Union employees from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department went on strike to protest a new plan that looks to right-size the entity through contracting and privatization. The workers are all a part of the local AFSCME union.
The department is one of the most inefficient government-run entities in the state. The DWSD currently takes in $715 million per year, but is nearly $6 billion in debt. At the same time, it has nearly twice as many employees per gallons of water as other major cities. A recent independent audit found that the department has 257 different job descriptions.
One of these job descriptions became famous last month after Michigan Capitol Confidential broke the story of the department having a horseshoer (or "farrier"), but not having any horses.
In sum, the local union is on strike to protect jobs — including jobs that apparently no longer have a purpose — in an entity that is among the most inefficient and in debt in the state.
Government entities should not be a jobs program, especially in a major city facing insolvency and struggling to provide services. Such a mindset ultimately harms all of us through higher taxes, worse services and the “crowding out” of the private sector. A better idea would be to sell or privatize this entity, just like many cities and countries around the world and even here in Michigan have done.