Tag Archives: Illinois

CPS kills $60M deal at the last minute over sexual harassment of janitors

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, July 6, 2018

Just before a scheduled vote, Chicago Public Schools officials withdrew plans to approve a $60.6 million contract for school cleaning and other facilities management work because the company set to be given the work has a poor history of protecting its janitors from sexual harassment, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. GCA Educational Services Central States Inc. was being recommended for the lucrative, three-year deal to manage facilities services at 34 Chicago schools, including cleaning, which has become an issue amid reports of filthy schools. But at the same June 27 meeting at which the Chicago Board of Education was set to award the contract, Arnie Rivera, CPS’s chief operating officer, announced he was pulling the recommendation to hire GCA to oversee the work at a group of South Side schools where some of the worst problems were found during inspections for cleanliness.

… But the Sun-Times confirmed it was because GCA’s parent company, ABM Industries, Inc., has had a series of problems keeping its janitors safe on the job. … ABM was featured in the 2015 PBS “Frontline” documentary “Rape on the Night Shift” about women who were sexually harassed and assaulted while working as night janitors in California. Since 2000, ABM has been sued three times by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over such claims. While under a three-year consent decree that a judge signed in one of those cases, the company was sued again by three janitors in California who accused ABM of failing to do enough to keep them from being sexually harassed and assaulted at work. In the spring of 2017, more female janitors in California complained to the company that supervisors sexually harassed them, then sought help from the EEOC, according to the documentary. And GCA Service Group — which ABM bought in 2017 — had been sued in 2012 by a school janitor in Tennessee who said she was fired after reporting incidents to supervisors of sexual harassment and assault by a coworker. …

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1 in 4 Chicago schools fails in new inspections spurred by dirty schools reports
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, July 3, 2018

Chicago Public Schools officials say their efforts to improve school cleanliness are working, but data they released late Tuesday showed that one in four schools still failed “blitz” inspections despite heightened awareness prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports. Just ahead of the July 4 holiday, CPS released school-by-school summary results of inspections by central office staffers and employees of Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, which have major contracts to clean and oversee facilities services in the school system. …

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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Illinois governor profits off ICE detention center contracts

Source: Natasha Korecki, Politico, July 9, 2018
 
Gov. Bruce Rauner this year reported turning a profit from a health care group that services U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, including facilities that hold immigrant families with children.  In his most recent statement of economic interests, the multi-millionaire Republican governor disclosed earnings from a private equity fund that owns Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit health care provider that has millions of dollars in government contracts with jails and prisons across the country, including immigrant detention centers. The governor said he relinquished investment decisions to a third party and has no direct ties to Correct Care Solutions, a group whose work extends to places like Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, one of just four immigrant family detention centers in the country contracted for profit. …

Young Boy With Autism Abused By His School Bus Aide And Driver

Source: Dave Savini, CBS Chicago, May 11, 2018

Nicky O’Toole has autism and struggles to communicate. For months, when he was just nine years old, he was hit and threatened by his school bus aide and driver. … O’Toole said as she struggled to figure out why her son’s behavior was changing, she initially did not suspect the First Student bus employees. … She says months of disturbing videos are in First Student’s possession. … There are training questions too. First Student’s contract with the District says they provide, “..a well-developed special-needs training program.” The bus aide says otherwise, according to O’Toole’s team of attorneys, Michael Krzak of Krzak and Rundio Law and Robert Clifford from Clifford Law Offices.

Parking meter deal keeps getting worse for city as meter revenues rise

Source: Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun Times, May 14, 2018

Chicago’s parking meter system raked in $134.2 million last year, putting private investors on pace to recoup their entire $1.16 billion investment by 2021 with 62 years to go in the lease, the latest annual audit shows. Four underground, city-owned parking garages took in $34 million in 2017, while the privatized Chicago Skyway generated $99.9 million in cash, separate audits of those assets show. Not a penny of those revenues, once a mainstay for city government, went to ease the avalanche of tax increases imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to solve the city’s $36 billion pension crisis. That’s because all three of those assets were unloaded by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who used the money to avoid raising property taxes while city employee pension funds sunk deeper in the hole. …

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Parking meters, garages took in $156M — but city won’t see a cent
Source: Mick Dumke and Chris Fusco, Chicago Sun-Times, February 13, 2017

Chicago’s parking-meter system took in $121.7 million last year, while four underground city-owned garages reaped another $34.7 million — with not a penny of that money going to the cash-strapped city government. Instead, the $156.3 million pot of parking cash went to private investors who control the meters and garages under deals cut by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and rubber-stamped by the City Council. … Chicago Parking Meters — formed by banking giant Morgan Stanley and other financial partners — paid the city $1.15 billion to manage the meter system and pocket the money fed into it for the next 75 years. The city took in $23.8 million from the meters in 2008, the last year before CPM took over the system. In the seven years since, the meter company has reported a total of $778.6 million in revenues. It’s on pace to make back what it paid the city by 2020, with more than 60 years of meter money still to come. … The garage agreement has also sent a stream of money into the coffers of private investors. … Over the nine years of the deal, the facilities have generated $292.6 million in revenue for their private operators. … Last week, the rights to the garages were sold to a group of foreign investors.

A Tale of Two P3s
Source: Yvette Shields, Bond Buyer, July 7, 2016

Chicago’s first mistake in its much-maligned parking meter lease was its choice of asset. That’s one conclusion of a report released Thursday by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research that looks at public-private partnerships and compares the details of two deals – Chicago’s nearly $1.2 billion 75-year meter system lease and Indiana’s $3.9 billion 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road. The Indiana deal is held up as a model while the Chicago parking lease offers a roadmap of pitfalls to avoid. …

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Putting the Public First in Public-Private Partnerships

Source: Gabrielle Gurley, The American Prospect, April 26, 2018
 
… More than a decade later, the Port of Miami Tunnel is the marquee example of a public-private transportation infrastructure partnership. … But the tunnel’s success is deceptive, since the unique factors that converged in South Florida cannot be replicated everywhere. For every Port of Miami Tunnel, scores of ill-conceived projects dot the American landscape. The United States lags behind not only in basic maintenance of existing assets at the end of their life cycles but in building the next generation of roads, bridges, rail, tunnels, and aviation projects. With public funds scarce in a climate of tax-cutting and budgetary austerity, the risk is that the contactor/partner pays the up-front costs but sticks future generations of taxpayers and rate-payers with exorbitant charges. … But states and municipalities can learn to appreciate the differences between partnerships that put the public first and the rip-offs that erode public confidence in government and drain public coffers.

… The Trump administration’s version of an infrastructure initiative relies heavily on private financing, which may or may not materialize. … But the Trump framework is only an exaggeration of recent trends. At best, new fiscal pressures can lead public officials to get creative, seeking private partners who may bring superior engineering, financing, and legal expertise, and better attention to maintenance and operations. But private-sector involvement does not automatically mean a better outcome. Citizens and public officials often forget that the private sector’s prime motive is profit, not philanthropy. If a firm cannot clear a good return on an investment, either the deal will not materialize or the terms will be onerous to the public. Public debates can be marred by false expectations, and confusion or obfuscation of what distinguishes a good partnership from a rip-off. …

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. …