You wouldn’t hand your laptop to a hacker, right? Well, the Senate could make a move just as foolish. They’ll soon vote on nominations to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors and the nominees include a longtime advocate for postal service privatization and a lobbyist for the payday lending industry.
The Internet has changed how most of us communicate, but mail remains a central part of our communications infrastructure. A public postal service supports democracy and commerce by providing affordable mail service to everyone, rich or poor, in all areas of the country. It also nurtures marginalized communities by providing access to good jobs and career advancement.
Despite being under attack, including by the absurd requirement to “pre-fund” the next 75 years of its retiree health benefits in a 10-year span—a demand not made of any other federal agency or any well-run private company—the USPS has remained a vibrant public service.
Two court orders and the most expensive wrongful death settlement in California history should be enough. But not for Corizon, a corrections health care company owned by a private equity firm.
For seven months earlier this year, Mario Martinez, a prisoner in Corizon’s care at the Dublin, California Santa Rita Jail, suffered from asthma that kept getting worse. A judge issued two court orders requiring the company to provide Mario urgently needed surgery, but they didn’t operate. While Mario suffered, Corizon even settled a lawsuit for $8.3 million with the family of a prisoner who, five years earlier at the same jail, had died in the company’s care.
In July, Mario suffered an asthma attack, collapsed in his cell and died.
Mario’s mother, Tanti Martinez, had hoped to bring her son’s story to Pope Francis, who on Sunday visited a Philadelphia jail that also contracts with Corizon.
As the edge of summer burns into early autumn, students across the country are going back to school. Most are returning to friends and meeting teachers, but students at Illinois’ Barrington High School are arriving this year to signs that read, “Can’t live on $8.50,” and shouts of “Devuelvenos nuestros salarios!” (Give us back our wages!)
A majority of the school’s contracted janitors—organized by the Service Employees International Union—are striking because, after the Barrington school district renewed a contract with its employer in June, their wages were cut from $9.77 an hour. Already without sick days and health insurance, the janitors are now faced with even lower poverty wages.
As our publication, Making the Grade? Questions to Ask About School Services Privatization, discusses, school districts often don’t save money when they outsource support positions rather than keep them in-house. When contractors aim to maximize profit,
Last week, in a powerful affirmation of the common good, commissioners in Tennessee’s Johnson County unanimously opposed the privatization of the state prison within their county’s limits. A response to fears that the state government could soon outsource management of the Northeast State Correctional Complex, the resolution reads like a checklist of what democracy and public control can provide a community.
The “no” vote was prompted by the state government’s recent exploration of outsourcing the management of state properties, including prisons, hospitals, parks and even the University of Tennessee. State officials have also been trying to manage a shortage of prison officers after introducing a controversial overtime policy statewide to cut costs.
But the Johnson County commissioners recognize that outsourcing isn’t the answer: “Any type of privatization would be detrimental to our county, citizens and staff of Northeast Correctional Complex.” They also honored public service by dedicating a day each year in recognition of the prison’s current staff.
This week, the American Correctional Association (ACA) will hold its annual conference in Indianapolis, where thousands of government corrections officials, including wardens, jail administrators and sheriffs, will attend workshops and connect with their peers from across the country. Workshops include best practices for successful reentry programs for released inmates and working in corrections across generations.
But many workshops and events will feature a Who’s Who of private corrections companies, including Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Aramark, Corizon and Telmate.
Those companies should be familiar—many have been prominent in reports we’ve released over the past few years detailing the suffering of inmates in private hands, such as thousands of medical malpractice claims and stories about maggots appearing in prison food.
On the eve of the ACA conference, we have released a new report revealing how such conferences allow corrections companies to influence government officials in ways outside the public’s oversight.
The problems are well documented. Northrop Grumman botched the upgrade to New York City’s 911 systems while billing the city $300,000 to $430,000 annually for each of their 137 consultants. A $132 million dollar contract to upgrade phones and Internet services for municipal agencies in Orange County, California is already $13 million over budget while municipal employees report repeated outages and failed solutions from the contractor, Xerox. And who can forget all those failed Obamacare exchange websites brought to us by mega-information technology contractors such as CGI and Oracle?
For too long, local and state governments have turned over control of their critical digital infrastructure to companies claiming they could do the work cheaper and faster than public employees. But after the last few years of failures, cost overruns, and plain old shoddy work, local leaders are finally realizing that in this digital age,
Halloween is the time of year dedicated to scary stories, and in In the Public Interest report, “Out of Control,” there are 26 frightening and factual tales of how the push for government outsourcing is hurting taxpayers around the country.
You will be horrified by the real-life examples of Americans tricked by privatization, from a nun fighting cancer who was wrongly dumped from food stamps and Medicaid to foster children placed in severely abusive homes. Privatization is something to be feared when our elected officials aren’t carefully protecting the public’s interest.
We work every day to prevent future privatization horror stories from creeping and crawling their way into our democracy. Because just like Chicago, which leased its parking meters for 75 years to a Morgan Stanley-led private consortium, a bad privatization deal can haunt a community for generations.
Show off your Halloween spirit and share this terrifying report on twitter using the hashtag #PrivatizationHorror.
Introducing for-profit companies into America’s criminal justice system has been a bad deal for governments across the country.
During the past several years, a movement opposed to profit incentives in our criminal justice system has grown. Private prison corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have come under increasing scrutiny and pressure for cutting corners, contracts that include “occupancy guarantees” of 80, 90 and even 100 percent, and unsafe prison conditions.
But it’s not just the prisons that are handed over to CCA or GEO Group. Almost every service delivered inside the prison is being outsourced to for-profit corporations. Outsourced inmate health care, food and commissary services, telephone and financial services like money transfers between families and inmates are all adding to the poor conditions in prisons and burdening inmates and their families with extra costs.
For example, earlier this month, the Palm Beach Post broke the story of the deplorable treatment of prisoners by health care contractors in Florida prisons as contractors seek to maximize profits by cutting costs.
(Note: The following opinion piece was written by a single mother of two children who fears losing her job. For this reason her name has been withheld.)
What does “Made in America” mean to you? For consumers, it means a quality product. For workers, it means a good paying job and an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet “Made in America” can also stand for opportunity to exploit workers under harsh conditions and unfair wages. That’s what it means in the manufacturing plant where I work in Commerce.
I’ve worked three years for Huhtamaki, a Finnish-owned packaging manufacturer located in the Los Angeles area. We make ice cream containers and other products for Walmart. And the job, it’s just not what people are talking about when they talk about investing in new manufacturing jobs in our country.
As a single mother of two, making ends meet is hard.
In a scene right out of Orange Is the New Black, 1,000 inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio dumped their food in protest last week after maggots were found in the kitchen and dining areas. The prison’s food service program had been outsourced to the massive Aramark corporation.
Maggots have also been discovered in seven other prisons around the state – and Aramark runs the food service programs in all of them. Last month, maggots were discovered in two Michigan prisons where Aramark also runs the food service programs. The Philadelphia, PA-based corporation hasn’t taken responsibility, and officials in both states are sticking by the vendor, responding with small fines instead of canceling the contracts. Ohio fined Aramark $270,000 and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder fined the company a mere $200,000.
You can mail a letter anywhere in the domestic United States for just 49 cents. Think about that for a second. Your letter literally can travel thousands of miles – over mountains, across great lakes and through the desert – for less than the cost of a bag of M&M’s.
But some want to outsource the postal services and its workers to giant retail stores such as Staples, which would destroy what is perhaps the greatest bargain still available in America. A recent piece by David Morris in the Huffington Post explains why this is a bad idea.
There is something we can do about it. The American Postal Workers Union has launched a campaign, Stop Staples: The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale, which is garnering strong support from millions of Americans, including teachers. And as a huge seller of notebooks, pens and other school supplies,
“In states and cities across the country, lawmakers are expressing new skepticism about privatization, imposing new conditions on government contracting, and demanding more oversight.”
— The Atlantic, 4/23/14
“Is privatization a magic wand? Is it always going to come in and save you money? No. You have to do this well. You have to do your due diligence. You have to do a good contract and then you have to monitor and enforce that contract.”
— Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation Director of Government Reform
“The ideological fervor for privatization has ebbed.”
— John D. Donahue, privatization expert, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
Statements like these would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. For decades, runaway outsourcing of public services and assets enjoyed nearly nonstop momentum at the state and local levels. But when even the Reason Foundation is agreeing with us about responsible contracting,
When the car in front of you gets pulled over for speeding and you’re going just as fast, you tend to slow down.
Judging from a story in last Friday’s L.A. Times, this sort of common-sense approach may not be so common at the Santa Monica headquarters of the film and TV studio, Lionsgate. According to the Times’ reporting, Lionsgate is the last major studio to retain its unpaid internship program after the rest of the entertainment industry has started to pay interns.
The industry’s problems began in 2011, when interns working on the film Black Swan for Fox Searchlight filed a class action suit against the company, claiming violations of federal labor law. (Companies are not allowed to use interns as a source of free labor as viewed by the U.S. Department of Labor.) Following the Black Swan suit,
We already know that reckless outsourcing has negative impacts on the local community. But did you know it can also contribute to climate change? In a new op-ed I just published in Next City, Roosevelt University Professor Stephanie Farmer and I explore how poorly structured public-private partnership (P3) deals threaten long-term environmental sustainability.
To do it, we return to an old standby: Chicago’s parking meter debacle. Plans to build rapid bus lines and bike lanes have been put on hold in the Windy City because these projects would “compete” with the Morgan Stanley-backed corporate consortium that now runs the city’s 36,000 parking meters. And like so many other long-term outsourcing contracts, competition is a big no-no.
Chicago taxpayers would have to reimburse the consortium for lost revenue if they build projects that reduce traffic and carbon emissions – like bike lanes and bus rapid transit lines.
This afternoon the California State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1897, which would hold companies accountable for violations of workers’ rights committed by their labor suppliers. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), passed 45-20.
Gary Cohn recently wrote about AB 1897 for Capital & Main, noting that passage could have national implications for temporary workers and income inequality. Capital & Main’s Bill Raden and Cohn previously investigated such worker abuses taking place at agribusiness giant Taylor Farms. Labor advocates supported the bill, noting that major corporations have used staffing companies to dodge responsibility for sub-standard working conditions. Meanwhile, more than 50 business groups opposed the bill.
Last April, when Federico Lopez and his sanitation team were ordered to clean a Taylor Farms storage area, the 23-year-old didn’t like what he saw.
“I went into the hallway that they expected me to clean,” Lopez remembers. “There was pigeon feces, dead pigeons, dead bats and black mold. I’m certified for that, but the rest of my coworkers weren’t.” The crew had only been given dust masks for the job by the temporary labor contractor who employed them.
When Lopez raised concerns about the cleanup, he says Taylor Farms, which is the world’s largest producer of cut vegetables and salads, assured him everything was fine and not to bother with the mess. He says that later that evening, an equally unequipped and untrained night crew cleaned the room. Shortly after, Lopez was given his notice after only three weeks on the job.
This month Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) heard Lopez’s and other stories in the Central Valley town of Tracy from about 200 mostly Latino Tracy Farms workers and family members.
Unlike the Kelly Girls of years past, today’s temp workers are just as likely to be hired to fill blue collar jobs as office positions, with one major caveat: the new “temporary” hires who pick crops, pack vegetables or clean hotel rooms can work at those jobs for years at the same company — and with little or no advancement. And, according to recent research, that’s exactly the way some of America’s largest companies like it.
The practice has become so pervasive that California Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) is pushing forward a bill, modeled on similar laws passed in Illinois and Massachusetts, intended to hold companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights committed by their own labor suppliers.
“As new jobs are added to the economy, employers are utilizing the subcontracted model known as ‘perma-temps’ to avoid accountability in the workplace,” Hernandez said last week.
Inequality. You’re probably hearing this word everywhere, and rightly so. In the U.S. today, the top one percent own about 38 percent of the financial wealth in America. The bottom 60 percent own 2.3 percent. So what are some of the forces shrinking the middle class?
A new report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds that outsourcing is one of the central factors driving down wages and working conditions in the post-recession economy. The practice allows public and private employers to evade labor laws, avoid payroll taxes, push costs onto workers and shirk their responsibility to provide basic benefits. It also leaves workers in an ambiguous legal status with no clear path to hold their employers accountable for abuses like stolen wages.
The report, “Who’s the Boss: Restoring Accountability for Labor Standards in Outsourced Work,” shows that outsourcing is a shell game for employers trying to avoid accountability,
We’re excited to announce the creation of In The Public Interest’s ITPI Scholars Network as the next step in our growth and expanding influence on the issues of privatization and outsourcing of public services and assets across the country.
The ITPI Scholars Network brings together academics who are experts in diverse fields that relate to government privatization and outsourcing as well as responsible contracting.
Three members of the ITPI Scholars Network have recently released or are close to releasing studies that have found that careless outsourcing can harm communities, taxpayers and vulnerable residents:
• Dr. Daphne Greenwood of the University of Colorado released her new study The Decision to Contract Out: Understanding the Full Economic and Social Impacts. She found that reductions in contracted wages and benefits leads to a host of negative effects for the community at large; these harms include declining retail sales,
Skopje, Macedonia might seem a long way from Los Angeles, but for the 2,000 professional musicians who earn their living recording the film scores for Hollywood’s big movie studios, the Balkan capital — and the bleak future for L.A. movie musicians that it might represent — seems to be getting closer every day.
In at least one way, that future has already arrived in the form of Lionsgate’s Draft Day and the Ivan Reitman film’s nonunion score. Starring Kevin Costner, the movie tells an all-American story of a fictionalized general manager of the lowly Cleveland Browns and his efforts to save Cleveland football on NFL draft day by trading for the number one player pick.
Less all-American is the story behind the recording of Draft Day’s music, which was reportedly piped via the Internet to a Hollywood studio and the film’s composer, John Debney,