When is a strike not a strike?
That was the question Monday evening at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Picketers say they are on strike even though paperwork handed out by union leadership Monday afternoon says it is time for the workers to get back to work.
However, they weren't budging. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local secretary and treasurer Mike Mulholland rallied the troops. He says the union leadership is wrong and the picketers need to stay out on the line.
They filed paperwork to appeal a federal judge's temporary restraining order which tells them to get back to work. Moreover, because there are a lot of black workers on the picket line, the union is claiming it is a racists return-to-work order.
"To treat people who have spent their entire lives working in unbelievably bad conditions, doing the dirtiest, hottest and worst job in this city, and in that way we think that there is a racial issue involved in that," said AFSCME member George Washington.
The action can be called defiance on steroids. The workers know they are about to be reduced in number by 80 percent and see this protest and picket as the only way to force the city of Detroit's leaders into changing their minds.
AFSCME Local 207 released this statement Monday evening:
"Many rumors are circulating about the strike of the Detroit Water Workers of AFSCME Local 207. The leadership of Local 207 want to make clear that they have conferred with their members and that the strike continues. All members are urged to continue to come to the picket lines at the Waste Water Treatment Plant at 9300 W. Jefferson which will continue all night with a big push at 6am tomorrow morning."
Local 4 spoke with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office. A lot of police surrounded the picket line Monday but no arrests were made. Workers who stay out on the picket and off the job face possible firing.
A hearing is scheduled 10 days from now.