Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pause on Christmas Eve to Remember Labor's Mottor After Mass Tragedy -- Justice, Not Charity

Michigan has more than its share of big moments in labor history -- the Flint sit-down strike and the Battle of the Overpass stand out.

Christmas Eve 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of another moment in labor history that must not be forgotten.

In the early 20th century, copper mines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula were booming. Copper was in high demand as the United States electrified its cities, businesses, and homes. The Calumet and Hecla Mining Co. was raking in money off the backs of immigrants who were forced to work 10-hour days, six days a week in dark, dangerous conditions for subsistence wages. In 1913, the company came up with a way to make even more money by eliminating the jobs of about half the workers. It instituted the use of a 150-pound drill that would be operated by only one worker instead of two. Not only would jobs be lost, but a worker injured on the job would be alone in the dark mines. The job was already the most dangerous in the nation at the time, with fatality rates of one out of every 200 workers.

The Western Federation of Miners organized the mine workers and in the summer of 2013 the local workers decided to strike. The work stoppage dragged on through the fall and into winter as C&H brought in scabs to try to break the strike. With just $23,000 in its strike fund when the stoppage began, the union was no match for the deep pockets of C&H, which was backed by an army of company thugs and the Michigan National Guard.

Living in cold homes with nothing to eat, the strikers held on. To try to bring a little cheer to the families, a party was organized for Christmas Eve in the upstairs room at the Italian Hall in Calumet. As many as 700 people were crowded into the hall, singing Christmas carols as small gifts solicited from area merchants were given out to the children..

Suddenly, someone came to the top of the steps and yelled, "Fire." There was no fire, but the alarm set off a stampede for the narrow stairway to the exit. Someone fell on the stairs and then more people, bodies piled up in the stairwell,suffocating those on the bottom.

When it was over, 73 people had died, most of them children.

The tragedy and the mass funeral attracted national attention. Even C&H felt a little ashamed and secretly tried to offer $5,000 to the families of the dead. Citizens in the town took up a collection and went around to the families offering them money. But the miners refused the money, saying, they didn't want charity, they wanted justice.

Ultimately, the families and the miners received no justice. Union President Charles Moyer sent letters demanding an investigation into the mass murders, but thugs from an anti-union citizen group called the Citizens Alliance beat him and shot him. There was never an adequate investigation and the identity of those who raised the false alarm has never been determined, although Moyer believed the man wore a Citizens Alliance button. The strike ended in the spring. Miners went back to work.

The Italian Hall no longer stands. The city of Calumet tore it down, perhaps not wanting to look at the reminder of the tragedy anymore. But an historical marker stands between the arches of the front entry hall with a brief history of the tragedy.

Ultimately, the mines closed as they found it hard to compete with cheaper open-pit copper mining in the Southwest. So there is no happy ending, no triumph for the cause of working people in this story.

But there is one reminder. We can make the union's response to the company's $5,000 hand-out or own motto. We don't want charity for low-wage workers. We want justice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Livingston's Shari Pollesch Will Challenge Joe Hune!

Extreme right-wing Senator Joe Hune told people a few months ago that he was "nauseated" at the thought of expanding Medicaid so that working poor people in Michigan could have access to health care. 

Imagine how sick to his stomach Hune must be to find out that he has just acquired a tough, smart Democratic opponent for his 2014 re-election campaign!

Shari Pollesch is announcing that she is running for the Democratic nomination for State Senate in the 22nd District and that she is starting her campaign nearly a year before the 2014 election. 

Unlike Hune, who is known as Mr. Free Lunch in Lansing for his frequent lobbyist-paid meals, Shari is committed to policies that put people before special interests, our children’s education before political agendas, seniors before corporate tax cuts and a clean environment before big energy profits.

As a voice of reason in Lansing, Shari will work to reverse policies that are unfairly burdening the middle class and will fight for a smart government that puts people first.

In a statement announcing that she has filed her nominating papers, Shari said:

"I am running because there has been no real progress in Lansing on issues critical to people’s standard of living.

"Unemployment in Michigan was 9% three years ago and it is 9% today.  Instead of focusing on revitalizing our economy, protecting seniors or fairly funding our local schools, my opponent has been sponsoring regulations on whether the local pub can sell me a beer in a glass with a logo. 

"Michigan needs a new direction that will only come through new leadership; leadership that can be trusted to work for people."

Shari was raised by a single mother who often worked two jobs to support Shari, her two brothers, and her sister. Ultimately, Shari’s mother went on to become a small business owner setting an example of hard work, courage and determination.

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Olivet College in 1981, Shari taught preschool in the Eaton/Ingham County Head Start program.  Witnessing the hardships and inequality of poverty suffered by her students, Shari developed a passion for social justice, which led her to law school. She graduated from Thomas Cooley Law School with her Juris Doctorate and entered private practice in 1989.

As a partner with Ken Burchfield and David Park, Shari has used her strong listening, advocacy, and negotiating skills to help hundreds of Livingston County residents and small businesses, resolve their legal issues.

In addition to her busy law practice, Shari has served on the boards of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Key Development Center, which provides outpatient substance abuse treatment, and the Livingston County Concert Band.  She helped found the Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, served as its second board president, and currently chairs its Social Justice Committee. She also chaired the health care reform initiative of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network and served as a member on a coalition for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Shari and her husband, Rodger, live in Hartland Township where Shari raised her two daughters, both of whom graduated from Hartland Consolidated Schools and from Michigan colleges.

Shari will officially kick off her campaign on January 15, 2014 at Cleary’s Pub, 117 E. Grand River, Howell, Michigan from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.  For more information about Shari’s campaign, visit Shari’s web site,, or her Facebook page, Shari Pollesch for Senate. To contact the campaign, call (810) 224-0560.

The new boundaries of the 22nd State Senate district were created as part of the state’s legislative redistricting following the 2010 census. The district includes all of Livingston County and approximately two thirds of Washtenaw County, west of the city of Ann Arbor, including Lyndon, Webster, Northfield, Sylvan, Lima, Scio, Sharon, Freedom, Lodi, Saline and Bridgewater Townships, plus the Villages of Dexter and Manchester, and the city of Chelsea.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Local Dem Working on Documentary on Mining and Threats to Water

If you live in Michigan, you know about the Great Lakes. You know that they hold 21 percent of the earth's fresh surface water.You know they're precious and special and need to be protected.

But maybe you didn't know that mining companies pose a huge threat to their continued purity.

A Livingston County Democrat is out to change that. Shana Burns is producing a documentary on the threats to the Great Lakes posed by hard rock mining in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Called Trust, the documentary is a feature-length documentary that looks at water, the treaty rights of Native American tribes, and politics. The film raises the alarm about the more than 40 active mines and exploration sites in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Many are located on tribal land, posing a threat to the subsistence lifestyles still practiced by many native peoples.

Shana has produced a trailer for the film and is raising money to continue the project.

Find out more about it here:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The wastewater bond is a waste of money!

To ALL Genoa Township Democrats and Republicans against wasting public money.

Sign the petition.  Stop the waste of money for the wastewater pipeline bond. Help me defeat this bond.

A better, cheaper alternative exists.  Here are the numbers:

The Bond Numbers:
$300 a year or more: $4,300 total cost per household for the $6 million wastewater pipeline bond.
VS  the cheaper alternative:
$  240 a year for township provided soft water plus (for 1,000 homes in Northshore and Oakpoint Subs.)
$   88 a year for Oak Point wastewater plant improvements.
$ 328 subtotal
   -60 a  year savings in salt costs, and  you NEVER have to BUY SALT AGAIN!
$268 TOTAL a year - $32 a year cheaper than the wasteful pipeline bond.
for household on wells: (400 households in the Tri-lakes area)
$ 240 a year for potassium chloride ($20 a bag at Costco).
$   88 a year for Oak Point wastewater plant improvements.
$     6 a year for inspection for salt at grinder pumps.
$ 334 a year subtotal.
    -60 a year savings in salt cost - you are buying potassium instead
$ 274 TOTAL a year - $26 a year cheaper than the wasteful pipeline bond.

In addition to the cost savings, we get getter water in the deal. No unhealthy salt in our household water or in the Oak Point wastewater plant effluent.

All democrats and all Republicans against wasting money help me defeat this bond buy signing and circulating in Genoa Township the petition so that a vote of the people will be required to issue this bond.  We need 1,600 signatures or 10% of the registered voters on the petition to STOP THIS BOND!

Jim Delcamp

Friday, February 22, 2013


To all Genoa Township Democrats and to all Republicans who oppose wasting money:

The Genoa Township board voted (on February 18th) for a $5 million (really $6 million ) wastewater pipeline bond. But we can still stop it by signing a petition requiring a vote before the bond is issued.  10 percent of voters (1,600 of 16,000) must sign the petition to stop the bond.

We should spend our money for improved water quality, not on the wastewater pipeline!

This bond is for a $5 million dollar pipeline plus $1 million in improvements to the Genoa Oceola wastewater plant ($6 million total) to handle the new inflow from the Oak Point wastewater plant - which is slated to be shut down (but can be saved and improved). Salt from household softeners is going into the plant settling pond and then into groundwater causing a plume of salted groundwater south of the plant.  The State has a standard that the plant wastewater must be below 150mg/l.  The township wants a 5 mile pipeline to redirect the wastewater all the way to the Genoa Oceola plant.

Better, and cheaper is to provide households connected to the OakPoint water delivery system (1,000 households) with softened water so they do not need to use water softeners thus saving all of the cost and difficulty of using salt and reducing the salt flow into the wastewater plant to within State limits.

Households connected to the wastewater system in the Tri lakes area who are on wells (400 residents) can use potassium or switch (when their system gets old) to the new no-salt water conditioning systems. (No more salt or potassium bags to buy and lug home!).  Buying potassium is still cheaper than the cost of the pipeline bond ($240 a year vs $360 a year - $300 for the bond plus $60 for salt) and the no salt systems at $2,400 are way cheaper than the $4,300 full cost of the 5 mile pipeline! (1,400 residents paying $6 million dollars).

No Pipeline Bond!
Use our money for better water, not a wasteful wastewater pipeline!
Cut the salt, improve our water quality!
Save the Oak Point wastewater plant!

The township has petitions, or I have petitions you can sign and pass around calling for a vote on this before the bond can be approved.

If you have questions or want to sign or circulate petitions, contact me for details
Jim Delcamp

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tell Genoa Township Trustees to vote NO on the Sewer Bond!

To anyone reading this blog living in Oak Point, Tri Lakes or North Shore (in Genoa Township) who are served by the Oak Point wastewater treatment plant, tell your township trustees to vote NO on the sewer bond.  The bond will stick us with a 5 million dollar five mile pipeline to the Genoa / Oceola treatment plant - a cost of $3571 per household for the 1,400 households served by the Oak Point plant. The bond will likely be voted on in late January or early February by the Board.

Township officials are pushing this bond and pipeline because groundwater below the Oak Point plant is being contaminated by salt from the water softeners of households connected to the plant.  The Plant does not treat for salt, but lets it seep in settling ponds into the ground and groundwater.  By connecting to the Genoa Oceola plant 5 miles away this salty water is directed there.  The Genoa Oceola plant then discharges into surface water, namely the Shiawassee River system.

There is a better and potentially cheaper alternative.  Ban the salt.  Hamburg Township has already successfully done so, and we can to.  Hamburg Township allows the use of potassium chloride or any of a number of systems that use no salt or potassium chloride (thus saving the cost of buying salt or potassium chloride). These no salt systems can cost less than the $3571per household the bond issue costs (and you need never buy salt or potassium chloride again).

Plus, many folks like myself have medical conditions like high blood pressure so we need to restrict salt in our diets. ( Our household does not use a softener at all, and this method works too.  We filter our drinking water with a Brita - other filters are available for greater cost. We add washing soda to water for laundry and dishwater to soften it.) 

And, in the future environmental laws may ban discharge of salty water (brine from water softeners)
into surface water.  This is already the case in the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.  Google their web site and read the facts.

The future belongs to the no salt alternatives.

(By the way, the cheapest place to buy potassium chloride is a Costco at $19 per bag. Also, though potassium chloride prices spiked several years ago they have declined since and should continue to decline).

Jim Delcamp
former candidate for Genoa Township Trustee

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hope There's More To It Than This

So Rick Snyder is planning to recommend a plan for dealing with Michigan's crumbling roads and bridges. That's long overdue, as anyone who drives in the state understands.

According to the Livingston Press and Argus, the plan to be unveiled in Snyder's State of the State message next week could include switching from a flat 19-cents a gallon tax on gasoline (15 cents for diesel) to a tax that is a percentage of the pump price. Theoretically, this would help road revenues keep pace with inflation, since collections would go up when the price of fuel went up or go down when the price of fuel went down.

Inflation, though, isn't the state's main problem with road revenues. For proof, look at what happened to the price of the Latson Road interchange in Livingston County. The big problem, one that will get even bigger in the future, is that people are buying less fuel. Vehicles are more fuel-efficient. Some, such as electric cars, use little gasoline or diesel at all.

That's why Snyder's plan, as laid out in the media, is disappointing. It doesn't ask drivers of alternatively-fueled vehicles to pay more towards roads. That is the real challenge for the future -- how to make sure everyone using the roads pays towards their construction and upkeep. There should be no free- or nearly free-riders.

But as Snyder showed with his signing of right-to-work-for-less legislation, he thinks free-riders are just fine.