ICE Wants to Destroy Its Records of In-Custody Deaths, Sexual Assault, and Other Detainee Files

Source: John Washington, The Nation, September 13, 2017

In July, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)—the agency charged with maintaining records produced by the federal government—published a request made by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin destroying detainee records, including those related to in-custody deaths, sexual assault, and the use of solitary confinement. The request has been preliminarily approved. … Immigration advocates worry that ICE’s request, made public at a time of expanding operations (the original request, which went through multiple revisions, was made in 2015), is a further turn towards obfuscation for the notoriously opaque agency. … Just since January, with ICE’s expanding charge, it has been accused of a host of ongoing and heightened abuses, including the stripping away of due process, contracting out detention services to increasingly deadly private companies, racially profiling as it collaborates with local police departments, targeting women suffering from domestic abuse, doctoring documents in order to arrest immigrants with protected status, and using children as bait to arrest immigrant parents. ..

Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter Teachers, Study Finds

Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, September 20, 2017

Teachers in traditional public schools are much more likely than teachers in charter schools to miss more than 10 days of work, according to a new report from a right-leaning think tank. About 28 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are “chronically absent,” defined in the report as taking more than 10 days of personal or sick leave. In charter schools, just 10 percent of teachers take that much leave, the analysis found. … However, Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, said in a statement that “Fordham is using corrupted assertions to draw misguided conclusions.” … Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group that has also studied teacher absences, said the most salient difference between the two types of schools is not collective bargaining. Charters are generally autonomous, and not beholden to a larger bureaucracy—the teachers there may have trouble slipping under the radar, Walsh argued. …

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Fleecing America’s builders

Source: Maryam Jameel, Center for Public Integrity, August 21, 2017

… The Wage and Hour Division must enforce at least 14 statutes across the nation’s 29 million businesses with a team of only 929 investigators as of the end of June. Federal agencies, which spent more than $470 billion on contracts during the 2016 fiscal year, are saddled with a flawed system to vet contractors and monitor their compliance with those laws. As a result, contractors’ violations rarely show up in government databases. Subcontractors, which often employ most of the workers on construction projects, get even less scrutiny.

Last year, the federal government spent more than $40 billion on contracts covered by Davis-Bacon. But a Center investigation found that about 70 percent of the businesses caught violating the law in 2016 don’t appear in federal databases designed to track companies’ contracting records. Weak oversight allows subcontractors in particular to shortchange workers on government projects with little fear of being caught or barred from future contracts. Meanwhile, their overseers often maintain clean labor records and continue to win government business. This fiscal year, federal agencies have spent more than $425 million on contractors found to have violated Davis-Bacon in 2016, according to U.S. Treasury and Labor Department records analyzed by the Center. The top spenders: The U.S. Department of Defense and the GSA. …

ICE transfers immigrants held in detention around the country to keep beds filled. Then it releases them, with no help getting home.

Source: Libby Rainey, Denver Post, September 17, 2017

… Cruz is one of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers who are picked up in one part of the country and transferred to other parts of the far-flung network of more than 200 detention centers every year. The transfers often result in people being released on the streets of unfamiliar communities far from family, support and legal representation. … Each month, ICE shuffles thousands of detainees throughout the web of privately contracted centers, county jails and other facilities to keep beds filled. ICE has no obligation to return detainees to the areas where they were picked up. These transfers prioritize finances over the well-being of people being moved, immigrants rights advocates say. … Transfers allow ICE to keep beds filled in detention centers around the country and consolidate detainees near immigration courts with faster dockets and transportation, he said. A congressional mandate requires ICE to maintain at least 34,000 detention beds a day. … Detainees are regularly released without much notice, advocates say. Detention facilities typically have phones that those inside can use, but once detainees are released, ICE doesn’t help them transition into the outside world. “There’s a lot of shuffling of people that takes place to fill beds,” said Megan Hope, a social worker with the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network. “It’s very burdensome for somebody to get out in a community they’re not from.” …

Editorial: Another round in the Hogan-teachers union feud

Source: Baltimore Sun, September 18, 2017 
Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement that he will not sign Maryland’s proposed plan to implement the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the Obama era successor to No Child Left Behind — got him some swift criticism from the Maryland teachers union and its allies, including a claim from one of his prospective 2018 opponents that he is the “anti-public education governor.” The critics claim that he is putting some $250 million in federal funding for Maryland schools at risk and aligning himself with the extreme school privatization agenda of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. …

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Despite veto threat, Maryland lawmakers send Hogan bill to limit school reforms
Source: Erin Cox, Baltimore Sun, March 28, 2017

Disregarding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto threat, the Democrat-dominated General Assembly passed a bill Tuesday to forbid the state from using vouchers or charter schools to fix struggling schools. Both the Senate and House approved the bill by veto-proof margins, setting in motion a political showdown with Hogan for the final two weeks of session. …

Maryland Democrats blast Hogan’s education agenda, likening it to Trump’s
Source: Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun, February 7, 2017

Maryland Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday made their case against a series of state education bills that they say push a “privatization agenda” also championed by President Donald Trump and his controversial new education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Dozens of Democrats joined the state teachers union to decry bills backed by Gov. Larry Hogan that would provide scholarships to private schools and encourage more charter schools in Maryland. They said the Republican governor is following the same philosophy as Trump and DeVos, promoting private and charter schools at the expense of public schools. … Weller criticized Hogan’s plans to increase the amount of tax dollars used to help poor children afford a seat in private schools, as well as to set up a new state panel that would approve applications to open new charter schools, an authority currently held by local school boards. … The teachers union and Democrats rattled off a list of bills they plan to pass and Hogan efforts they plan to defeat this General Assembly session. They’re proposing a bill that would prevent the state from looking to school privatization as a way to comply with a federal law requiring turnaround plans for poor-performing schools. … The Democrats also are mobilizing to block Hogan’s proposal to help charter schools by, among other things, creating a new state board that will review and authorize new charter schools to open. Critics say Hogan can stack the panel with allies who will allow a flood of new charter schools that will siphon funding from public schools. … The Democratic lawmakers said they will oppose Hogan’s promise to gradually increase funding for a private school scholarship program known as Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today or BOOST from $5 million to $10 million. …

Harwell: No Privatization of Tennessee Park Services as Gov

Source: Associated Press, September 14, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell says she won’t privatize services at Tennessee state parks if she is elected governor. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Harwell’s position is at odds with term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam’s longtime pursuit of outsourcing more functions at the parks. Harwell, who is the speaker of the state House of Representatives, said privatizing hospitality, food and other services at state parks is a “touchy point for our rural areas,” and that she would not pursue Haslam’s goals in that area. …

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Haslam leaves privatizing state park management decision to next Tennessee governor
Source: Andy Sher, Times Free Press, August 24, 2017
 
The Haslam administration is abandoning all efforts to outsource management of Fall Creek Falls State Park and other state parks and will instead leave the volatile issue of privatizing operations to Tennessee’s next governor.  State Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau made the announcement Thursday during an appearance before a legislative study committee taking a critical look at administration outsourcing across state government. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase
Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

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Federal Labor Lawsuit Accuses LAZ of Failing to Pay Overtime

Source: Robert Storace, The Connecticut Law Tribune, September 15, 2017

A Georgia man has filed a prospective collective action lawsuit claiming Connecticut-based LAZ Parking company violated federal labor laws when it failed to pay for overtime. The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. district court claims Hartford-based LAZ Parking regularly does not pay assistant managers overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. …

… The company has been the target of several lawsuits including at least one class action. Most recently, LAZ agreed to pay $5.6 million to settle a lawsuit with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. LAZ was accused of failing to detect and stop the theft of millions of dollars in cash belonging to the MBTA. Separately, the parking company agreed to pay $1.1 million to Massachusetts to settle allegations it failed to implement contractually-required revenue controls and auditing tools at 13 MBTA parking lots. LAZ is also a defendant in a February 2017 class action claiming the ParkChicago app resulted in false parking tickets. That suit is still pending. And, in 2010, LAZ paid $46,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission religious discrimination lawsuit. …

Labor Unions, Civil Rights, Progressive Groups Unite To Oppose ATC Privatization

Source: Aero News Network, September 13, 2017
 
The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO, along with 36 other unions, civil rights groups and progressive associations representing thousands of employees across the country, united to send a strongly-worded letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill late last week opposing any efforts to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system. In addition to PASS, the letter was signed by the NAACP, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Steelworkers (USW), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and many more. …

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Trump’s Dire Air-Traffic Claim Contradicted by Government Report
Source: Alan Levin, Bloomberg, September 7, 2017

Efforts to upgrade the U.S. air-traffic system are on budget and steadily improving flight efficiency, a government watchdog found, contradicting assertions by President Donald Trump and airline executives. Just as the House is set to debate a bill that would separate the air-traffic system from the Federal Aviation Administration, a Government Accountability Office report requested by lawmakers shows that the existing system is performing well, undercutting one of the chief arguments by proponents of the change. …

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Unions representing air traffic controllers, flight attendants support House bill to reauthorize FAA
Source: Kim Riley, Transportation Today, August 29, 2017
 
Two of Capitol Hill’s prominent aviation-related labor unions have found more than one thing to support in the House proposal that aims to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Specifically, one of the main thrusts of the 21st Century AIRR (Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization) Act, H.R. 2997, would be to transfer air traffic control (ATC) operations currently overseen by the FAA into a private, separate, not-for-profit corporation. The bill also would reauthorize FAA funding and other programs. …

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Proposed EEOC Merger Gets Another Nail in Coffin From Congress

Source: Jay-Anne B. Casuga and Tyrone Richardson, Daily Labor Report, September 13, 2017 (subscription required)
 
The House late Sept. 12 approved an amendment that would prohibit funds from being used to merge the EEOC and the Labor Department’s contractor compliance office. The amendment to spending legislation (H.R. 3358) that would fund the DOL and other government agencies, offered by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), was adopted by voice vote. The House is scheduled to vote on the “minibus” appropriations bill by the end of the week. The proposal to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is “a total mess,” said Scott, the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. …

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Trump administration plans to minimize civil rights efforts in agencies
Source: Juliet Eilperin, Emma Brown, and Darryl Fears, Washington Post, May 29, 2017

The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, according to the White House’s newly proposed budget, part of wider efforts to rein in government programs that promote civil rights. As outlined in Labor’s fiscal 2018 plan, the move would fold the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, now home to 600 employees, into another government agency in the name of cost-cutting. The proposal to dismantle the compliance office comes at a time when the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices. …

Merger of EEOC, Contractor Watchdog ‘Under Consideration’
Source: Jay-Anne B. Casuga, BNA Bloomberg, May 11, 2017
 
A potential merger between the EEOC and a Labor Department subagency that enforces affirmative action and nondiscrimination requirements on government contractors is under “active consideration” by the Trump administration, according to practitioners. … The recommendation comes from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research think tank in Washington. The foundation previously called for the outright elimination of the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, arguing that the agency is “redundant” given the existence of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. … Merging the two enforcement agencies isn’t a popular idea among stakeholders, practitioners said. … A merger would also give the EEOC an “incredible amount of authority over contractors,” which might not necessarily be in the best interest of employers, David Cohen said, also an institute co-chair as well as president of DCI Consulting in Washington. Civil rights groups, such as the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity , have also opposed arguments that the OFCCP is redundant because of the EEOC. …

CalOptima Takes Mental Health Administration In-House

Source: Thy Vo, Voice of OC, September 11, 2017

CalOptima, the county’s health care plan for low-income and elderly residents, now will administer its own mental health care services, after the agency voted to phase out its $41 million-a-year contract with Magellan Health. The agency’s Board of Directors voted Sept. 7 to take administration of mental health services for a majority of the health plan’s members in-house, including responsibilities like contracting with mental health providers, processing reimbursement claims and overseeing therapy programs for patients with autism. Patients still will see outside specialists for treatment. This will be the third time in three years the agency has made a major change in the management of its mental health services, and the change comes just one year after the agency approved its original contract with Magellan. … CalOptima is the federal and state financed health plan for about 800,000 county residents, roughly a quarter of the population. … The change was prompted in part by a contract dispute between CalOptima and Magellan in July, which may have left some patients without mental health care for nine days when the company refused to process Medi-Cal payment claims. …