fund the replacement of all lead pipes in Flint and to repeal the emergency manager law.”

Endorsing organizations:

AFSCME International
Corporate Accountability International
Food & Water Watch
Michigan Nurses Association
Michigan United
Progress Michigan
United Auto Workers
Water You Fighting For?

Job Posting: Flint Water Justice Organizer

Deadline: Candidates must apply by April 18th, 2016.

Michigan United is a statewide coalition of faith, labor, civil rights, business, and social service organizations working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing.

Michigan United is seeking dedicated staff to lead an urgent campaign in Flint Michigan.

The people of Flint have been drinking poisoned water for over a year. This is the result of extreme negligence on the part of the State of Michigan, as well as a likely cover-up. This poisoning takes place within the context of the long-term struggle faced by Flint to overcome poverty, discrimination, and out-sourcing of manufacturing jobs.

The immediate crisis and long-term needs can only be met by rapidly developing the leadership of low-income families in Flint, and advocating for just reconstruction, reinvestment and health plans.

The role of the Flint Water Organizer will be to:

  • Recruit Flint families to join campaigns to win just reconstruction, reinvestment and health programs.
  • Train impacted families to become leaders of advocacy campaigns for community needs
  • Work to support the local leadership coalition
  • Conduct strategic advocacy campaigns to win reinvestment, renewal and just water policies for Flint
  • Support ongoing door-to-door canvasses
  • Develop community education programs on the long-term impacts of lead and copper poisoning
Position requirements.

The Flint Water Organizer should:

  • Have a tireless commitment to social justice
  • Be ready to talk to strangers and ask them to take action
  • Be a self-starter who can see opportunities and seize them
  • Be ready to work in a fast-paced environment with limited supervision on urgent campaign timelines
  • Have experience and public relationships in Flint
  • Have their own reliable car – American-made cars are strongly encouraged
  • Have their own cell phone and computer
  • Be comfortable working with a diverse group of partners, members, and staff; -Be able to work with modern office software.

The position is based in Flint, Michigan. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply. Pay for this position is commensurate with experience. This position is funded full-time for 6 months, and may be extended pending additional fundraising.

Please send resume and cover letter to:


Subject: Flint Water Organizer

Water expert blames DEQ ‘cover-up’ for Flint crisis

and , The Detroit News February 5, 2016

The engineering professor who helped uncover the contamination of Flint’s water told Congress Wednesday that primary blame lies with a few state environmental officials who “misled” Michigan leaders and residents and tried to “cover up” proof of high lead levels.

“One-hundred percent of responsibility lies with those employees at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. There’s no question,” Marc Edwards, a water expert at Virginia Tech University, told the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

But Edwards also faulted the former Midwest chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Susan Hedman, who last summer discredited a key in-house memo that should have set off alarms about the failure of water officials to properly treat Flint River water.

“EPA had the chance to be the hero here, and Ms. Hedman snatched defeat for EPA from the jaws of victory,” he said.

Hedman resigned effective Monday. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said his committee wants her to give a deposition under oath to committee lawyers about her agency’s response to Flint.

Lawmakers on the committee pressed a state official and an EPA official for almost three hours on the government’s handling of the water crisis and how both the DEQ and EPA dismissed complaints and test results for months as city residents continued to consume lead-tainted water.

Republicans focused more on the EPA’s shortcomings in Flint, while Democrats tore into the state’s role. But the officials the committee most wanted to hear from were not in the room.

Chaffetz said former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who refused an invitation to testify Wednesday, would be served with a subpoena by U.S. marshals if necessary. Earley, in a state-appointed role, oversaw the city when it switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure.

Democrats also continued to call for Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, to bring Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to Washington for questioning, saying the committee couldn’t conduct a comprehensive investigation without him.

Chaffetz said he has made no final decision on whether to call Snyder to testify, and made no guarantees about holding another Flint hearing.

“Look, I’m going to keep all options open. I’ve made no final decision one way or the other,” Chaffetz told reporters after the hearing.

Flint residents in attendance

Onlookers began lining up outside the hearing room on Capitol Hill shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday. The crowd included two busloads of residents from Flint and two busloads from Detroit, said Erik Shelley of the liberal group Michigan United.

Many wore “Flint Lives Matter” shirts and said they were disappointed not to hear from Snyder. Barbara Carr of Flint was among them.

“It’s unfair, and someone needs to be held accountable,” she said of the discolored, smelly water flowing from her taps at home.

Democrats and at least one Republican lawmaker criticized Snyder’s use of Michigan’s emergency manager law, which is applied to municipalities that run consistent deficits and amass huge debts.

Oversight Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said the law might be unconstitutional because it usurps the democratic process.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, called the failures of the emergency managers in Flint “the consequence of putting ideology ahead of human beings and their needs and welfare.”

Speaking to reporters in Flint Wednesday, Snyder defended his policy of appointing managers to handle financial emergencies. “Emergency managers have been successful in a number of other places in Michigan,” he said.

Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, faced a grilling about his agency’s delayed response to Flint. He said EPA staff who urged Michigan officials to address the lack of corrosion control in Flint’s water were met with resistance.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, questioned why EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy didn’t make her first trip to Flint until this week — almost a year after her agency became aware of the city’s problems.

“I find it despicable that Gina McCarthy, the administrator, shows up in Flint yesterday instead of going there immediately,” Gosar said.

Beauvais said he didn’t believe McCarthy knew about the Flint crisis for eight months. “I came into this job in November of 2015, so I don’t have personal knowledge of all the communications that were done,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, questioned Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan DEQ, about his agency’s response to federal officials.

“With the law and your responsibility, what failed? … And can you explain to me the response to EPA on February 26 (2015) advising the state of Michigan that there was lead and high levels of corrosion in Flint water?” Lawrence asked.

“It’s the question of the day, and that’s what many of the auditors and reviewers are looking at,” Creagh said.

Lawrence asked whether anyone has been held accountable at the state DEQ.

“As you know, there’s been some changes at the DEQ. There’s been suspensions at the DEQ. Everyone deserves due process,” Creagh replied.

“We are working in conjunction with both the city, the state and federal government to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Procedures concern Walberg

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, asked Edwards why many water utility owners and operators aren’t following proper procedures for testing for lead in drinking water. Is it a “lack of clarity in federal regulations or lack of enforcement or both?” Walberg said.

“The only thing I can conclude is that they don’t care about children getting lead poisoning from drinking water,” Edwards said.

“Do you believe they’re violating the law?” Walberg asked.

“I believe that they’re not enforcing the law or enforcing their own policies,” Edwards said. “Had it not been for people completely outside the system, those people in Flint would still be drinking this water to this day. That is a fact.”

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, said it was “outrageous” that a “government-made” situation like Flint’s could happen in the United States, calling for an independent, nonpartisan investigation and for more state aid for Flint.

“The state spends $33 million on the Pure Michigan ad campaign, yet has provided only $28 million to make sure the people of Flint have pure water,” Amash said at the hearing. “The state has the resources. The state needs to make it right.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, who testified Wednesday, called on Snyder to “write a check right now for the $60 million the mayor of Flint has asked for to replace the lead service lines.”

“This is a public relations campaign (by the state) right now,” Kildee told reporters after testifying. “It goes beyond partisanship. This seems to me to be individuals who are just trying to protect their reputations, and are more concerned about that than they are about kids in Flint.”

Creagh submitted written testimony ahead of the hearing referencing an in-house EPA memo, prepared in June 2015 by agency water expert Miguel Del Toral. It laid out the public health dangers inherent in the state’s failure to require corrosion controls in the Flint River water.

Creagh highlighted an email from an EPA employee advising DEQ officials on how to deny having seen the Del Toral memo, after the state acquired it through a third party.

When asked by Walberg, Beauvais said Jennifer Brooks, a staffer in the Midwest Region 5 of EPA, sent the email.

“I do not know why that email was sent,” Beauvais said. “We are looking into that.”

Beauvais testified that he was not aware of any punishment of Del Toral: “Mr. Del Toral is a valued member of the EPA’s team. He is a nationally recognized expert in this area.”

Walberg asked Edwards’ opinion of whether Del Toral was punished by the EPA.

“Not in writing, but the way the EPA operates in general is that people who are causing trouble by doing their job are simply not allowed to do their job,” Edwards said. “They are silenced, like Mr. Del Toral was.”

LeeAnne Walters, who lives in Flint half-time, said her complaints to the city and state about her discolored water and her family’s health issues “were dismissed.”

Walters reached out to the EPA, and Del Toral was the “only one willing to address the problem.” She said she requested a copy of his June 2015 internal memo on Flint’s water and made it public “because people had a right to know.”

(202) 662-8736

Freelance writer Jacob Carah contributed.