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Continued Help For Flint Residents From Organized Labor: General Motors’ Fort Wayne Assembly Plant & UAW Local 2209 Collect 56,700 Water Bottles For Residents Poisoned By Lead In Their Drinking Water

Published Friday, February 5, 2016

(FORT WAYNE, INDIANA) – Located less than three hours to the north, an American city about half the size of Fort Wayne, Indiana is without drinking water amid a public health emergency because its water has tested positive for lead.

The City of Flint, Michigan’s water was contaminated with lead in 2014 when the city switched from the Detroit Municipal System and began getting water from the Flint River, the Associated Press has reported.  The switch was made to save the financially hurting city money.

On Friday, a load of water bottles was driven up I-69 to Flint.  It’s a donation from General Motors’ (GM) Fort Wayne Assembly Plant and United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2209.

Union Leader Rich Letourneau said GM is a “family,” explaining there’s a GM Assembly Facility in Flint: “When you’re helping other communities, you’re ‘not only helping your’ (GM and UAW Family), you’re helping ‘other families as well.’  We’re ‘more than just one organization’ that builds trucks and cars.  We’re hoping ‘our part’ – I know it’s just a ‘small piece’ – but we have a semi (tractor trailer) full, plus we have four truck loads.”

This week, UAW Local 2209 loaded up 28 pallets, each with 48 cases of water, with each case containing 45 bottles. That amounts to 56,700 bottles.

Letourneau said the trip to Flint wouldn’t be possible without the help from a few organizations. The pallets were provided by Costco – Letourneau said the company gave them a good price and even donated a few pallets.  A semi driver has donated his truck and time to help transport thousands of pounds of water.  And the pallets that couldn’t make it in the semi-trailer were placed on trucks that can handle the weight, which were donated by Tom Kelley.

Michael Kellogg, a former Flint resident, moved here to work for Fort Wayne Assembly.  He said after having to talk to his children about what was happening in their old hometown, he called Letourneau and asked what they could do to help.

“The people at Fort Wayne Assembly, they ‘give from the bottom of their hearts,’” said Kellogg, who traveled to Flint with the group to deliver the bottled water. “Flint’s gone through some ‘hard times’ and ‘we’re not giving them a hand out, we’re giving them a hand up.’”

“I think it’s ‘very important’ that we show, ‘not only do we care about our own’ community, that the UAW ‘reaches out to other states, other communities,’” Letourneau added. “We know it’s for a ‘good cause.’  I just hope they get enough water because right now they can’t even drink that water.”

Michigan officials have said it’s OK for residents, both children and adults, to bathe in the water from the Flint system, despite concerns of skin issues.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was expected to sign a bill allocating $28 million in emergency funding this week.  It’s the second round of aid for the city since the tainted water was confirmed in the fall.

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