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WIN! Rialto, CA rejects American Water 30-year lease scheme

The AFL-CIO reports, “Consumers and the working men and women in Rialto, Calif., won a major victory last night as the City Council rejected a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s water and wastewater system to American Water. The Utility Workers (UWUA), which represents 2,500 American Water employees across the country, mobilized community opposition to the proposed scheme. More than 300 Rialto citizens packed the City Council chambers and two overflow rooms to speak out against the deal, which would have increased water rates in the city by more than 84 percent in only two years. The defeated proposal also would have required the city to pay American Water more than $23 million every year in service fees and capital charges.”

“The action in Rialto is part of a major commitment by the union members at American Water to partner with community groups and others to oppose company conduct that is harmful to consumers. UWUA members and community activists have helped defeat the company’s takeover of a suburban system in Trenton, N.J., and blocked the layoff of 10 percent of the water workforce in West Virginia.”

A media release from the UWUA says, “Jeffry Sterba, CEO of the New Jersey-based corporation (American Water), personally appeared before the City Council to lobby for the agreement. Sterba had previously described the Rialto proposal as a model for the company’s future municipal contract operations.”

The Council of Canadians congratulates our allies in the American labour movement on this significant win.

Earlier this week, the London Free Press reported, “The private company that operates the water treatment plants serving 500,000 London-area residents pleaded guilty Monday to violating Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act. American Water Canada Corp. was charged — along with the Elgin Area water board — with five counts relating to the maintenance and operation of equipment at one of its two local facilities. In a London court Monday, the company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure water treatment equipment was operational, specifically equipment related to filtration and was fined $15,000. …Messages left at American Water’s Hamilton offices were not returned Monday.”

For more, please see the UWUA media release at http://www.local537.com/Forms/Documents/12.2010/Rialto%20City%20Council%20Blocks%20American%20Water%20Privatization%20Scheme.pdf and the AFL-CIO blog at http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/06/29/consumers-win-as-rialto-council-rejects-water-privatization-scheme/.

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