Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

Union plumbers leading the way in Flint water crisis


Courtesy ABC 12

FLINT January 27, 2016– As residents in Flint still don’t have tap water that’s safe to drink or bathe in, members of UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370 are stepping up to help residents– both short-term and long-term– get clean water. The Flint-based local is distributing water bottles, helping residents with their filters, and standing by ready to replace lead pipes should they get the call to start tearing them out.

From MLive:

Another large bottled water donation is coming to Flint thanks to a local grocery store and the UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370.

The Kroger Co. of Michigan is partnering with the UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370 out of Flint to donate 16 truckloads of 24-pack Kroger brand water to the city, according to a news release from Kroger Co. of Michigan. That breaks down to 25,104 cases of bottled water to be donated.

The first delivery of the $40,000 contribution of bottled water [was] dropped off Thursday, Jan. 14.

“UA Local 370 is a long-time partner for many Kroger projects,” said Kroger Co. of Michigan Communication Manager Ken McClure in a statement. “Members originally reached out to us and intended to purchase $20,000 in bottled water. We, however, offered to match the donation and coordinate logistics for the delivery.”

“UA Local 370 wanted to get involved and help in a meaningful way by getting clean, safe water to Flint residents as quickly as we could,” said Business Manager for UA Local 370 Harold Harrington in a statement. “We expected Kroger to be a willing source but are thankful for the grocer’s offer to match our donation. It is a testimony to a good working relationship.”

The local is also ready to start tearing out old lead pipes, but no infrastructure projects have been authorized. In the meantime, the union plumbers are working to get residents’ water filters installed. From NBC News:

It’s been three weeks since Michigan declared a state of emergency in Flint, but not a single water pipe that contains lead has been replaced, NBC News has learned.

The city’s utilities manager and a union official confirmed that none of the costly plumbing work has been started — even though experts agree it’s the permanent solution to the crisis.

“We need to remove all the lead,” said University of Michigan Professor Martin Kaufman, who is helping the city create a database of the 15,000 to 20,000 homes that have the dangerous pipes.

“It’s got to be done now.”

Yet, according to Harold Harrington, business manager of United Association Local 370, the plumbers union, none of his members have been dispatched for replacement jobs, which would cost thousands per home.

Instead, they have been going door-to-door as volunteers, installing water filters — a stopgap measure.

“If I need 200 guys next week, I can get them,” Harrington said. “We can start as soon as I get a call.”

It’s a call that Oscar and Elizabeth Brown, like many homeowners in the impoverished city, aren’t able to make.

The dusty service line that snakes out of their basement on Copeman Boulevard is made of lead, and they fear their 3-year-old -great-great-grandson Dana, who started having seizures last year, has been poisoned.

“There’s no way we can afford to fix these pipes,” Elizabeth Brown told NBC News on Tuesday after Harrington surveyed the property and told them it would cost close to $10,000 to correct the situation.

“All my money is gone.”

Asked why no pipes had been replaced, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder said the priority has been delivering bottled water and filters and the next budget plan “will call for identifying pipes and service lines that need replacing.”


This entry was posted on January 27, 2016 by in Union Heroes and tagged , , , , .

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

The Kent-Ionia Labor Council, AFL-CIO is a coalition of west Michigan labor unions in Kent and Ionia Counties, based in Grand Rapids.

Address, phone, email

918 Benjamin NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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