Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Roxbury Community College drops IT privatization plan

Source: Lauren Krantz, Boston Globe, January 18, 2016

Roxbury Community College has abandoned a plan to privatize its information technology department after the state auditor criticized the school for failing to competitively bid the deal, documents show. After the auditor’s reprimand, the troubled college announced last month it will again use college employees to run the department, even as it simultaneously fired the department’s unionized workers and continues to pay the private contractor. … The auditor’s office said the college should take extra precaution when hiring private companies because it has a history of ignoring public bid laws, which are intended to protect taxpayer dollars. … On Dec. 15, the college informed the auditor it would not go through with the privatization, although it has said it still plans to pay CampusWorks for two years during the transition. The day before that letter, however, Roberson sent notices to the department’s five unionized members, who belong to a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, saying they would be laid off due to “fiscal and programmatic reasons.”

​Outsourcing the Harvard Library

Source: Noah D. Cohen, The Harvard Crimson, November 13, 2015

In technical services, our experience suggests that budgetary savings since 2012 have been due not to increased efficiency, but rather to severe cuts in quality and to the outsourcing of library work. These trends have allowed the library to continue processing books with smaller staffing, but this has come at the sacrifice both of the quality of its collections and of its contractual commitments to its employees. … It seemed clear to the copy catalogers involved in the project that the new cataloging standards were designed to facilitate outsourcing by allowing substandard vendor supplied cataloging to be accepted without meaningful revision by staff. These new, reduced cataloging standards are now being used to overlook the errors already found in a recently introduced workflow called “direct to destination” where outside, for-profit companies catalog for Harvard and send titles directly to shelf without review by local expert staff. … Librarians and library staff at all levels have a basic accountability to the university and the intellectual mission it serves. By outsourcing our work to vendors, Harvard is ceding the independent function of the library as a curator of information in the service of knowledge to a handful of private corporations whose main interest lies in maximizing profits.

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Following Restructuring, Libraries Report Large Savings
Source: Karl M. Aspelund, Harvard Crimson, November 2, 2015

Harvard’s library system has reduced spending by $25 million in aggregate since 2009, largely due to a multi-year restructuring effort completed in 2012, according to an update distributed to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences prior to its meeting on Tuesday. … The number of employees in the library system dropped from 1,094 in 2009 to 771 in 2015, a nearly 30 percent decrease, the document says. The restructuring effort included transfers of staff to other administrative offices—such as human resource staff and technology specialists—but also involved controversial cuts to staffing. Spending on salaries decreased from 53.2 to 50 percent of total spending within the library system between 2009 and 2014.

Harvard Library Workers Resist Top-Down Restructuring and Austerity
Source: James Cersonsky, Labor Notes, February 12, 2013

…Staff cuts are only one plank of a broader shift in Library governance. At the recommendation of a management consulting firm and a two-year in-house study, the 73 libraries on campus have been merged into one “Harvard Library.”

A subset of workers—access services and technical services—have new duties, and in some cases new worksites, as part of a “shared services” structure. These workers run the Library’s bread-and-butter operations: cataloging books, responding to patron inquiries, supervising student workers, managing the library’s website, and processing book loans from other universities…..

…A “shared services” model often entails de-skilling. At a number of universities, converting to a shared-services model for academic departments has detached workers from their localized knowledge and stripped their workplaces of the relationships that help the departments function….

…Under a similar push in University Financial Services, employees have been fired for not processing invoices fast enough. The logic of the performance measurements—employees must work at or above average speed 75 percent of the time—makes it impossible for everyone to succeed. Meanwhile, most workers aren’t getting paid any extra to work under the new system….

Law Enforcement Investigations and Actions Regarding For-Profit Colleges

Source: David Halperin, Republic Report, Updated October 9, 2015

This is a list of pending and recent significant federal and state law enforcement investigations of, and actions against, for-profit colleges. It also includes some major investigations and disciplinary actions by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense.  It does not include investigations or disciplinary actions by state education oversight boards.  It also does not include lawsuits prosecuted only by private parties — students, staff, etc. To date, 37 state attorneys general are participating in a joint working group examining for-profit colleges, according to the office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Many of those are actively investigating specific for-profit colleges in their states.

Private colleges, public safety: few disclosure requirements for campus police

Source: Shawn Musgrave, Muckrock, September 15, 2015

…Campus cops are empowered as “special state police officers,” a category which also includes police employed by hospitals and railroads. As of June 2015, there were 1,500 special state police officers across Massachusetts, the vast majority of whom work at colleges and universities. .. Sworn campus police may carry weapons, make arrests and use force, just like any other officer. Statute grants special state police “the same power to make arrests as regular police officers” for crimes committed on property owned or used by their institutions. … Hundreds of campus police are thus full officers of the law. Yet special state police are exempt from the Massachusetts public records law, which requires government agencies to release most documents upon request, including police reports. … In June, after the shooting of a knife-wielding suspect by Massachusetts state police near its campus, Boston University police rejected a request for reports filed by its own responding officers. Incident reports are typically public records when completed by municipal or state police. A BUPD lieutenant responded that his department would release the report only under subpoena. … Massachusetts case law supports this interpretation. In a suit brought by Harvard’s student newspaper, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled in January 2006 that the public records statute does not cover private university police.

Somerset, Somerset Berkley cafeteria workers remain district employees under new contract

Source: Michael Gagne, Herald News, August 19, 2015

The two dozen full- and part-time employees who work in the cafeterias and kitchens in schools throughout the Somerset kindergarten-to-Grade-8 School and Somerset Berkley Regional school districts will remain district and regional district employees — rather than have their positions outsourced to new food service provider Chartwells, which had been awarded the school lunch contracts in both school districts for the upcoming year. … And they did so at a cost, according to AFSCME, Council 93, Local 1701 President Steve Mello. Mello said the employees, whose positions are bakers and cooks, gave up a lot. … The memorandum of agreement signed on June 25, 2015, covers a one-year period, from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016. According to its terms, vacation time has been reduced by half for both full-time and part-time employees. Holiday pay for George Washington’s Birthday and Patriot’s Day had also been eliminated. The contract also stipulates that new employees hired on or after Sept. 1, 2015 may earn up to 10 sick days a year, and accrue no more than 20 sick days at any given time. Employees hired prior to Sept. 1, 2015 “will not accrue any additional sick time but will be able to use their existing accrued sick days,” the contract reads. The contract also included a new longevity stipend schedule.

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Somerset cafeteria workers worried about being absorbed by contractor
Source: Taunton Gazette, April 4, 2014

Longtime union cafeteria workers in the Somerset and Somerset Berkley school districts have serious concerns that their jobs could be compromised. Led by Alison Viana and Doreen O’Gara, both Somerset residents who work at Somerset Berkley Regional High School, with 15 and 21 years experience, respectively, half a dozen workers came to address the School Committee on Thursday night. ….. The letter Viana gave to a Herald News reporter and later to the School Committee said, “It has been brought to our attention that the school committees (Somerset K-8 and regional) are still leaning toward an outside source to feed our children. While (Whitson Culinary Group) showed promise when they came to us in January (2013), this is not so at the present time.” That statement was issued after initial contract negotiations between school officials and AFSCME Local 93 on Tuesday, Viana said. … “It didn’t look good,” Viana said of the concept that Whitson, which manages the lunch program at all town and regional schools, could absorb the districts’ public food service work force….

… Furtado said in an interview on Thursday night that there have never been discussions about “letting people go.” However, the School Committee could address the option to have food service workers become a part of Whitson, rather than working for the municipalities. Such a scenario could affect salaries and benefits, including health insurance, vacations and employee seniority…..

Save Your Public Library!

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, July 30, 2015

In 2010, the chief executive of LSSI admitted to The New York Times that the company saves money by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Cutting overhead” can mean fewer services and reduced hours. Privatized libraries make up for less professional staff by depending on unpaid volunteers and automation. …. Even LSSI’s basic sales pitch that they can operate libraries for less than the public is suspect. When the town of Dartmouth, MA, evaluated a proposal to privatize their libraries, they found there was no evidence that privatization saved communities money. San Juan, TX, remunicipalized their libraries after contracting with LSSI for five years due to frustrations with the company’s refusal to divulge its profit margin. After bringing their libraries back under local control, town leaders were able to extend branch hours, giving residents better flexibility and access. The California town of Calabasas canceled its contract with LSSI and saved $68,000 in their first year back with public library service.

After Brockton contract loss, American Medical Response plans to cut jobs

Source: Jessica Bartlett, Boston Business Journal, July 10, 2015

American Medical Response of Massachusetts is planning to cut jobs at its Brockton and Avon facilities less than a week after the company lost out on the city of Brockton’s 911 service contract to Brewster Ambulance. The ambulance provider, which has operations throughout Massachusetts and is part of a national medical transportation chain, is only one of the victims to Brewster’s rise to prominence in the area. Fallon also lost out to Brewster for ambulance services in Quincy, though the company said it isn’t planning any layoffs. “We are looking at right now what that means for our Brockton and Avon facilities and how many people may be laid off,” said Ron Cunningham, a spokesman for AMR…Most of the impact will be felt at the Brockton 911 facility, which employs 85 people. The facility won’t shut down entirely – it will still provide transports to and from hospitals and nursing homes – but it won’t need to employ as many people.

State’s health exchange settlement not a done deal

Source: Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2015

The settlement announced this week between the state and Noridian Healthcare Services over Maryland’s bungled online health exchange is not quite a done deal. The $45 million deal must still be approved by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland and the North Dakota insurance regulators, who oversee Noridian Healthcare’s parent company….Under the agreement worked out by Attorney General Brian Frosh and approved unanimously Tuesday by the board that oversees the exchange, Noridian will repay the state $45 million of the $73 million it was paid for building the flawed system. The online health insurance marketplace, created under the Affordable Care Act, never worked properly, delaying the applications of thousands of people without employer health care and in need of coverage….Massachusetts appears to be the only other state to have experienced technical difficulties that it has publicly settled with a main contractor. In that case, the state agreed to pay the company $35 million more to wind down operations; however, the Massachusetts attorney general launched an investigation of the troubled exchange that could recoup up to $12 million from CGI, a cap agreed to as part of the settlement, according to a Boston Globe report. Oregon remains in litigation with its main contractor and isn’t likely to settle soon…

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Noridian to pay $45 million to state, U.S. government for flawed exchange
Source: Josh Hicks, Washington Post, July 21, 2015

The prime contractor hired to build Maryland’s flawed online health exchange will pay $45 million to the state and federal governments to avoid a lawsuit over its performance, Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Tuesday. Maryland’s health exchange drew national attention last year when the Web site crashed moments after launching. It was plagued by glitches for months afterward. Noridian Healthcare Solutions agreed to pay $20 million upfront and an additional $25 million in annual installments of $5 million over five years, Frosh’s office said. The payments represent 61 percent of the total paid to the company, based in Fargo, N.D., for the development and launch of the Web site….

States that have struggled with healthcare sites consider lawsuits
Source: Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2014

Enrollments in the nation’s healthcare program have nearly concluded, but for states whose insurance exchanges have been crippled by technical problems, a difficult phase is just beginning: potential legal battles and a race to overhaul their systems before federal grant money dries up.

Officials in Oregon, Massachusetts and Maryland are exploring legal options as they sever contracts with those who created their sites. All three states are considering a move to the federal exchange, which had its own grievous start-up problems but is now largely stable, or licensing the technology of a more successful state such as Connecticut. …

…Two recent reports — an independent review commissioned by Kitzhaber and a federal “technical review” obtained by the Oregonian — outline potential legal arguments for the two sides. The federal technical review suggested that Oracle threw “bodies, rather than [a] skill set” at the website problems, but also found that the state exchange had no leverage in its contract “to make [Oracle] accountable” when things went wrong….

….In Maryland, where the state exchange board recently voted to end its $193-million contract with main contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the question of blame has gone in circles. Last fall Noridian and one of its subcontractors, EngagePoint Inc., began fighting in court over the website failures. Shortly before the case moved to arbitration in late February, EngagePoint alleged that Noridian “lacked the expertise, resources and commitment actually required” to develop the website. Noridian said in a statement that EngagePoint’s claims were “false, unsupportable and will be contradicted by evidence” and pointed to hundreds of fixes that it had made in attempts to repair the system….

Maryland set to replace troubled health exchange with Connecticut’s system
By Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, March 28, 2014

Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair….

Under cover of darkness, female janitors face rape and assault

Source: Bernice Yeung, Center for Investigative Reporting, Reveal, June 23, 2015
Daffodil Altan of Reveal, Sasha Khokha of KQED and Andrés Cediel and Lowell Bergman of IRP reported for this story.

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….The night shift janitor is an easy target for abuse. She clocks in after the last worker has flipped off the lights and locked the door. It’s tough work done for little pay in the anonymity of night, among mazes of empty cubicles and conference rooms. She’s even less likely to speak up if she’s afraid of being deported or fired. Across the country, janitors at companies large and small say their employers have compounded the problem by turning a blind eye to complaints and attacking their credibility when they report abuse at the hands of their supervisors or co-workers. In the janitorial world, ABM is the largest. It employs the most cleaners in the country and has a history of facing charges that it failed to prevent sexual violence. It’s among a rare group of 15 American corporations to have been targeted multiple times by the federal government for sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued ABM three times since 2000 for mishandling complaints of sexual harassment or worse. Two of those cases involved allegations of rape, which is striking considering how rare it is for people to make these types of allegations publicly. In all three cases, the company settled and agreed to make improvements…..

….We found 42 lawsuits from the past two decades in which ABM janitors said they had been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped at work. An unknown number of cases have been hidden from public view through confidential settlements. And despite government-imposed reform plans, similar accusations continue to crop up. In Los Angeles, two lawsuits filed in the past year say women who complained about explicit comments or sexual assault were ignored. After more than a year of correspondence, ABM officials declined to be interviewed. The company instead provided a statement from its lawyer, Miranda Tolar. It said the way ABM handles the issue is the “gold standard” for the industry…..

….In Massachusetts, seven female janitors cleaning universities and office buildings for a company called UGL Unicco sued their employer after they said their supervisor touched and harassed them. The case settled in 2002 for $1 million; the company did not admit wrongdoing. Janitors have sued the company five times in federal courts since then. In Minnesota, a janitor filed a lawsuit in 2009 that claimed she was raped repeatedly by her boss while on the clock cleaning a shopping mall. When it got notice of her complaint, cleaning company Service Management Systems asked the accused manager to gather evidence for the case. The company settled the case and later said this was against its protocol. The janitor now works uneventfully for ABM…..

….Janitors have claimed that they were forced to clock in using two different names to avoid racking up overtime, Lerner said. They say unscrupulous contractors call them independent contractors so they don’t have to follow labor laws. Segments of the workforce aren’t authorized to work in the U.S., a scenario that makes workers vulnerable to abuses and puts companies at risk for legal problems. Another part of the industry operates completely on the black market. The outfits go unregistered with the government to avoid paying taxes or insurance. These off-the-grid companies can charge far less than their competitors, said Lilia Garcia-Brower of the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, which is partially funded by ABM to ferret out labor violations among nonunionized companies…..