Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Busting Power, Not Shutting It Off

Over a year ago, I shared the story of one of the strongest women I know, Trudy, and her struggle to keep her lights on. Well, not just her lights, but the electricity that fueled the machines that kept her baby alive. The monopoly utility company that she and hundreds of thousands more are left with, Central Hudson, had charged Trudy so much that her single household had accumulated a $16,000 bill over a matter of months. And they shut her off twice to get her to pay it back — forcing her to take out a bond against her home. The thing is, Trudy’s story, for as cruel and shocking as it is, wasn’t an aberration.

While working with the then Poughkeepsie-based grassroots organization, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, I met dozens of people who had accumulated thousands of dollars in debt and been shut off in the worst of conditions. Most of them were working class Black women. Angela had to move into a hospital when her power got shut off because she didn’t get a doctor’s note in time for them to confirm that she still had the same life-threatening chronic illnesses since their last confirmation 31 days before, and the 30 days before that, since she didn’t qualify for their life support program. Zakiyyah had to sleep in her car, in the winter, because it was warmer there. Donna and her daughter had to ask their neighbors if they plug in their nebulizers there for over a year before their power got turned back on. And those are just four stories out of the 11,000 households that get shut off every year by Central Hudson.

That’s why we started organizing and building together, why we started submitting legal complaints and speaking out to the press and marching on their headquarters. A year into our campaign, a Central Hudson employee anonymously contacted Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, testifying to the use of racially discriminatory collections practices and the failure to follow the required shutoff procedures. Shortly after receiving that letter, we submitted a petition for a full state investigation into Central Hudson’s harmful and racist business practices.

Nearly two years later, just last week, we got the results of the investigation. The statewide regulator confirmed what we had known all along: Central Hudson shuts off a way higher percentage of their customers each year than any other utility company in New York state, for much less money owed, and that they disproportionately shut off low-income People of Color. In response, Central Hudson agreed to policy changes that will reduce the number of people, particularly the number of Black and Brown people, who will be shut off each year, and that will reduce the number of health-threatening shut offs that happen during the Winter.

And so, I’m writing about Trudy and Angela and Donna and Zakiyyah again, because I think it is critical that we share our stories of collective success — the material and concrete changes that we can win when we come together and fight. We know that Central Hudson’s violent business practices are the symptoms of much bigger, much deeper roots that we will continue to challenge and disrupt. But we also know that the struggle is a long one, and to keep it going and to keep it growing, we must celebrate the hard-fought victories along the way.

More articles by:

Caitlin Munchick is a junior at Vassar College. She is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa but has since found home in Poughkeepsie, New York where she works with the grassroots organization, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson.

Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
Samantha Krop
Questioning Our Declaration on Human Rights
Morna McDermott
Classrooms, Not Computers: Stop Educating for Profit
Patrick Walker
Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Too Important Not to Criticize
Julia Stein
Wrestling With Zionism
Clark T. Scott
The Exceptional President
Barry Barnett
The Family of Nations Needs to Stand Up to the US  
Robert Koehler
Two Prongs of a Pitchfork
Bruce Raynor
In an Age of Fake News, Journalists Should be Activists for Truth
Max Parry
The U.S. Won’t Say ‘Genocide’ But Cares About Armenian Democracy?
William Gudal
The History of Israel on One Page
Robert Jensen
Neither cis nor TERF
Louis Proyect
Faith or Action in a World Hurtling Toward Oblivion?
David Yearsley
The Ubiquitous Mr. Desplat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail