Posted: Oct 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM [Oct 2, 2012]
Detroit has been buzzing with action and talk for the past three days about the defiant fight of more than one thousand workers in the city water department, striking members of the AFSCME Local 207 Union. The union released the following press release on Monday, October 1 (yesterday). Below the release are links to the most recent news coverage from other media outlets.October 1, 2012 PRESS RELEASE:
The level of confrontation was raised today in the day-old strike of 950 Detroit Water and Sewage Workers.
At 8:30 this morning Federal Judge Sean Cox, brother of Republican former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who was assigned to oversee the 1978 Consent Agreement regarding the Clean Water Act as it pertains to Detroit's Water and Sewage Department, issued a Temporary Restraining Order declaring the strike of Detroit Water and Sewage workers organized in AFSCME Local 207 to be illegal.
"The strike will continue. We are fighting to stop the contracting out of over 80% of our jobs to a company (EMA – see note below) that caused an environmental catastrophe in Toronto. The workers have been demanding better staffing, training and equipment to improve water quality for years, and management has always lent a deaf ear. Now, with the disingenuous claim of "environmental protection" they are simply union busting and privatizing," said Michael Mulholland, AFSCME Local 207 Secretary Treasurer.
The TRO was issued without a hearing involving the interested parties that was scheduled to take place this afternoon. A hearing date was set for October 11th, which is a violation of the right of the parties to have a hearing on a TRO within 48 hours of its issuance.
Scheff, Washington & Driver, attorneys for AFSCME Local 207, have filed motions to dissolve the TRO and for Judge Cox to recuse himself from deciding any matter related to DWSD's request for injunctive relief against the strike.
"Judge Cox is acting as DWSD's head of labor relations, completely beyond the bounds of the Clean Water Act and then claiming that he can simultaneously act as an impartial judge over DWSD's conduct in relation to this strike. This is a huge overreach, making a mockery of any form of democratic protections for the rights of workers to bargain collectively," said John Riehl, President of AFSCME Local 207.
The motion for the union (SEE BELOW) states that Judge Cox has been acting as supervisor of the DWSD management team on labor relations, issuing orders, at management's request, that have changed major contractual and bargaining rights of Local 207 members (including setting aside Local 207's contract and its right to bargain on the central issues of job security, overtime, promotions, discipline and union representation). He has simultaneously denied Local 207 the right to appeal his decisions to any official body, including the Michigan Employee Relations Commission. Given his role in DWSD labor relations, Judge Cox can in no way be considered impartial in the present dispute between management and the union.
It is worth noting that in his order dissolving the union's contract, there was no connection made between the contractual issues listed above and the control of water pollution.
The union's motions further assert that under the Norris-LaGuardia Act, federal courts have no jurisdiction to issue injunctions to stop strikes or picketing.
For more information, contact attorney George Washington at 313-963-1921 or 313-715-4886
*The city of Toronto hired the EMA Group in 1996 to revamp its water department, and eventually cut large numbers of its sewage plant workforce. In June of this year, Toronto's subways and many neighborhoods experienced massive flooding due largely to sewage back-ups during a rainstorm. Such floods have been commonplace since the cutbacks.
"Detroit Water Department Strike: Workers Walk Out Over Proposed Job Cuts"
Huffington Post Detroit
"Detroit water workers defy federal judge's order to return to work"
Detroit Free Press
Editorial: "Detroit's water workers should make their case at the table"
Detroit Free Press
"Striking Detroit sewage workers defy court order"