Lockheed Martin, Boeing aerospace venture bilked U.S. for $90 million, lawsuit says

Source: Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, January 8, 2018

A whistleblower has settled a lawsuit filed against a Centennial aerospace company formed by Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company that claimed the company defrauded the U.S. government out of at least $90 million by grossly overcharging for employee work hours. Whistleblower Joseph Scott filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and the government against United Launch Alliance and United Launch Services, under the Federal Civil False Claims Act. Scott is a former ULA employee. … This wasn’t the first time ULA practices have come under scrutiny. In December 2016, ULA paid the government $100,000 to settle allegations that a subcontractor paid its employees kickbacks in order to win contracts. As a result, the U.S. paid higher costs to subcontractor Apriori Technologies between 2011 and 2015, Troyer has previously said. …

… ULA used a system called the Keith Crohn model that creates a grid using the cost of equipment to reach an employee cost. A labor value was placed on the grid for every item ordered through the company’s purchasing department. For example, any item that cost between $1 and $1,000 would be assigned a labor value of 8 hours. It didn’t matter what part it was, the lawsuit said. The U.S. bans arbitrary cost estimates when actual data is available that establishes the cost. ULA took advantage of the government’s practice of not auditing smaller projects. On projects above $100 million, the government audits bids and can reduce the contract price if the Defense Contract Audit Agency discovers discrepancies, the lawsuit says. In the first five to seven years of its existence, ULA often failed those audits. For larger audited launches, ULA began using historic data of actual prior labor costs, the lawsuit says.
But for smaller bids, ULA continued using its flawed estimates, knowing that it wouldn’t be audited, the lawsuit says. …

A New Betsy DeVos Proposal Would Make It Much Tougher For Students To Get Loan Forgiveness

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, January 3, 2018
 
The Education Department is planning to suggest new rules that would make it far more difficult for borrowers to obtain student loan forgiveness after being defrauded by their colleges, according to drafts circulated by the department and obtained by BuzzFeed News.  The department’s plan would require individual students to prove that their college intentionally deceived them — something that sparked alarm among student advocates, who argue it would push loan forgiveness out of reach for the vast majority of borrowers.  The proposal is part of the early stages of an effort by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rewrite the government’s standards for loan forgiveness, called the “borrower defense” regulations. The proposed new rules would eventually erase regulations put in place by the Obama administration. …

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Higher Education Act Proposal Primes Fight Over Future of Colleges
Source: Douglas Belkin and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2017

The sprawling, 542-page revamp of the Higher Education Act released Friday by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, kicks off what is likely to be a rocky and drawn-out legislative process aimed at reshaping college education. The bill, previewed earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal, would update the Higher Education Act of 1965 by overhauling student-loan programs, mandating more transparency on graduates’ earnings and jettisoning much of the existing regulatory framework on for-profit colleges. The bill, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, must still work its way through the House, while an initial Senate version isn’t expected until 2018. Early reactions from colleges and student advocates—all with powerful lobbyists in Washington—suggest actually turning the wish list into law would be a steep uphill battle. …

House GOP to Propose Sweeping Changes to Higher Education
Source: Douglas Belkin, Josh Mitchell, and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2017

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend.  The most dramatic and far-reaching element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student loan program. It would put caps on borrowing and eliminate some loan forgiveness programs.  The ambitious package—a summary of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—would be the biggest overhaul of education policy in decades. The rising expense of higher education is deeply troubling to many Americans and many increasingly question its value. Despite a steady rise in the share of high-school graduates heading to college, a skills gap has left more than 6 million jobs unfilled, a significant drag on the economy. …

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Charter Schools Are Reshaping America’s Education System for the Worse

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, January 4, 2018
 
Charter schools have been hailed as the antidote to public-school dysfunction by everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Wall Street philanthropists. But a critical autopsy by the advocacy group Network for Public Education (NPE) reveals just how disruptive the charter industry has become—for both students and their communities.  Charter schools are technically considered public schools but are run by private companies or organizations, and can receive private financing—as such, they are generally able to circumvent standard public-school regulations, including unions. This funding system enables maximum deregulation, operating like private businesses and free of the constraints of public oversight, while also ensuring maximum public funding. …

… The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen dramatic effects from the expansion of charter schools as it wrestles with budget crises. … NPE’s investigation found a similar pattern at a BASIS charter school in Arizona, part of a nationwide charter network. … Examining the broader social impact of charters, NPE tracked financial manipulation and fraud at various schools. … Another subsurface problem at many schools is harder to measure: Charters are known for high faculty-turnover rates. … Charters may offer a different relationship to communities, but their brand of “free market” schooling carries costs. Who accounts for the lost social opportunities when education becomes just another market investment?

Read full report.

Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection

Source: Kiera Feldman, ProPublica, January 4, 2018
 
Shortly before 5 a.m. on a recent November night, a garbage truck with a New York Yankees decal on the side sped through a red light on an empty street in the Bronx. The two workers aboard were running late. Before long, they would start getting calls from their boss. “Where are you on the route? Hurry up, it shouldn’t take this long.” Theirs was one of 133 garbage trucks owned by Action Carting, the largest waste company in New York City, which picks up the garbage and recycling from 16,700 businesses.  Going 20 miles per hour above the city’s 25 mph limit, the Action truck ran another red light with a worker, called a “helper,” hanging off the back. Just a few miles away the week before, another man had died in the middle of the night beneath the wheels of another company’s garbage truck. … In the universe of New York’s garbage industry, Action is considered a company that takes the high road. A union shop, it offers starting pay of about $16 per hour for helpers and $23 for drivers, far more than many other companies. And unlike some other companies, Action provides high-visibility gear and conducts safety meetings. But since 2008, the company’s trucks have killed five pedestrians or cyclists.  In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014. …

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Commercial trash workers testify against conditions
Source: David Giambusso, Capital New York, April 30, 2015

During a City Council debate Wednesday over free enterprise and recycling diversion rates in New York’s private carting industry, members of the sanitation committee heard from a group of stakeholders who rarely voice concerns about the industry publicly: workers in the private trash trade. “When you only earn minimum wage and are working 60 hours a week in the bitter cold snow and ice—I feel like I am being taken advantage of,” said Carlton Darden, who works for the private hauler Five Star Carting, in testimony to the Council. “I feel as if I’m a slave,” testified Michael Bush, another Five Star employee. “I feel used and degraded. I feel as if I’m nobody, but this job is a real responsibility to keep the streets of New York City clean.” Juan Feliz testified that he was fired from Mr. T Carting after contracting cancer—a condition he attributes to chemicals and debris he was exposed to on the job….. Workers testified that they can make 300 stops a night throughout the city during 16-hour shifts, leading to poor recycling rates and safety hazards for residents and workers alike. They said some companies pay workers as little as $8.75 an hour to pick up 20,000 pounds of trash per night, per worker. Workers are expected to provide their own gloves, boots and reflective gear and receive little or no training at some companies, the men testified. …

High-Class Trash /Why it costs so much to haul garbage in New York—at least when the Department of Sanitation is doing it
Source: Matthew Hennessey, City Journal, 15 July 2014 [editor’s note: City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute]

….Less often thought of as a uniformed workforce, however, are the Big Apple’s 7,200 sanitation workers, who have been without a contract since 2011. The last contract negotiated by the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831 resulted in a 17 percent raise over 54 months for workers. But according to a May report by the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the bill for collecting and disposing of New York’s trash is already much higher than in other large American cities. Can Gotham really afford to pay more?

With a population of 8.3 million and the second-largest urban economy in the world, New York City produces lots of garbage—about 8 million tons annually—but the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for hauling only half of it. The rest is handled by roughly 250 private hauling firms, which contract with local businesses to remove commercial waste. The CBC calculates that the sanitation department spends $431 per ton to collect and dispose of garbage, while the city’s private haulers do it for just $183 per ton. How do private waste-hauling firms, which are both unionized and heavily regulated, manage to pick up and dispose of trash so much more efficiently than the sanitation department?

For starters, the private firms do a better job on the disposal side than the city does. The DSNY sends just 14 percent of the waste it collects to recycling plants, which pay for the materials they receive—up to $25 per ton for paper recyclables, depending on market variations—with most of the rest going to landfills (a small amount gets converted into energy). Private haulers, by contrast, send 63 percent of what they collect to recycling plants, lowering their disposal costs considerably.

The real difference between the public- and private-sector trash haulers, however, shows up on the collection side—specifically, how much those who do the collecting get paid. City sanitation workers benefit from incentives such as “productivity” bonuses and shift-differential payments, which are rarely offered to their counterparts in the private workforce, and they get substantially more paid days off, including unlimited sick days, the CBC report found. The benefits add up. In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39 percent more than the average worker at a private trash-hauling firm in the city. Total compensation for a first-year DSNY employee—including overtime, holiday pay, health insurance, and retirement benefits—tops out at over $100,000. A city sanitation worker with more than 20 years on the job earns almost $170,000 in total compensation. The DSNY’s highest-paid employee in 2013 took home $219,233, more even than then-commissioner John Doherty…..

CSEA plans for winter storm, warmer contract talk

Source: Rikki N. Massand, Garden City News, January 4, 2018 

The time of year when municipal operations including salt spreading and snow cleanup to landscaping come into focus is upon Garden City, amidst a labor negotiations standstill between the civil service employee union and the village that is now pushing five full years. … Robert LoDolce, president of the CSEA Rank & File Unit Local 882 (Garden City) unit spoke with the News a day before the snowfall. … He stated that employees who may have decades of experience in the Village of Garden City have built up a vested interest and commitment to their jobs and municipal operations, while outside contractors are operating on their individual business needs and budgets.  The CSEA Local 882 Rank & File has worked without a contract with the village since 2012 and LoDolce says the workforce diligently carries out all their responsibilities in Garden City. … This week he advised that due to allocation of the workforce related to subcontractors the village has brought in, the CSEA has filed an improper labor practice claim that will be heard in 2018 by P.E.R.B., the Public Employees Relations Board “regarding the outsourcing of bargaining units’ type of work to private contractor. He specifically refers to the contract for Con-Kel Landscaping that has been bid recently by the Village of Garden City after their initial year of work, and the scope of work is set to expand from 91 acres of passive greenspace areas (village parcels) to 114 municipal acres. …

Chicago Public School Teachers Sue Charter School Operator Over Missing Pensions

Source: Skyline Newspaper, January 2, 2018
 
Approximately 50% of the public school workforce is made up of teachers, many of whom are likely underpaid for the work they do. In Chicago public schools, a number of teachers were allegedly further underpaid by a charter school operator who did not report their employment and subsequently failed to pay pension contributions on their behalf. And now, the Chicago Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund is fighting back by suing that operator, Prologue Inc. …

New Haven Housing Authority restructuring for private investment

Source: Mary E. O’Leary, New Haven Register, January 2, 2018
 
The Housing Authority of New Haven will start issuing layoff notices on Friday as it restructures, but said there will be opportunities to seek similar jobs under a new nonprofit company it has formed.  A total of 50 people at the authority will be affected throughout 2018, according to the authority, but it plans to hire between 40 and 45 people for similar positions in a restructuring it said is needed to ensure its financial stability. … The authority already has one affiliate, the Glendower Group, which oversees its construction projects. It now has formed a second nonprofit affiliate, 360 Property Management Co., which eventually will oversee the maintenance and security of 1,300 housing units, as well as handle leasing. … DuBois-Walton said the new jobs, which are almost one for one with the current positions, will reflect private market salaries, which will be less than those negotiated by the two American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees locals representing workers. …

 Boca-based prison operator Geo Group to pay $550,000 to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

Source: Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel, January 8, 2018
 
Boca Raton-based The Geo Group has agreed to pay $550,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Arizona’s attorney general.  The lawsuit, filed in 2010, concerned two Geo-operated prisons: the Central Arizona Correctional Facility and Arizona State Prison-Florence West Facility, both in Florence, Ariz. …. The lawsuits, filed in the in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleged that GEO retaliated against female employees who complained or sought help by disciplining them, forcing them to quit, firing them, or placing them in unsafe conditions in the prison. ….

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Private Prison GEO Group to Pay $60,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment And Retaliation Lawsuit
Source: EEOC Press Release, August 25, 2017
 
The GEO Group, Inc., operator of the Central Arizona Correctional Facility (CACF) in Florence, Ariz., will pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, GEO allowed its employees and managers to sexually harass Roberta Jones since June 2007. For example, the agency alleged that certain male superior officers and coworkers would frequently stand around bragging about their sexual exploits. At least two superior officers were alleged to have put their hands on Jones in an unwanted manner. GEO failed to adequately respond to Jones’s complaints of sexual harassment, the EEOC said. The lawsuit also alleged that Geo assigned Ms. Jones to less desirable posts, disciplined, and terminated her after she complained about the harassment and participated in protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. …

Florence Private Prison GEO Group Sued a Second Time by EEOC for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), September 25, 2015

The GEO Group, Inc., operators of the Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence, Ariz., violated federal law by sexually harassing a female correctional officer and then retaliating against her for having participated in a prior lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against GEO alleging systemic sexual harassment, EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed today. According to EEOC’s lawsuit, GEO allowed its employees and managers to sexually harass Roberta Jones since June 2007. …

America’s Rural Hospitals Are Dangerously Fragile

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, January 9, 2018

… Last November, however, Circleville’s voters chose another direction, one that, in other places, has resulted in an economic hit to the community—mostly in the form of job losses and stagnant wages—as well as a lowered quality of care. At the urging of city and county leaders, and Berger’s administrators, residents voted to allow local politicians and the hospital’s board to begin a process to turn Berger, one of the last publicly owned and operated hospitals in the state, into a nonprofit private corporation. Following that, Berger would most likely be integrated into a larger regional system, probably the Columbus-based nonprofit Ohio Health, with which Berger has an ongoing relationship. …
 
… Hospitals have been struggling—especially independent public and/or nonprofit hospitals located in smaller cities and rural towns. Last year, for example, the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit, estimated that 673 rural facilities (with a variety of ownership structures) were at risk of closure, out of over 2,000. And with the new tax legislation, and events like the merger of the drugstore chain CVS and the insurer Aetna, the turmoil looks to get worse. In response, stand-alone nonprofit hospitals have been auctioning off their real estate to investors, selling themselves to for-profit chains or private-equity firms, or, like Berger, folding themselves into regional health systems. …

Metro gets serious about outsourcing Silver Line service

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, January 9, 2018
 
A proposal to outsource operations of the Silver Line took a significant step Monday, when Metro officials issued a formal “request for information” from potential contractors who might be interested in the job. …. Metro’s opportunities for privatization are limited, because of its existing union contracts. But the agency is allowed to seek help from outside contractors when considering how to manage operations on new segments of the system. Officials have already met with potential contractors to outsource bus operations and maintenance at the newly-constructed Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va…..

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D.C. May Seek To End Private Contracts For Public Transit
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, November 30, 2017

A coalition of organized labor and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop the District from contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly.  “We are concerned about privatization of good public-sector jobs,” said Barbara Kraft of the Washington Interfaith Network, which is teaming with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and individual bus and streetcar operators to lobby the D.C. Council to bring all District transit operations in-house. …

Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized
Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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