Tag Archives: Illinois

CPS fails to count schools in janitorial contract, costing millions

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

It’s the latest wrinkle in a controversial contract to privatize custodial management with Aramark, which has faced sharp criticism for failing to keep schools clean. Aramark was supposed to save CPS $18 million this year. But the district understated the square footage that would need cleaning in its request for proposals, spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, at a cost of $7 million over the projected $64 million CPS expected to spend this year. … Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the $260 million Aramark deal to the Board of Education and the public by saying it would free up principals from managing custodians, result in cleaner schools and save the cash-strapped district millions of dollars. Some of the savings was to come from layoffs of hundreds of custodians. But the district was on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than it promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in its first of three years, as first reported by WBEZ. …

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CPS to spend additional $7M to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

Two days before most of the school janitors’ union planned a strike vote, the union says Chicago Public Schools officials agreed Thursday to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools. … The Chicago Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where the custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor for CPS. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed. Janitors have said they can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools. Two of them also accused their supervisors of cheating on the independent inspections CPS paid for to monitor the cleaning. CPS has since made changes to that inspection process and stepped into the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. …

CPS inspections ‘blitz’ finds rat droppings, bugs, filth in schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, February 28, 2018

The discovery of rats and rodent droppings throughout the building at Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville and two failed health inspections there last fall prompted Chicago Public Schools officials to declare they were ordering an all-hands-on-deck series of inspections citywide. That “blitz” was supposed to inspect 220 schools to start, CPS said. But despite initially finding that problems such as rodent droppings, pest infestations, filthy food-preparation equipment, and bathrooms that were dirty, smelly and lacked hot water, CPS quietly halted the inspections before completing them all, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show — shortly after the newspaper requested information on the early results. CPS provided blitz reports from 125 facilities that show only 34 of those schools passed inspection by inspectors from the district’s facilities department and Aramark, the private company that manages the custodians and oversees food service. And not all of the schools that were re-inspected passed the second time around, according to hundreds of documents and photos taken at nine schools that were provided under the state’s public records act. …

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When Corecivic Comes to Town: Lessons From Elkhart’s Grassroots Struggle to Preserve a Vibrant Community

Source: Sydney Boles and Rowan Lynam, Medill Reports, February 27, 2018

In Pembroke, Illinois, it started in Hopkins Park; in Gary, it started right across the street from their small airport; in Crete, it was Balmoral Park. In Elkhart, Indiana, it started at the intersection of county roads 7 and 26. It was a stretch of weeds and snow next to the county’s correctional facility and its huge, methane-leaking landfill, catty-corner from the well-worked farmland of German immigrants. This unremarkable piece of nowhere, Indiana would have held over a thousand immigrants in ICE civil detention. They would have been held in a private, maximum-security facility with the capability to hold 60 in solitary confinement, encased in a total visual barrier. Would have — because Elkhart, like so many Chicagoland towns before it, said no. …

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Here’s What Happens When Trump Policy Comes to Trump Country
Source: Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, February 2, 2018

…. It all started in mid-November, when local activists including Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations at Goshen College, learned that the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) was eyeing a location near the landfill and county jail. Within weeks, CoreCivic filed a proposal to build an immigration detention center that could hold up to 1,240 people awaiting immigration court decisions or deportation.The company was seeking to fill Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s need for detention space to hold the increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants its agents were picking up in the Midwest. ICE interior deportations in the first eight months of Trump’s presidency had ticked up 37 percent compared to the same period in 2016, and the agency wanted beds within a 180-mile radius of four cities, including Chicago and Detroit. Elkhart County, Indiana, was in range of both cities, and CoreCivic, which gets more than a quarter of its $1.8 billion annual revenue from incarcerating ICE detainees, spotted the opportunity. ….

CoreCivic has history of complaints, violations Company accused of mismanagement, abuse
Source: Caleb Bauer, South Bend Tribune, January 29, 2018

Corrections Corp. of America’s stock prices plunged in recent years when the Bureau of Prisons began phasing out private, for-profit prisons amid reports of problems with oversight, safety and security. The Nashville-based company responded by shifting its focus to housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees and rebranded itself as CoreCivic. After the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned to increase immigrant detention and deportation, CoreCivic’s stock prices jumped. Now, the private prison company is angling to open a new ICE facility in Elkhart County. Who is this firm that’s promised to bring 300 new jobs to Elkhart County? Since its foray into ICE business, CoreCivic has continued to be dogged by ongoing allegations of mismanagement and abuse at its detention facilities…..

Union rep: City workers helped their own cause in defeating privatization plan for garbage pick-up

Source: Howard Packowitz, WJBC, February 14, 2018
 
Union workers who pick up the garbage in the city of Bloomington were relieved by the city council’s vote against exploring privatization of solid waste pick-up.  Renee Nestler, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 699, appealed to aldermen to vote against outsourcing, and instead back higher fees for long-term solution to cut costs.  Nestler said workers have built up a lot of goodwill over the years.  “All the credit in the world goes to our members who do the job day in and day out, and where the citizens appreciate the services they do and the quality work,” said Nestler. …

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Council opts to explore solid waste fee hike, service changes
Source: Maria Nagle, The Pantagraph, February 13, 2018
 
Rather than replacing the city’s solid waste workers with private garbage haulers, the City Council directed the city staff to explore raising solid waste fees and finding cost savings in garbage, bulky waste, brush and leaf collections.  The council’s 5-3 decision at a special meeting Monday prior to the council’s regular session had city solid waste workers breathing a sigh of relief. Aldermen Jamie Mathy of Ward 1, David Sage of Ward 2 and Karen Schmidt of Ward 6 cast the dissenting votes; Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman was absent.  “We’re excited. We feel like this is something that should be taken off the table,” said Adam Smith after the meeting. He is an 11-year city solid waste employee and president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 699.  “We do a good job and we feel like we can do it better than everybody else,” said Smith. “It’s important to all of us … and job security helps morale. There’s not a lot of morale (in the solid waste division of the public works department). Hopefully, this will be a small step in building that.” …

Renner, union: Raise garbage fee to cover service costs
Source: Maria Nagle, Pantagraph, February 9, 2018
 
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and the union representing the city’s public works employees favor raising user fees to cover the full cost of solid waste collection rather than outsourcing it.   “I just wish they could raise the fee,” said Jeremy Beutow, a 15-year public works employee and steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 699.  That would eliminate the stress once and for all for solid waste collection employees who worry about how yearly budget cuts will affect their jobs, said Beutow and AFSCME state representative Renee Nestler. … Renner said he sees the answer as “some version of trimming back bulk waste a little bit” and charging users the actual cost, which runs about $26 a month on average. Trash carts cost $16 to $25 per month, depending on the size. …

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In a Historic First, the Chicago Teachers Union and Charter School Teachers Have Joined Forces

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, February 1, 2018
 
With the approval of a historic union merger, teachers in Chicago are positioning themselves to mount a greater challenge to privatization and austerity.  On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced that its members had voted in favor of amalgamating with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), which, since 2009, has organized about 1,000 educators at over 30 charter school campuses.  While cooperation between unionized educators at charters and district schools in the United States is common, this is the first known case in which teachers from both types of schools have merged into a single union local. …

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Chicago Teachers Are Trying to Organize the Biggest Charter School Union in the U.S.
Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, March 9, 2017

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the name of “choice,” teachers at Chicago’s largest charter school have declared their choice to form a union. Announcing the creation of the Union of Noble Educators last Friday, workers from Noble Network’s 17 charter high schools hope to follow in the footsteps of teachers and staff from 32 other Chicago charter schools who have already unionized with the help of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).If successful, the 800 or so educators and staff at Noble would comprise the largest unionized charter school network in the country.

… Launched in 2009, Chicago ACTS is at the forefront of the movement to organize charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the Chicago Teachers Union. … Teachers with A Council of Educators, the Chicago ACTS affiliate at ASPIRA charter school, recently voted to strike over stalled contract negotiations and could walk off the job as soon as March 17. Last October, a planned strike by unionized teachers at UNO Charter Network Schools was only narrowly averted by a last-minute agreement. Nationally, AFT has made organizing teachers at charter schools a priority since 2007, supporting educators in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Orleans. According to the Center for Education Reform, 10 percent of charter schools in the United States are now unionized, up from 7 percent just five years ago. …

Settlement Concluded Between OSHA and Altamont Ambulance

Source: Greg Sapp, 979 XFM, January 19, 2018

A settlement has been finalized between the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Altamont Ambulance Service. OSHA opened investigations in January 2016, after receiving a complaint alleging violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens exposure and various other health and safety standards. … Six different activities were alleged in January 2016. Two of those alleged violations by Altamont Ambulance, two by Effingham City/County Ambulance and two by Vandalia Ambulance. The current penalties total $149,000. The initial penalties totaled $379,000. Altamont Ambulance has ceased operations in Effingham County and Fayette County.

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Emergency medical service provider fails to protect employees from risks of bloodborne pathogens: OSHA proposes fines of more than $290K to Altamont Ambulance Service
Source: OSHA Regional News Release, July 7, 2016

Federal safety and health investigators found Altamont Ambulance Service Inc. failed to follow specific guidelines to protect emergency healthcare workers from exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other hazards while providing patient care. On July 6, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued five willful, 16 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations to the emergency medical service provider with proposed penalties of $290,100. The agency opened inspections in January 2016, after receiving a complaint alleging violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen exposure and various other health and safety standards. …

… The agency’s Fairview Heights area office found the employer failed to:

  • Establish an exposure control plan for bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious material.
  • Make Hepatitis B vaccination series available to employees.
  • Train workers about chemical and bloodborne pathogen hazards and precautions.
  • Develop an emergency response plan.
  • Dispose of, clean or launder contaminated personal protection equipment.
  • Train workers in operations level emergency response.
  • Communicate decisions on the use of personal protective equipment to employees.
  • Develop a respiratory protection program to protect again infectious diseases.
  • Train workers about the use of hazardous chemicals in their work area.
  • Conduct an exposure determination for blood borne pathogens.
  • Provide injury and illness logs to inspectors within four hours.
  • Mark, keep clear and properly light emergency exits.
  • Follow electrical safe work places. Investigators found opened breaker panel boxes, extension cords used as fixed wiring, exposed light sockets.
  • Train workers in the use of fire extinguishers.

OSHA investigating Altamont Ambulance complaint
Source: Bill Grimes, Effingham Daily News, March 1, 2016

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an inspection of already-embattled Altamont Ambulance Services, Inc. The administration opened the inspection Jan. 6, according to the OSHA website. Area Director Aaron Priddy of the administration’s Fairview Heights office would not go into specifics about the probe, but he confirmed there has been a complaint filed against the service. Altamont Ambulance has been the sole emergency ambulance provider in Effingham County since 2004. In November 2014 the county sought to open the ambulance market to other providers, but that move is tied up in court. …

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. …

Champaign County Board votes to put nursing home up for sale

Source: Tom Kacich, News-Gazette, January 9, 2018
 
Champaign County Board members voted Tuesday night to put the county nursing home up for sale.  By a margin of 13-8, with Democrats Pattsi Petrie, C. Pius Weibel and Shana Jo Crews joining all 10 Republicans, the board voted to issue a request for proposals from private operators to purchase the county-owned facility in east Urbana. … Among the terms to any sale of the nursing home: … — The purchaser would assume the existing collective-bargaining agreement between the nursing home and the AFSCME union.  — The purchaser must agree to rehire all existing employees who pass a background check, not terminate 10 percent or more of the employees within the first 60 days following the closing date and not 20 percent or more of the current employees during the first six months after the closing date, all at their current salary levels with benefits similar to those currently received. …

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County board to get first look at proposal for sale of nursing home
Source: Tom Kacich, News-Gazette, October 10, 2017
 
Champaign County Board members will get their first review tonight of the proposal for the sale of the county-owned nursing home.  The agenda for the board’s committee-of-the-whole meeting includes an item calling for the release of a request for proposals for a privately owned firm to buy the 12-year-old facility in east Urbana. If the board approves the RFP this month, the sale of the home could be completed this winter. … The proposed request for proposals for the sale of the facility carries a number of stipulations: … That the purchaser assume the existing collective bargaining agreements at the home with the AFSCME employee union. …

Patient advocates back county ownership of nursing home
Source: Debra Pressey, The News-Gazette, March 29, 2017

Selling the Champaign County Nursing Home could lead to staff reductions, poorer care and service cuts, a group of advocates for medical patients and retirees contended. Gathering less than a week before voters will be asked to weigh in on two public policy questions — whether they support selling or disposing of the financially ailing nursing home or a tax increase to help keep it going — the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Champaign County CARE, Champaign County Health Care Consumers and others Wednesday urged voters to get behind the option that will keep the nursing home in the county’s hands. Research from Center for Medicare Advocacy, Kaiser Family Foundation and others have demonstrated that nursing home ownership matters when it comes to patient care and staffing levels, said Champaign County Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. … “For-profit facilities, particularly those owned by multistate chains, are more likely to reduce spending on care for residents and to divert spending to profits and corporate overhead,” the Medicare center said in a report. … A 2011 analysis of the 10 largest for-profit nursing home chains found they had the lowest staffing levels and highest levels of deficiencies between 2003 and 2008, Lennhoff said. She also said a new owner — especially a larger and/or for-profit one — who would fill more beds at the nursing home, even increasing the Medicaid census in the process, could be a “recipe for disaster.”

… Lennhoff said Champaign County doesn’t have to look any farther than neighboring Vermilion County to see what can happen when a county disposes of its nursing home. After the county sold its Vermilion Manor Nursing Home to FNR Healthcare Group in 2013, the county was caught by surprise when 39 employees were cut by the new owner, she said. Now called Gardenview Manor, the Danville nursing home was hit by the Illinois Department of Public Health in January for two “type A” violations, which mean “a substantial probability that death or serious mental or physical harm will result or has resulted” in the past three months.

Peorians Deserve Their Water Back

Source: Jenya Polozova, Food & Water Watch, December 14, 2017

Illinois American Water is running a complicated show in the City of Peoria. They control the water system and they’re charging residents twice as much as what customers of neighboring public systems pay and the U.S. average. Water privatization in Peoria mirrors issues that towns all across the country run into when they sell a public resource to a privately owned corporation. Each time it means: losing transparency, accountability, management, and reliability. In sum, local residents have little say over the operations of the water system. … With the deadline of fall 2018 fast approaching, it’s finally time for Peorians to take their water back – but the water company is not going to go come to the negotiation table without a fight. …

… Years of propaganda and messaging campaigns create doubt that a City has the ability to provide services. But, when it comes to water systems, public provision is the American way.
… This trend to public ownership continues today. In June, Missoula, Montana, bought its water system from a provide company to provide long-term stability and better water resource management, as well as to make necessary improvements. The system was losing more than half of its water through leaks. The city plans $30 million in investments over the next 5 years — all without raising water rates. As the mayor said: “The city of Missoula is in this business for only one reason and that’s to serve customers. Water is it.” While it is understandable that the local union in Peoria fears that jobs may be jeopardized if the city takes over the water company, the City Council can and should include recognizing the local labor union and keeping the existing workforce as part of the municipalization effort. Not a single union worker should be dropped. Furthermore, cities that take back their water systems experience incredible economic benefits as a direct result. Take the city of Evansville, Indiana, where remunicipalization from IAW was expected to save the city $14 million over a short period of five years. Or even the city of Cave Creek, Arizona, where the city took back their water from American Water and saved an astonishing $1,335,017. …

DCFS vows change to program that saw surge of child deaths

Source: David Jackson and Gary Marx, Chicago Tribune, October 25, 2017
 
Following a Tribune report on deaths of children in a privatized child welfare program, a state Department of Children and Family Services official said Tuesday that the agency has started taking back some of those cases from contract agencies and will handle them in-house.  Nora Harms-Pavelski, the agency’s deputy director of child protection, also disclosed at a legislative hearing Tuesday that agency administrators are now getting immediate reports on any instance of mistreatment of a child in the “intact family services” program, among other reforms. …

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Child deaths spike after DCFS privatizes ‘intact family services’
Source: David Jackson and Gary Marx, Chicago Tribune, October 23, 2017
 
The state Department of Children and Family Services had conducted two abuse investigations into Verna Tobicoe’s Southeast Side home in the months before her death in May 2015. The agency also had hired a nonprofit group to make frequent visits and conduct safety checks on Verna and two siblings. … And then 44-pound Verna became part of a growing pattern of similar fatalities: She was one of 15 Illinois children to die of abuse or neglect from 2012 through last year in homes receiving “intact family services” from organizations hired by DCFS, a Tribune investigation found.  There was only one such child death under the intact family services program during the previous five years from 2007 through 2011, according to DCFS records released to the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act. … The spike in deaths began in 2012 after DCFS completely privatized the program, putting the care of families in the hands of nonprofit groups but doing little to evaluate the quality of their work, give them guidance and resources, or hold them accountable when children were hurt or put at risk, the Tribune found. …

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.” …