Clean water and bathrooms are human rights!

Protesters march outside Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 26, 2019, to bring attention to the city’s lack of clean drinking water.

San Francisco has 77 billionaires and 7,000 homes without indoor plumbing. While billionaire Jeff Bezos has his own rocket ship, 500,000 homes in the United States don’t have their own bathrooms with indoor plumbing. 

What’s more important to public health than clean water and bathrooms? Doctors, nurses and other health workers urge us to wash our hands frequently to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It’s hard for many poor people to follow that advice. One out of 17 Indigenous families don’t have indoor plumbing.

Every square inch of the United States was stolen from Indigenous nations whose people were killed and forced into reservations. The Bantustans that existed in apartheid South Africa were modeled after reservations in the U.S.

On many reservations people have to haul water from miles away. The Hopi Nation in Arizona has three times the amount of arsenic in its water than the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be safe. 

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder should be jailed for poisoning Flint’s children with polluted water. Instead of getting clean Lake Huron water from Detroit, Snyder hoped to save a few million dollars by pumping filthy water out of the Flint River.

Flint isn’t the only city where children are being lead poisoned. The drinking water in Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Newark, N.J., also has high levels of lead. All these cities have majority or near majority Black populations.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one out of 40 children in the U.S. have high levels of lead in their blood. 

The $14 billion wasted on the newest U.S. aircraft carrier could go a long way to getting the lead out of the drinking water.

Defend water protectors

More Union Army soldiers in the Civil War died of disease than of battle wounds because of a lack of sanitation. Generals took note.

Capitalists didn’t care how many workers died in their factories or slums. Pittsburgh didn’t filter its water until 1907. The city had one of the highest rates of people dying from typhoid fever.

At the time, most tenements or farm dwellings didn’t have bathrooms. Milwaukee built seven natatoriums where people could take baths. Some of them were built while Socialist Party mayors were in city hall.

By the 1960s most urban families in the U.S. had access to fresh water and their own bathrooms. That wasn’t the case for farm workers.

A real advance in human rights was making ranchers and rich farmers provide bathrooms for farm workers. The bosses preferred workers being forced to relieve themselves in the field.

This wasn’t just because farm bosses were cheap. They wanted to humiliate workers. The United Farm Workers union and the grape boycotts it called helped turn things around.

Since the 1970s, the wave of cutbacks has included millions of water shutoffs. Water and sewage service to over 20,000 people in Detroit was stopped in 2014.

Water shutoffs kill. According to the Food and Water Watch, a U.S. moratorium on water shutoffs could have saved more than 9,000 lives of people who died from COVID-19. 

This attack on public health is a product of capitalist decay. The Roman aqueducts built 2,000 years ago are well known. The older water and irrigation systems in Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico and Peru should be too.

In 2021, capitalists can’t provide clean water in much of the U.S. Widespread droughts in the western United States are caused by capitalist climate change. 

One of the biggest struggles in defense of clean water is the fight against new oil pipelines being built. Over 700 water protectors were arrested trying to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.

Among them was Red Fawn Fallis, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux nation who was sent to prison. Former Gov. Snyder should be in jail, not the water protectors.