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The first word in May Day is ‘International’

BogotaAs we unite to celebrate International Workers’ Day, we rightfully focus on how capitalism has devastated our beloved city of Detroit and the other majority African American cities here in Michigan.  In the words of Cindy Sheehan, we are at the cutting edge here in the U.S. of the global financial crisis.

It is we the people who are catching hell no matter which way we look — from the ragged roads beneath our wheels, to the atmosphere above, which is growing more and more dense with pollution and greenhouse gases. Those greenhouse gases or CO2 emissions are triggering severe climate around the globe — including possibly one of the harshest winters Detroiters have ever experienced. Global warming is threatening the basic security of all living things.

In the course of building a movement in solidarity with autoworkers in Colombia, I’ve learned that we as a city are not alone. I’m speaking of that country’s capital, Bogota, where GM runs an assembly plant using three tiers of blue collar workers. Hundreds of workers are routinely crippled and then let go.

The similarities run deep. Take privatization. Like Detroit, Bogota privatized trash collection.  Not in 2014 but during the 1990s, 20 years ahead of us. Earlier this year, the city’s leftist mayor Gustav Petro got a better idea: De-privatize trash collection. He said the city administration could provide better service, at a cheaper cost.

You can imagine this did not sit well with the three private trash companies. So they sabotaged his effort by refusing to collect the trash. The country’s right-wing inspector general used this as a pretext to remove him, and to replace him with his version of an “emergency manager.”

The protest was immediate: 40,000 Colombians filled a plaza protesting in his defense. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission publicly condemned the action, and even the U.S. ambassador-to-be said it was a bad idea. Nevertheless, the inspector general ruled the ousted mayor couldn’t run for office for another 15 years!

I am glad to report last week the attempted coup was overturned and the mayor was reinstated!  The power of the people along with the power of the law is what reversed this travesty.

Detroiters are standing up to challenge the coup perpetrated on our city by Governor Rick Snyder, which is aimed at ushering in the privatization of our city’s assets. Like the people of Bogota, Detroiters are standing up in defense of democracy and maintaining public control of our resources. We too can win. Solidarity with the people of Bogota! Up with Democracy!

— Frank Hammer
UAW Local 600

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