Contracting Out Public Services Worsens Inequality and Lowers Wages

by Gregory N. Heires

Decision_contract_outContracting out public services—which aims to help the federal, state and local governments save tax dollars—often has a harmful effect on the community, including worsening inequality and lowering wages.

A recent study, “The Decision to Contract Out: Understanding the Full Economic and Social Impacts,” finds that the savings of outsourcing varies widely and often diminish over time. The study, by Daphne T. Greenwood of the Colorado Center for Policy Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, concludes that contracting out undermines our democratic principals by leading to corruption and less control over public funds.

“While reducing costs is most often the motive for outsourcing, a growing body of research documents that savings are minimal, on average,” the report says. “It is also not unusual for total costs to be greater when performed by private contracting firms than they were in-house.”

Studies show that contracting out typically leads to short-term savings of 5 to 10 percent. Over time, the savings often diminish because of a lack of competition and other factors.  Continue reading

Community Groups to host “Solidarity Fundraiser for Injured Volkswagen Workers”

chatforworkersChattanooga, Tennessee — A coalition of community groups announced today that they are hosting a “Solidarity Fundraiser for Injured Volkswagen Workers” this coming Friday, April 18th from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Chattanooga’s historic North Shore community. This event is being organized to raise money for Lon Gravett and Ed Hunter, two former Volkswagen employees who were badly injured while working on the assembly line at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen factory. The fundraiser is being hosted by Chattanooga for Workers, a local grassroots community group, and Mercy Junction, a Christian ministry group.

According to one local worker on the assembly line floor at the Chattanooga Volkswagen factory, “everyone who works here is injured.” Workers leave the factory everyday in pain, with soreness, numbness, and sometimes even more serious injuries. Health and safety issues related to production are a top concern for many workers involved in the union organizing drive, but they remained publicly silent on the subject due to the previous neutrality agreement between the United Auto Workers and Volkswagen.

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How 250 UPS Workers Fired for a Wildcat Strike Won Back Their Jobs

by Sarah Jaffe

 

After UPS fired 250 workers for a spontaneous protest, organizers harnessed the power of loyal customers who wanted their drivers back on the job.

After UPS fired 250 workers for a spontaneous protest, organizers harnessed the power of loyal customers who wanted their drivers back on the job.

Two hundred and fifty UPS drivers, clad in their brown uniforms, rallying in a Queens parking lot, must have been quite a sight. Not very many people got to see it, however. The 90-minute work stoppage outside the Maspeth, Queens, UPS facility on February 26 was a spontaneous protest against the firing, allegedly without due process, of one of their colleagues, Jairo Reyes.

On March 26, UPS retaliated by beginning to give all 250 notices that they’d be terminated—but the company did not fire the workers all at once. According to the Teamsters, UPS fired 20 drivers on March 31 and kept the rest waiting for the axe to fall while their replacements were trained.

Nearly two months later, all 250, including Reyes, will be headed back to work, their terminations reduced to ten-day suspensions. Driver Steven Curcio, who says he was one of the first to be fired, credits the support of the community, elected officials and particularly his own customers.

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Climate report shows job growth linkage with climate action

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International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued yesterday in Berlin, gives renewed confidence that the world can still avoid catastrophic climate change with rapid and sustained cuts to carbon emissions.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The world’s leading climate experts told us a week ago that climate is already changing in every part of the world, and that the costs of inaction would be catastrophic.  Yesterday’s report shows that the world has the capacity to meet the challenge.  Governments need to cease their prevarication and rise to that challenge now.”

The IPCC brought together hundreds of reports which show that investments in zero and low-carbon energy sources will need to at least triple by 2050.

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Not the Cesar Chavez I Knew

Cesar Chavez (photo wikimedia)

Cesar Chavez (photo wikimedia)

The new biopic of Cesar Chavez makes me sad—and angry. To be sure, it draws needed attention to a key chapter in American Latino, labor and social movement history, as well as to the man whose leadership was central to it all. But it does so by reducing the man, the movement and its meaning to caricatures. The lessons the film teaches contradict the real lessons of Chavez’s work. And the “excuse” that “no movie can tell the whole story” doesn’t really wash. An earlier film in which director Diego Luna had an acting role, Milk, does the man, movement and meaning justice. There have been others—just not this one.

Cesar’s core leadership gifts were relational. He had an ability to engage widely diverse individuals, organizations and institutions with distinct talents, perspectives and skills in a common effort. The film, however, depicts him as a loner: driving alone (when in reality he had given up driving), traveling alone (which he never did) and deciding alone (when his strength was in building a team that could respond quickly, creatively and proactively to the daily crises of a long and intense effort).

Cesar was an organizer’s organizer, the craft in which he prided himself. This required a focus on people, their strengths and weaknesses, the dynamics of power and work behind the scenes. In the film, he gives speeches, which he avoided, and engages in shouting matches on the picket line, which he never did. A believer in the rhetoric of action for many years, he rarely held press conferences, speaking to the public instead from the scene of the action. Continue reading

Striking Workers Shame Prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital Over Low Pay

by Bruce Vail

On Wednesday, union workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital began a three day strike, demanding higher wages. With their current pay, many workers qualify for food stamps.   (Rae Rawls)

On Wednesday, union workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital began a three day strike, demanding higher wages. With their current pay, many workers qualify for food stamps. (Rae Rawls)

Some 2,000 union workers went out on strike Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in a protest aimed primarily at exposing low wages at Baltimore’s second biggest employer and one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals.

Members of 1199SEIU United Health Workers East hit the picket lines at 6:00 a.m. April 9 for a three-day strike provoked by a stalemate in negotiations for a new contract to cover the union workers. The previous contract expired March 31, and renewal talks earlier this week stalled on the key issue of raising wages, according to 1199SEIU spokesperson Jim McNeill.

Hospital executives had received a ten-day warning of the strike, says 1199SEIU Vice President Vanessa Johnson, so there was ample time to ensure that patient care would not be adversely affected. Union members are primarily in maintenance and food service, with some technical workers such as surgical techs. Operations at the enormous Hopkins medical complex are reported to be near-normal with non-union nurses, administrators and temporaries filling in for the unionized strikers. Hopkins spokesperson Kim Hoppe would not respond to repeated inquiries for additional information from Working In These Times.

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Remembering Martin Luther King: Rallying for the Robin Hood Tax

by Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

April 4th was the Fiftieth anniversary of an event that we don’t like to remember: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, it also offers the chance to honor and carry forward MLK’s thinking and goals, particularly the concerns with poverty and inequality that he articulated with increasing intensity in the last years of his life.

So, on April 4th there was a national mobilization around the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), the proposal for a very small tax on financial transactions in stocks, currencies, debt and derivatives, futures and options based on these financial claims. The RHT has two goals: raising a large amount of money to reconstruct the U.S. political economy in a way that serves most of the population and at, the same time, restricting or even eliminating some of the most destructive aspects of finance and financial activities by throwing a small amount of sand into the gears of always increasing and always going faster treading volumes.

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