Category Archives: Victories

It’s Been A Rough Few Weeks For The Private Prison Industry

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, July 21, 2016

Despite the bizarre politics on display in Cleveland, sometimes knowing where someone stands on an issue is pretty straightforward. We can be sure about this: The private prison industry doesn’t share our goal of ending mass incarceration. In fact, they profit more the bigger our criminal justice system grows—the country’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, made $361 million in profits in 2015 alone. … In the past few weeks we’ve taken big steps towards getting our money back from the shareholders, executives, and Wall Street banks that profit from mass incarceration:

  • Colorado’s Kit Carson Correctional Center, operated by CCA, will close at the end of this month—it will be the fourth private prison to close in the state since 2009. …
  • In June, Mississippi announced that the notorious, privately operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility will soon be closed. …
  • U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has introduced legislation that would make it harder for private prison companies to take advantage of federal rules that provide massive tax breaks. After converting themselves into special real estate trusts in 2012, CCA and GEO Group have avoided hundreds of million dollars in federal income taxes—they avoided a combined $113 million in 2015 alone.
  • Just last week, a federal judge ruled that the government must make contracts with private prison companies available to the public. …

New York City Scraps Veolia Contract

Source: Diane S. Williams, DC37, May 5, 2016

In a victory for providers and consumers of public services, city officials say a multi-million dollar contract with a private French conglomerate to manage the city’s 14 waste­water treatment plants will not be renewed. The contract with Veolia, a $27 billion company based in Paris, is set to expire in June. The contract came with a couple of one-year extension options that will not be exercised, city officials told DC 37 … DC 37 locals worked with their national union, AFSCME, and advocacy groups, such as Food and Water Watch and Corporate Accountability Inter­national, to make the case against privatization. … Public Employee Press first brought attention to the Veolia contract in New York City after the Flint, Mich., water crisis became a national story earlier this year. Other press reports on the tragedy in Flint – where residents’ complaints of contami­nated water fell on deaf ears for two years, even as serious illnesses spread through the city – revealed the state of Michigan paid Veolia $50,000 in March 2015 to test the water. The company recommended water softeners for iron corrosion but didn’t expose the deadly lead contamination because such tests were not in the scope of the contract. …

Campus insources workers after ongoing plans

Source: Kimberly Nielson, The Daily Californian, May 16, 2016

After seven months of protests by campus employees and students, UC Berkeley finalized plans to insource 69 campus workers from three private contract companies last week. The decision to insource workers was part of the Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, a broader university movement aiming to support campus employees and raise their salaries, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email. She added that campus officials have coordinated with AFSCME, a labor union representing UC workers, to work out appointment details since March. The campus has offered employment to all formerly contracted night shift and athletic custodians, as well as campus parking attendants contracted through LAZ Parking, according to Gilmore. She also noted that workers from ABM and Performance First were also given priority employment with the university. … Campus officials will also discontinue contracting additional parking or custodial workers for the remainder of the existing service agreement, extending their efforts to remedy “grotesque injustice” endured by contracted workers on campus, according to Stenhouse. …

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Opinion: Union calls for reasonable reform at UC
Source: Katherine Lybarger, President of AFSCME Local 3299, Sacramento Bee, May 8, 2016

As a widening scandal involving misuse of public funds and other ethical breaches by its top brass grips the University of California, The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board criticized UC’s largest employee union for advocating greater scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest at UC (“Let’s step back from UC Davis turmoil”; May 1). The board also criticized AFSCME Local 3299 for legislation that would encourage UC elites to stop squandering public funds on private contractors that exploit low-wage workers. There are thousands of contract custodians, landscapers, food service workers and others who do the same full-time jobs as direct UC employees for a fraction of the pay and no benefits. Instead of bringing these workers in-house, UC has fought to ensure its well-connected contractors continue to profit by condemning legions of these workers to lives of poverty and second-class status. … UC has recently told the Legislature that providing livable wages and direct employment to contract workers affected by Senate Bill 959 wouldn’t cost UC a dollar more. In fact, they’ve said it might even save money since $138 million of the $345 million that UC spends on such deals is squandered on overhead and contractor profits. In other words, the editorial board’s assertions about SB 959 simply do not add up. …

Campus sheds light on rationale for insourcing formerly subcontracted workers
Source: Ericka Shin, The Daily Californian, March 30, 2016

The campus already had plans in the works to insource or fill vacant positions for at least 55 custodians prior to the recent agreement, but the March 18 decision has resulted in the campus offering jobs to an additional 14 custodians and 24 parking attendants, according to an email from Mogulof. Among these newly insourced employees are the 69 workers employed by ABM, PerformanceFirst and LAZ Parking who are being officially insourced as UC employees, according to Kristian Kim, a member of the campus’s Student Labor Committee. The agreement also stipulates that the campus will not contract out regularized parking or custodial work through June 30, 2017, Mogulof said in an email.

UC Berkeley Agrees to Hire Subcontracted Workers After Threats of Boycott
Source: Josh Lefler, The Guardian, March 27, 2016

The University of California hires at least 45 different private companies to fill staffing positions across the UC campuses in the areas of custodial work, food services, landscaping, security, parking and more, according to an AFSCME 3299 report. The same report concluded that these workers are paid as little as 53 percent less than workers who are employed directly by the University of California and do not receive the same benefits. The nearly 100 subcontracted workers, who were just recently hired by the university, were described as having “more than 440 years of combined experience working at UC Berkeley,” but were paid below the wage of an official UC employee, according to Stenhouse.

UC Berkeley reaches labor agreement on contract workers
Source: Tom Lochner, Contra Costa Times, March 18, 2016

UC Berkeley, in what one of its unions hailed as a “historic victory for contract workers,” has agreed to offer direct employment to all regular night shift and athletics custodians currently working at the institution through private contractors, the university announced Friday. As part of the agreement, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 will end its “speakers boycott,” the university said. Under the boycott, AFSCME objected to speakers with engagements at the campus. … The union said 93 custodial and parking workers fall under the agreement. The university said it will offer to hire all campus stack parking attendants currently employed through LAZ Parking. …

Subcontracted campus workers insourced as UC employees, ending speakers’ boycott
Source: Adrienne Shih, The Daily Californian, March 18, 2016

After nearly seven months of campaigning, 69 previously subcontracted workers have officially been insourced as UC employees, ending an ongoing campus speakers’ boycott. The workers — employed by ABM, PerformanceFirst and LAZ Parking — were previously a part of the University of California’s two-tier employment policy. The campus employs some individuals directly, or in-house, while others who do temporary or seasonal work are employed as subcontracted workers, receiving reduced pay and fewer benefits than their directly employed counterparts.
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OC Social Service Providers Win New Guarantee: Temps Will NOT Do Their Jobs

Source: AFSCME Council 36

When the Orange County Social Service Agency threatened Eligibility Workers in AFSCME Local 2076 with outsourcing plans to hire temporary “customer service” representatives, Local 2076 President Raymond Hartwell and other Union leaders delivered a clear message back: NO WAY! The County’s threats come amid a longstanding Eligibility Worker staffing shortage and untenable caseloads. The staffing crisis has meant that recipients of food stamps, “Covered California” health benefits, and other critical social services have not been getting the assistance they need, when they need it. … According to Management’s own data, Eligibility Worker staffing has been at 55 percent of the required level. Bilingual workers serving non-native English speakers and immigrants are in even shorter supply. In December alone, the County Call Center received over 66,000 calls from people needing help – and there were less than 200 Eligibility Technicians assigned to serve them. … In response to the Union’s pushback and political pressure, the County has responded favorably so far. They placed a hold on the temp hiring contract until the union could meet with management to resolve our concerns. Then, for the first time, they agreed in writing that no temps contracted by the County under the deal before the County Board would be used to do any work performed by our members.

Mayor Decides Against Privatizing City’s 311 Call Center

Source: NBC Chicago, October 21, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to put on hold a proposal to privatize the city’s 311 call center after several aldermen complained during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. … The proposal was part of the mayor’s budget plan, which included a massive property tax hike and a tax on e-cigarettes, among other things. If the call center were to be privatized, residents calling to complain about rats or report potholes would speak to employees of a private company instead of city workers, as they do now. … Opponents, including many 311 operators, said the outsourcing would be “harmful and wrong.” … They cited the added burden of training new employees and the loss of jobs to the city as negative side effects of the privatization.

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Emanuel Pulls Plan To Privatize 311
Source: Chicagoist, October 21, 2015

Emanuel decided to pull his plan to privatize the city’s 311 system Wednesday morning, the Sun-Times reports. Last month, Emanuel said that by outsourcing the service to a private company the city would save “a million dollars each year,” and that the city didn’t have the money to upgrade it, which he estimated the city would be $40 to $50 million. … But many aldermen and the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees, the union that represents 311 workers, were opposed to the measure, especially given the history of previous privatization fails in Chicago.

Emanuel shelves plan to privatize 311 non-emergency system
Source: Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, October 21, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday shelved his controversial plan to privatize Chicago’s 311 non-emergency system after a rebellion by more than two-thirds of the City Council. Hours before the mayor’s latest retreat, 36 aldermen signed a letter to the mayor urging Emanuel to reconsider. They argued that services so pivotal to their residents should not be out-sourced. They must be provided by Chicagoans who know the city and its neighborhoods. … Emanuel has argued that the privatization plan has less to do with the $1 million in savings and more to do with the $40 million or $50 million that needs to be spent to upgrade what was once a ground-breaking, award-winning system.
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Settlement with union over private-sector contracts could cost millions

Source: Keoki Kerr, Hawaii News Now, October 19, 2015

McCartney said the state is reviewing at least 506 contracts across 12 state departments, which hire private workers to do everything from highway groundskeeping to air conditioning maintenance, as it decides how many of those jobs will be handled by state workers instead. … The private contracts that could end and be replaced by state employees in the next few years are for work such as janitorial, plumbing, tree trimming, auto repair, painting, carpentry and electrical. … The state’s decision to transition at least 99 of the 506 contracts currently filled by private workers means departments will have to ask lawmakers for money to fund the positions. The state will also need to recruit and hire people for those new jobs. Most of the affected jobs are blue-collar positions represented by UPW, which as of last year represented about 4,959 blue collar state employees, nearly 10 percent of the state government workforce.

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Taxpayers will pay more as state phases out some private contractors
Source: Keoki Kerr, Hawaii News Now, October 6, 2015

The state is phasing out the use of private contractors for highway landscaping and other maintenance work, costing taxpayers more money and settling two long-time class-action grievances filed by one of the state’s most powerful unions, the United Public Workers. Across Hawaii, landscape workers who are employed by private contractors do routine maintenance of state highway medians and shoulders. The UPW alleged the state unlawfully privatized services that were historically performed by state workers who were unionized employees. … The settlement means state departments will have to create new jobs such as groundskeepers and taxpayers will pay their salaries along with health and retirement benefits.  Mulkern said state workers are not as productive as private sector employees, mostly because they have far more annual vacation days (21), holidays (13; 14 in election years) and sick days (21) compared to the private sector. … It’s unclear how many new state jobs will be created but they range from groundskeepers statewide who clean and trim the grass along highways to those who perform air conditioning maintenance.  The state could not provide an estimate of how many contracts are affected, how many new state positions might need to be created and how much money that could cost taxpayers.

KC city manager signs contract with ambulance billing company

Source: Lynn Horsley, Kansas City Star, September 4, 2015

City Manager Troy Schulte has signed a 16-month contract with a private ambulance billing company to assist city employees with that function. The move follows local labor’s successful challenge to the Kansas City Council’s decision to completely privatize the city’s emergency medical billing. The council voted 7-4 on June 19 to authorize the fire chief to enter into a five-year contract with Advanced Data Processing, a subsidiary of Intermedix Corp. Supporters said most cities outsource this function and the 16 city employees in that division would be offered other jobs. … But opponents said it was unfair to the city employees and cited several cities that had problems with Intermedix’s customer service. … Schulte can approve a contract below $300,000 without council authorization. It took effect Monday and runs through Dec. 31, 2015, at a cost not to exceed $17,969 per month.

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Kansas City Council repeals move to privatize ambulance billing
Source: Lynn Horsley, Kansas City Star, August 28, 2014

The Kansas City Council voted unanimously Thursday to repeal its controversial earlier decision to privatize ambulance billing. The council took that action in response to petitions with 8,000 signatures opposing the outsourcing of city jobs. …

Petitions sufficient to challenge KC ambulance billing outsourcing
Source: Lynn Horsley, Kansas City Star, August 26, 2014

A group opposed to the Kansas City Council’s decision to outsource ambulance billing has gathered sufficient petition signatures to force a referendum. … The City Council voted 7-4 on June 19 to privatize Kansas City’s medical billing for ambulance calls, a function currently handled by Fire Department employees. The council authorized the fire chief to enter into a five-year contract with Advanced Data Processing Inc., a subsidiary of Intermedix Corp. … But opponents cited several cities that had serious problems with Intermedix’s customer service and failure to meet collections. They also objected to privatizing good-paying municipal jobs….

Rally held to fight ambulance billing outsourcing
Source: KCTV, July 26, 2014

Some city residents and leaders are trying to block a plan to outsource Kansas City’s ambulance billing. Their method Saturday was a rally downtown. … Intermedix is the largest ambulance billing company in the nation. They’re accused of overbilling, under billing and sometimes not billing ambulance riders in Dallas, Memphis and several other cities. There have also been issues surrounding identity theft.Robert Patrick, the union’s president, says the contract the city signed with the company just doesn’t seem right. …If they get the signatures, the city council could repeal the ordinance or force the city to take the ordinance to the public for a vote….

Councilman blasts plan to privatize KC ambulance billing / John Sharp says company had problems with contract in Dallas
Source: Micheal Mahoney, KMBC, June 18, 2014

On the eve of a vote to change ambulance billing services in Kansas City, the proposal is coming under fire. Kansas City Councilman John Sharp said the idea isn’t just a bad one, he thinks the city wants to use the wrong company. City leaders are considering letting a private company, Advanced Data Processing, take over billing for ambulance services. Kansas City Mayor Sly James is a big backer of the plan. … Sharp said Advanced Data Processing had problems during its contract in Dallas. The firm resigned as the city was looking for a new vendor. Sharp said he’s heard critical reports from other cities, too. … Sharp said he doesn’t buy the company’s claims. He also said he thinks the proposed contract is tilted against the city. “They promised us they’d collect about $2 million more a year. Put it in the contract,” he said. “The contract lets them collect less than they’re collecting now with no penalty. What kind of deal is that?” …

HHC cancels dialysis outsourcing plan

Source: Diane S. Williams, Public Employee Press, June 2015

Patients and unions won a major health care victory when the state Health Dept. board announced May 21 that it withdrew a for-profit company’s application to take over four chronic dialysis clinics in public hospitals. The decision caps a two-year campaign against Big Apple Dialysis by DC 37, the New York State Nurses Association, the Doctors Council and a coalition of health- care advocates and patients. Coalition members cited the company’s poor performance record and opposed privatizing chronic dialysis care. Big Apple’s contract to operate clinics has been cancelled at Kings County, Harlem, Lincoln, and Metropolitan hospitals.

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Under scrutiny, city pulls the plug on for-profit dialysis deal
Source: Jonathan LaMantia, Crain’s New York Business, May 21, 2015

After continued opposition from several City Council members and labor unions, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. said Thursday it is terminating a deal to sell four of its kidney-treatment programs to for-profit operator Big Apple Dialysis. ….. Although the proposed sale was a money-saving measure proposed in 2013 by Dr. Raju’s predecessor, it swept him up into a political firestorm fanned by city politicians and unions who oppose the privatization of health care services. Those objections were based mostly on assertions of Big Apple’s inferior quality of care. But behind the scenes, another issue arose that created a politically difficult situation for HHC. In May, the owners of Big Apple Dialysis, Dr. Jodumutt Bhat and Dr. Nirmal Mattoo, agreed to pay $1 million to settle civil fraud charges in a whistle-blower case.

Unions gear up for another round with Big Apple Dialysis
Source: Dan Goldberg, Capital New York, February 10, 2015

Unions representing nurses, physicians and other health care workers are preparing for another fight with Big Apple Dialysis, the for-profit company that is trying to take over dialysis services at four New York City public hospitals. A subcommittee of the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council declined to recommend the takeover last month after the New York State Nurses Association, Doctors Council SEIU and District Council 37 protested the safety and quality record of Atlantic Health, the parent company of Big Apple.
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Hawkins commission votes to oust Lifeguard EMS despite public outcry

Source: Jeff Bobo, Times News, June 22, 2015

For the second time in three month Lifeguard Ambulance Service failed to receive enough votes on the Hawkins County Commission Monday to receive and operating permit in the county during the 2015-16 fiscal year. Lifeguard came to Hawkins County last summer after commissioners received complaints of response times as high as 45 minutes to Bulls Gap and Phipps Bend from the financially distressed Hawkins County EMS. Recently Hawkins County EMS has been stationing an ambulance at Cherokee High School and has told the Hawkins County Commission it has a plan to provide service to the under-served communities. With the commission’s vote Monday, that plan will have to come to fruition.

Colorado Court Rules Use of Public Funds for Private Schools Is Unconstitutional

Source: Jack Healy and Motoko Rich, New York Times, June 29, 2015

Colorado’s highest court on Monday struck down a voucher program that allowed parents in a conservative suburban school district to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private schools. The split decision to throw out the voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado’s third-largest school district, was a blow to conservative education advocates and those who want to redefine public education to funnel tax dollars directly to families who then choose the type of schooling they want for their children. The state’s Supreme Court ruled against the district’s voucher program, which was passed in 2011, saying it violated a plank of the State Constitution that explicitly prevents public money from going to schools “controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever.” …. The vouchers were at the heart of a series of conservative reforms that have transformed Douglas County into an educational battleground in recent years, pitting teachers’ unions, civil liberties groups and liberal parents against conservative families, a majority conservative school board and a group backed by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers….