Privatization continues to decimate public employment. Estimates show there are up to three times as many contract workers as there are federal public employees, with potentially millions more at the state and local levels. Privatization erodes and destroys existing public sector unions, driving down wages, benefits and working conditions.
Although private contractors sometimes claim to be more cost efficient, contracting out services actually costs the federal government more money in 33 out of 35 occupations surveyed. Neither federal nor state governments have any reliable estimates of how much money is saved or, more likely, wasted through the use of profit-driven contractors, and this potentially corrupt process produces both increased costs to taxpayers and diminished levels of service.
Corporations benefiting from privatization range from some of the largest global conglomerates to front-group businesses created to take advantage of tax credits and bidding requirements. For example, West Virginia Paving Company turned out to be an out-of-state corporation using out-of-state employees to do jobs formerly done by local state employees. Repairs on West Virginia’s bridges, previously done by local workers in the state’s highway division were awarded to a Florida company banned in New Jersey because of safety violations. The Professional Services Council (PSC) acts as the national lobby group for the industry, bolstered by the ideologically reactionary American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and national, state and local Chambers of Commerce. The privatization agenda has been taken up by both Republicans and Democrats as a way to increase political campaign contributions.
Public sector unions — including UE — have fought for higher wages and better working conditions for their members. These hard-fought gains can be erased overnight through privatization. Contract workers often face poverty wages and harsh working conditions and depend on government benefits such as food stamps to survive. Standards of living for such employees are generally precarious.
The fight against privatization is also a fight for racial justice. African Americans are 30 percent more likely to work in the public sector, and if they do they on average earn 25 percent more than if they worked in the private sector. The corporate attack on public workers has a thinly-disguised racial component in the depiction of public employees as lazy and overpaid.
UE Local 893 in Iowa has fought off several privatization schemes beginning in the early 1980s, and UE Local 170 in West Virginia has relentlessly, and often successfully, opposed executive and legislative branch privatization initiatives by state government since its founding in 2006.
The contagion of privatization extends to every part of our society: public water systems and assets are being sold, public roads, bridges and other infrastructure are being parceled out to politically connected private interests, and public education is being dismantled as corporations seek to profit by leveraging our nation’s future. The very concepts of the public sector and the public good are under attack in order to increase the already historic level of wealth inequality. A determined and unified response is imperative.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 76th UE CONVENTION:
- Opposes privatization and contracting out of public services and facilities;
- Demands Congress:
- Declare a moratorium on all new federal privatization;
- Investigate all current contracts to determine if they result in accountability, quality of services, and savings;
- Restore adequate federal support for state and local governments to meet public needs without cutting the wages, benefits and working conditions of workers;
- Cut off all funding that promotes privatization globally, namely schemes contained in the work of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
- Demands state attorneys general investigate all current and proposed state and municipal privatization for conflicts of interest and other forms of corruption and self-dealing;
- Supports state legislative moratoriums on contracting out public sector work;
- Supports passage of legislation at all governmental levels which requires work done with public funds provides for a living wage and comprehensive benefits;
- Opposes the use of inmate labor, as well as forcing workers on unemployment compensation or welfare to work, in order to replace public service workers;
- Supports the union’s work to organize private-sector service companies and agencies to improve the lives of these workers by bringing them up to public sector counterparts.