City Council advances plans to privatize Tyson, Orpheum management

Source: Ian Richardson, Sioux City Journal, October 16, 2017

Sioux City is entering contract negotiations with a Philadelphia-based venue management firm to oversee day-to-day operations at the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre. … Monday’s decision followed nearly an hour of discussion that included more than a dozen comments from the public — many of them local labor leaders and city employees concerned about their jobs and benefits — in a nearly standing-room-only City Council chamber. “We’ve heard this song and dance before throughout the state of Iowa,” Chris De Harty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212, said of contracting out public services. …

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Majority voice support for private management as City Council defers vote
Source: Ian Richardson, Sioux City Journal, October 10, 2017
 
A majority of City Council members on Monday voiced their favor toward a proposal by a private management firm to run two city entertainment venues, but ultimately deferred a final vote until next week.  The delay came at the request of Councilman Dan Moore, who said he wanted to take that time to gather public input and to reflect on the disadvantages and advantages of switching. … The city is weighing whether to enter negotiations with the Philadelphia-based Spectra for management of the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre, a move recommended by City Manager Bob Padmore and by the Orpheum Theatre Board of Directors. Sioux City has been exploring the move this year and has been deciding whether to contract with Spectra or conduct a series of organizational tweaks within its current city management structure, a move favored by another city panel, the Events Facilities Advisory Board.… Chris De Harty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212 — which represents more than 350 workers, including the city’s operations, field services, technical and clerical staff — said city staff have done well up to this point and he doubts a contracted company would improve the situation. …

Stephenson County Board postpones decision on nursing home referendum

Source: Jane Lethlean, The Journal Standard, October 12, 2017

The Stephenson County Board postponed a vote today to place an advisory referendum on the November 2018 ballot to gauge public opinion about selling the county nursing home. Dan Neal, chairman of the County Board Nursing Home Committee, said there has been strong sentiment by some board members to sell the Stephenson County Nursing Center to a private company. … Ed Sadlowski of Janesville, Wisconsin, spoke on behalf of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31. “This sends the wrong message to the community, and you need to lead,” Sadlowski told the board. “Once you hand the nursing center over to the private sector, it will end up costing residents more.” …

How the Prison Phone Industry Further Isolates Prisoners

Source: Kalena Thomhave, American Prospect, October 12, 2017
 
When inmates are able to speak to friends and family while incarcerated, it not only improves their lives, but also, studies have shown, reduces recidivism after they leave prison. But to fill in budget holes or to make a profit, many state and local governments work with companies that put a high price tag on this basic need for the incarcerated.  A handful of companies monopolize the prison phone industry, and their control of the market allows them to charge exorbitant rates for inmate calls to their homes. States that contract with these providers tend to choose the contractor that provides not the lowest price, but the highest commission rate for the state. As a result, prisoners and their families may pay up to $1 per minute on a call. …

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Face-to-Face Family Visits Return to Some Jails
Source: Mindy Fetterman, The Pew Charitable Trusts, February 15, 2017

… Jailhouse visits like this one between family members and inmates are starting to make a comeback, replacing a decadeslong trend of requiring families to use Skype-like video technology in which families dial in from a computer at home, a public library or inside the jail itself to talk to a loved one who is incarcerated. The reason: Video technology companies came under criticism for charging high fees and for providing poor quality video connections. And evidence is growing that in-person visits help cut the likelihood that inmates will return to jail once they get out. Counties in Texas and Mississippi as well as the District of Columbia are reinstating face-to-face visits. A few states, like New Jersey, are considering legislation to allow in-person visits again.

… Although in-person visits remain the most common form of interaction between inmates and family members, the trend toward video visitation has been growing since the late 1990s. More than 500 jails and state prisons in 43 states have some sort of video visitation system, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. About 12 percent of jails have it, according to a study by PPI, which advocates for prisoners and their families. … And as video visitation has increased, face-to-face visitation has declined. The PPI found in a 2015 study that 74 percent of jails dropped in-person visits when they started video visits. Often the private companies that provide video visitation services require governments to drop in-person visits. … More than one in three families go into debt to cover the costs of staying in touch with people who are incarcerated, including paying for video calls, telephone calls and travel expenses for trips to jails and especially prisons, which can be hundreds of miles away, according to a survey of families by the Ella Baker Center, a nonprofit that advocates against mass incarceration. … Those fees have come under criticism for being a “kickback” for governments, too. … The controversy over the cost of video visitation calls is part of a larger debate over the high cost of regular telephone calls for inmates. …

FCC made a case for limiting cost of prison phone calls. Not anymore.
Source: Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, February 5, 2017

Federal regulators no longer are pressing to cut the costs of most prison phone calls, backing away from a years-long effort to limit charges imposed by a handful of private companies on inmates and their families. The shift by the Federal Communications Commission comes as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday considers whether commissioners went too far when they capped prices for inmate calls that had reached more than a $1 per minute. To make phone calls from most federal and state prisons, inmates generally must set up accounts with a private company to hold money deposited by family members. The companies typically have a contract with the prisons, which receive a portion of the call revenue. Federal regulators had pushed since 2013 to lower the costs, saying the prices made it too hard for relatives to stay in touch. But a week after President Trump tapped a new leader for the FCC, the commission’s attorneys changed course and told the court that the FCC no longer would defend one of its own key provisions that limited fees for prisoners’ intrastate calls. … But supporters of the FCC’s limits say the phone contracts are being awarded on the basis of companies’ willingness to pay the highest commissions to prison systems — not on the basis of lowest rates or best service. In 2013, phone-service companies paid at least $460 million in commissions to correctional facilities, according to a brief filed by a coalition of advocates for inmates and their families. A number of state prison systems, including in New York’s, Mississippi’s and New Jersey’s, have taken steps to reduce rates and in some cases to limit commissions. …

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Pay gap creating crisis in human services sector, agencies say

Source: Worcester Business Journal, October 11, 2017
 
Fourteen months after the signing of a law calling for equal pay across gender lines, representatives from human services agencies asked legislators for help closing a different sort of pay gap. Mark Schueppert, the general counsel and vice president of human resources for the Needham-based Justice Resource Institute, said some of his organization’s staff works in the same building as state employees who are doing similar jobs but earning more money, resulting in “literally dozens” of workers leaving for state jobs in the last three years. … Schueppert asked the committee to back a bill filed by Rep. Kay Khan, its House chair, and Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry that aims to eliminate the pay disparity between state workers and their counterparts at private, community-based human services nonprofits. ….

White House Pulls Planned Nominee for Key Employment Post

Source: Ben Penn, BNA Labor & Employment, October 11, 2017
 
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s choice to run the Employment and Training Administration, Mason Bishop, has been blocked by the White House for an unknown reason, Bishop confirmed to Bloomberg BNA Oct. 11.  Bishop’s removal from consideration for the job after White House vetting has sent the Trump administration back to square one for finding a nominee to head the agency charged with implementing the top item on Acosta’s policy agenda: an initiative to expand public-private apprenticeships.  “All the White House informed me was that at this time they weren’t going to be able to nominate me and they would not give me a reason why,” Bishop, who is now resuming his consultancy business, told Bloomberg BNA. Bishop said he spent the summer filling out White House paperwork for a planned nomination after being told that Acosta had selected him for the position. …

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You’re Hired: Trump Plans to Build U.S. Workforce With Apprenticeships
Source: Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2017

President Donald Trump next week will make expansion of apprenticeship programs the center of his labor policy, aimed at filling a record level of open jobs and drawing back Americans who have left the workforce. … The administration is committed to “supporting working families and creating a pathway for them to have robust and successful careers,” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and assistant, said Friday. “There has been great focus on four-year higher education, and in reality, that is not the right path for everyone.” …

Trump Labor secretary tells G-20: More apprenticeships in US
Source: Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, May 18, 2017
 
U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is making public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Donald Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs. … The declaration, and a new campaign of tweets on the subject, represent the first indication since Acosta’s swearing-in three weeks ago that apprenticeships are at the core of the Trump administration’s plans to train a new generation of workers.  The discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more. But it’s not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs. … There’s also evidence of rare bipartisan agreement, at least on the value of apprenticeships, which generally combine state and federal government money with support from universities and companies looking to train people for specific jobs. In some cases, students split their time between school and work, and the companies pay some portion of wages and tuition. The budget compromise funding the federal government through September passed this month with $95 million for apprenticeship grants, an increase of $5 million — in part to increase the number of women apprentices. …

Consultant: BRF lacks cash, experience to adequately manage hospitals

Source: KTBS, October 10, 2017
 
Biomedical Research Foundation’s lack of cash could cause the state to lose funding for free and low-cost health care at the former public hospitals the foundation operates in Shreveport and Monroe.  Documents obtained by KTBS through an open records request show state officials are concerned the hospitals could lose Medicaid funding. That federal money helps cover the cost of treating poor people without insurance at the hospitals BRF operates as University Health through a wholly-owned subsidiary.  In September, state officials put BRF on notice it had breached its contract to operate the hospitals, in part because BRF has failed to pay doctors at LSU Medical School in Shreveport for treating patients. BRF also owes the state for a lease on the hospital property. …

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$135M boost going to LSU hospital managers under new deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, October 27, 2016

The private operators of LSU’s charity hospitals and clinics are in line for a $135 million boost in their payments as part of new deals struck by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, and the university’s medical schools will benefit from some of the new money. State lawmakers are being asked Friday to increase financing for the privatization deals to nearly $1.3 billion in the current budget year, only four months after lawmakers were told the previous level of funding was sufficient. … The money for the hospital and clinic operators is part of a larger budget adjustment requested by the Louisiana Department of Health at Friday’s meeting of the joint House and Senate budget committee. Jeff Reynolds, chief financial officer for the health department, said $135 million is a financing increase for the private managers that have taken over LSU’s hospitals, clinics and patient services. He said the additional payments are part of the renegotiated deals recently worked out by the Edwards administration. … The renegotiated privatization deals crafted by the Edwards administration included provisions in which some of the hospitals will be paying more money for the services of LSU’s doctors who work at the hospitals. … Henry said he wanted to know why the dollars weren’t available when lawmakers were crafting the budget in June, when they were told the previous level of agreed-upon financing was sufficient for the privatization agreements. …

Negotiating over, Edwards makes offers on LSU hospital deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, September 7, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will make its offer Thursday to the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe for a renegotiated contract with the state, as the governor pushes to rewrite all the LSU hospital privatization deals. Edwards’ lead negotiator on the contracts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said Thursday’s presentation to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is the last offer to be made. … Dardenne wouldn’t provide details about what changes are being sought in the north Louisiana hospitals’ deal — or any others. But he said negotiations are over and hospital operators can either take or leave the reworked arrangements offered. … Former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. In most instances, the management company of a nearby hospital took over operations. Three contracts closed an LSU hospital — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — and shifted its services to private hospitals. The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state. … LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement to have the foundation, known as BRF, run the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013. Alexander said the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience, isn’t paying bills on time and isn’t providing enough support to the LSU medical school in Shreveport. BRF and University Health leaders say Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school has financial problems of its own making. They say the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care. …

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Phoenix To Outsource Low Income Housing Program

Source: Christina Estes, KJZZ, October 9, 2017
 
Phoenix is looking to outsource daily operations of its most popular low-income housing program. The move will lead to an annual contract worth up to $1 million.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sends cities money to cover administrative costs for the Section 8 voucher program.  Phoenix Housing Director Cindy Stotler said after years of overfunding, HUD has spent the last seven years reducing the money it sends. She told council members it’s no longer enough to cover the cost of 34 full-time positions. … Frank Piccioli, president of AFSCME Local 2960, thinks outsourcing is a bad idea.  “When you start giving away such control from public servants to a private corporation, you change that basic goal,” he said. “The goal becomes profit and not service.”  Currently, 27 city employees and seven temporary agency staff handle the program. The Housing Department said it will work with affected staffers to fill vacant positions throughout the city. …

They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants

Source: Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter, Reveal News, October 4, 2017
 
Across the country, judges increasingly are sending defendants to rehab instead of prison or jail. These diversion courts have become the bedrock of criminal justice reform, aiming to transform lives and ease overcrowded prisons.  But in the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.  The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.  The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.  Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions.

… At some rehabs, defendants get to keep their pay. At CAAIR and many others, they do not. Legal experts said forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. That’s why prison labor programs are legal. But many defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed. … CAAIR has become indispensable to the criminal justice system, even though judges appear to be violating Oklahoma’s drug court law by using it in some cases, according to the law’s authors. … The program has become an invaluable labor source. Over the years, Simmons Foods repeatedly has laid off paid employees while expanding its use of CAAIR. …

Ige applauds work in progress at rental car hub

Source: Brian Perry, Maui News, October 6, 2017
 
The governor also expressed support for a Senate bill — now pending before state lawmakers — that would create the Hawaii Airport Corp. as an entity to consolidate the ownership, control and management of the state’s airport system. It would take that responsibility from the state’s Transportation Department, although that department would be administratively attached to the corporation. Senate Bill 658 advanced to a conference committee this year, but lawmakers were unable to achieve final passage of the measure supported by the Department of Transportation. Next year, legislators may pick up where they left off .Referring to the Kahului rental car facility’s construction, Ige said Transportation Department Director Ford Fuchigami and his team “have done a terrific job in moving the project forward, but we are pursuing the airport authority because we believe even with the work that has been done we can do better.” … Funds for construction of the consolidated rental car facility come from a pool of money generated by customers who pay $4.50 a day to rent vehicles in Hawaii. Funds for the airport corporation would come from fees paid by airlines and other airport vendors.Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira submitted testimony opposed to the bill. …  “The bill advances the notion that such a corporation addresses delayed decision-making and inefficiency resulting from multiple agencies involved in the planning, development and operation of Hawaii’s airport infrastructure,” Perreira said. “We assert that multiple agencies, each with their own area of responsibility, are rightly involved to collectively protect the public interest.”

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Effort to establish airports corporation advances
Source: Ivy Ashe, Hawaii Tribune Herald, March 24, 2017

Another attempt to consolidate management and planning for Hawaii’s airports is making its way through the state House of Representatives.  The measure was first brought to the Senate last year by the late Hawaii Island Sen. Gilbert Kahele. That legislation died during conferencing.  This year’s bill, Senate Bill 658, was introduced by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, and would establish a Hawaii airport corporation comprised of a governor-appointed board of directors. … The measure has been opposed by labor groups such as the Hawaii Government Employees Association. In written testimony during Senate hearings, executive director Randy Perreira stated having multiple agencies involved in airport management was a way to “collectively protect the public interest.”  “The public benefits from the involvement of the Department of Health with respect to addressing environmental concerns, the Board of Land and Natural Resources with respect to protecting public lands and the Department of Human Resources Development with respect to enforcing the civil service law to render impartial service to the public,” he wrote. …

KOSE demands active shooter training following shooting at Dept of Revenue office

Source: Devon Fasibnder, KWCH, October 5, 2017
 
The Kansas Organization of State Employees is demanding active shooter training for all state employees following the shooting of Cortney Holloway at the Wichita Department of Revenue office.  The letter, written by KOSE President Lisa Ochs, demands a security review of all state government buildings, public or privately owned, to ensure all employees are protected.  “Sadly, all indications are that the private building that houses the Department of Revenue offices where Cortney Holloway was shot lacked security measures that might have prevented this incident,” the letter reads. … Though the shooting at the Department of Revenue office happened less than a month ago, the KOSE Union writes, “Long before this incident, state employees have felt vulnerable and KOSE members have complained to management that they fear for their safety. Nothing was done. Something must be done now.” …

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Privatization Moved State Workers to Unsecured Office
Source: Associated Press, September 21, 2017
 
The head of Kansas’ state employees union and a local lawmaker say a push by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to privatize state office space left employees vulnerable during a shooting this week at a Department of Revenue office in Wichita.  The workers were moved three years ago out of the now-vacant Finney Office building, which had guards and security, to a strip mall office that provided no security, The Wichita Eagle reported. On Tuesday, tax compliance officer Cortney Holloway was shot. … Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the larger Finney building with armed guards likely would have deterred a shooting.  …

Privatization moved state workers to unsecured office where shooting occurred
Source: Dion Lefler, Wichita Eagle, September 20, 2017
 
Workers at the Wichita tax office where an employee was shot Tuesday were moved out of a secured state office building into an unsecured storefront about three years ago, as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s program of privatizing office space.  A state senator and the head of the state employee union said they think Tuesday’s shooting probably would have been avoided had the Department of Revenue tax office still been housed in the now-vacant Finney State Office Building downtown instead of a strip mall at 21st and Amidon. … “I’m sure they would have been more secured at the Finney State Office Building,” said Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. “There were guards, there was protection.”  He said there was no protection Tuesday when tax compliance agent Cortney Holloway was shot at the Revenue Department office. …