Tag Archives: Tennessee

Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

LAST YEAR, TENNESSEE’S governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …


How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

Continue reading

More Tennessee trouble for Nashville based CoreCivic prison

Source: Associated Press, September 19, 2017

Tennessee corrections officials have fined a private prison company $43,750 because of problems it had counting inmates at a jail it operates, according to state documents. The state Department of Correction levied the penalty against CoreCivic in May over breach of contract due to the woes at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a medium-security lockup in Hartsville that holds up to 2,552 male inmates, a letter released in a public records request shows. … According to state reports, officers weren’t counting correctly; inmates weren’t in the correct cells; and, in most cases, only one worker was counting inmates without another standing watch. The reports also said it was taking too long for officers to count and inmates were allowed to move around during count time. …

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. …


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. …

Continue reading

Mayor Barry looks at privatizing Nashville airport to generate transit funds 

Source: Joey Garrison & Nate Rau, The Tennessean, June 26, 2017 

Mayor Megan Barry’s administration is exploring the privatization of the city-operated Nashville International Airport to an outside management company to generate funding for mass transit in Middle Tennessee. The mayor’s office confirmed hearing a presentation in May from representatives of Oaktee Capital Management, a California-based hedge fund that has also made bids to run city-operated airports in other cities. …

Faison bill would force review of Mt. View proposal

Source: Steve Marion, Standard Banner, March 21, 2017

The state House government operations committee will consider a bill next week calling for legislative review of contracts such as the one proposed by the Department of Children’s Services for privatization of Mountain View Youth Development Center. Meanwhile, Jefferson County Commission added its voice to the chorus of concerns regarding the DCS’s plan. … Faison submitted an amendment March 8 to his House Bill 224, which requires DCS to appear before the government operations committee regarding its performance audit. The amendment states that a contract entered into by a state agency such as the one to privatize Mountain View must be reviewed by the fiscal review committee. Faison, who chairs the government operations committee, said he has temporarily taken the bill off notice until a meeting next Wednesday due to an unrelated matter.

… The primary option under consideration by the state involves contracting with a current DCS provider to open a 60-bed “Level Three” facility at Mountain View. That portion would be “staff secure.” Youth would have more freedom inside the facility than at present. At the same time, the private provider would operate up to 24 hardware-secure beds in Charlie Unit, keeping youth behind steel doors and a razor-wire fence. … Miller said in late February that state officials plan to select a contractor for the facility before the end of the fiscal year June 30. DCS says the state can save $3 million on the plan – funds that can be used for “prevention services.” Local Youth Services Officer Barry Fain questioned that and other DCS motivations in appearances before Dandridge Council and Commission last week. …

Knox County family sues Rural/Metro for death of son

Source: Kelly Reinke, WATE, February 24, 2017

An East Tennessee family is suing Rural/Metro for the death of their 14-year-old son. Andrew Merrell died in a car accident in Corryton in 2016. The family said Rural/Metro did not have the right tools to save their son. … The lawsuit said responders did not have the necessary equipment to get Andrew Merrell out of the car and because of that he died. … Jones said some Rural/Metro stations have this equipment, big saws commonly referred to as the “jaws of life.” He also said Rural/Metro dispatched a unit 30 minutes away from the crash that did not have these tools. “There was a station that was three miles away from the Grainger County lines that could have provided these services,” said Jones. …

Read the complaint.

Lawsuit: Understaffing Leads to Insufficient Care for Diabetic Inmates at Private Prison

Source: Steven Hale, Nashville Scene, February 9, 2017

Since it opened a little more than a year ago, Tennessee’s newest and largest prison has been a mess. Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, run by the private prison operator formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, was forced to stop accepting new inmates after just four months of operation. Staffing shortages had created a situation where, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, “the guards were not in control of the housing units, were not counting inmates correctly and were putting inmates in solitary confinement for no documented reason.” … A lawsuit filed last month in federal court on behalf of four inmates at the facility claims that understaffing there has led to insufficient care for some 60 inmates who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The plaintiffs are seeking to bring a class action, representing all such inmates who “who are, who have been, or who in the future may become, housed at Trousdale Turner correctional facility.” … In addition to corrections officers who are inadequately trained, the suit alleges that the medical staff at Trousdale — which has a capacity of 2552 inmates — consists of four nurses and two nurse practitioners, with no nutritionist and no medical doctor on staff following the resignation of a doctor who hasn’t been replaced. …

Woodmore bus crash: Can county turn back clock on bus privatization?

Source: Zack Peterson, Times Free Press, December 31, 2016

Green belongs to an old guard of local drivers who have largely been phased out of work since Hamilton County brought in its first private transportation company nearly 15 years ago. That 84-person group has dwindled to 49, he said. … They remember a prophetic report in 2001 warning school board members of the safety and accountability concerns that private companies bring. They remember the school board claiming it could save $1 million on a switch. And everyone will always remember Nov. 21, when a 24-year-old Durham School Services bus driver swerved into a utility pole and a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary children onboard. … Now, as Green sits on his bus, he wonders whether the county could abandon Durham and return to a more robust system of local contractors that he believes is safer. … To understand the transportation arrangement, you have to go back to 1997, when Jesse Register came to oversee the merger of Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools as superintendent. For years, the separate county and city systems had developed different transportation arrangements. While the city had purchased a bus fleet and hired its own drivers over the years, the county had signed contracts with 84 independent owners like Green. After spending the first few years on magnet school programs and rezoning, Register turned his eye to transportation in 2001 and reached a difficult conclusion: It was too expensive to let both systems continue operating side by side. … Since there had been no tax increase and the district depended on funding from the County Commission, Register said he and other school board members moved to convert to one private transportation firm. After putting out feelers, three bids came in from Durham School Services, First Student and Laidlaw. The school board wanted to keep local contractors in the picture, Register said, in effect creating one private company in addition to the 84 drivers who already existed. … Over time, as local contractors have retired or grown too old, their routes have kicked over to the private company in place. The county struck a four-year deal with First Student in 2002, which ended four years later when school board members said they wanted a stronger contract to make the next private busing company more accountable to them, archives show. Durham won the next contract in 2007. Local contractors pushed back on the changes, and during the 2001 bidding process they took their concerns to attorney Tracy Wooden, who recounted their concerns about losing their livelihood under a privatized system in a 30-page report. …

… There’s talk of this contract because community members and some officials have expressed concerns about communication and accountability in light of the Woodmore crash. CEO David Duke told the Times Free Press earlier this month Durham only received two complaints against 24-year-old Johnthony Walker over speeding before the crash. Afterward, Hamilton County Schools released more than 30 pages of complaints and correspondence about Walker, including handwritten letters from students and a parent citing the driver’s speeding and recklessness. But Durham, which provides the majority of the county’s 250 buses and drivers, didn’t receive several of them, Duke said. …


Exclusive: Tennessee State Senator Calls for Hearings on School Bus Privatization
Source: Mike Elk, Pay Day Report, November 29, 2016

In the wake of a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga that left 6 children dead, many are seeking for ways to reform the current system that allows school districts to outsource busing to privatized companies. An investigative report by Payday Report first revealed that Durham School Services had a long history of worker intimidation, safety violations, and low wages, which some say make it difficult to attract qualified drivers. Now, following Payday’s reporting, State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the Chairman of Senate Democratic Caucus, is calling for the State Senate to convene hearings on the danger of outsourcing school bus services. … Yarbo’s call comes as Republican Governor Bill Haslam has also called for examining the safety risks of outsourcing school bus services to private companies. … Its unclear if Haslam intends to push legislation to address school bus privatization. However, Haslam is increasingly facing calls to pay school bus drivers better and ensure that contractors hold contractors accountable for safety violations. According to federal safety data, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes in the past two years. These accidents have resulted in 142 injuries and 3 fatalities. During that same time period, the company was cited 53 times for “unsafe driving conditions”.  According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance” than Durham. …

Tennessee Governor Says Outsourcing Buses Needs To Be Reassessed After Chattanooga Crash
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 28, 2016

After last week’s school bus crash in Chattanooga, Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s leaders need to reassess how to use private companies to operate buses. Emails show administrators were warned about the driver of the bus months ago. The accident has claimed six lives, and Haslam says it appears to be a sign of deeper problems. … One big question is why 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was driving a school bus. Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves had complained he was dangerous behind the wheel. Walker was said to be unrepentant when criticized about his driving, but because he was employed by a private bus contractor, administrators say their options for dealing with him were limited. Haslam seems to be saying districts should get more power to discipline drivers. He stops short of saying outsourcing is a bad idea in all circumstances.

CCA jailer charged with drag racing, having gun while drunk

Source: Michelle Willard, Daily News Journal, October 26, 2016

A correctional officer with Corrections Corporation of America was arrested and charged by police early Wednesday morning with possessing a firearm while under the influence, according to an arrest report from the Murfreesboro Police Department. Francisco Dominguez III, 28, of Kings Ridge Drive in Murfreesboro was charged after Sgt. Allen Cox reported he stopped two drivers for drag racing on Memorial Boulevard. …

County leaders consider pros and cons of ambulance service switch

Source: Tiffany Neely, WBRC, October 13, 2016

Shelby County discussed some possible changes to its ambulance system at a public works committee meeting on Thursday. Plans were laid out for a future ambulance system run by the Shelby County Fire Department. The committee will soon decide whether to use that system or keep the current system, American Medical Response. … The debate comes after American Medical Response requested a few changes to their contract that could more than double costs for the county. That’s why the county is considering using fire department employees to man the ambulances as well. … Shelby County Fire Department proposed a plan with a total of almost $600,000 less than AMR, but they said there will be a 12 percent fire fee increase. Commissioners said they the proposal is looking like the winning option, but the decision is about more than cost—it’s about the safety of Shelby County citizens. … The final decision will come Monday. The switch could come as soon as January 2017, however, it would mean a $3 tax increase per month for county residents. …


Ambulance company AMR tells Shelby County it wants more money or will end contract
Source: Linda A. Moore and Donald Connolly, The Commercial Appeal, August 15, 2016

Ambulance provider American Medical Response has notified Shelby County government it is not making money under the current $1.7 million annual contract and given the county until Aug. 31 to pay more or end the agreement. Officials with Colorado-based AMR sent a letter to county fire Chief Alvin Benson last month detailing the proposed changes. It was not immediately clear how the proposed changes would affect fire fees or ambulance service for the areas that are part of the contract: unincorporated Shelby County and Arlington, Lakeland and Millington. … AMR has proposed three options: first, creating a hybridized service paying AMR an additional $2.2 million per year and requiring the Shelby County Fire Department to staff two ambulances and make calls; second, increasing the contract by $2.8 million per year; third, terminating the agreement after 120 days, allowing the county to bid the contract again. … He has also not ruled out the county providing ambulance service — buying the necessary equipment and hiring trained personnel. Adding to the dilemma, the demand comes more than a month after the county adopted the 2017 budget. …

Shelby County Considers Taking Over Ambulance Service
Source: Mike Matthews, Local Memphis, August 11, 2016

The company that runs ambulance service in much of Shelby County, American Medical Response (A-M-R) is telling folks they are losing money. They are asking for a big increase. So big, as Local 24 Watchdog Mike Matthews tells us, Shelby County officials are considering running the ambulance service themselves. … Here is one thing everybody is hearing. A-M-R officials say they are losing money running ambulance service in Shelby County. They want an increase in money; an increase that some say is about double of what they get now. … If the Shelby County officials were to give A-M-R the increase they want, they would probably have to raise fire fees. County residents pay fire fees for these types of services, and that increase would affect a lot of people who have A-M-R ambulance service. … Now, the future might mean Shelby County ends up running their service.  According to Kennedy, “Obviously we will be looking to see how much it costs for us to operate the service, as opposed to contracting it out. What kind of revenues we could get.” …