District Council 57

No Privatization of Public Services

As state and local agencies grapple with this unprecedented fiscal crisis, privatization of public sector jobs rears its ugly head once more. Traditionally, service sector jobs such as custodians and food service workers have been the target. Increasingly we are seeing contracting out proposals in other areas. Billing operations, hospital ancillary services, transportation, and PBX switchboard services are all areas that are among those vulnerable to privatization.


Private contractors always offer a low and attractive bid when offering services. The Union experience has been that not only do costs go up over time, but often contractors fail to fulfill their obligations. Last year at one of our county hospitals, the contract laundry company failed to maintain their carts so our custodian members had to push them to the loading dock at great risk for injury. Ultimately the company folded, shuttering their doors without paying the contract employees, and leaving the hospital scrambling for a substitute service.

So the contractor’s bid is less expensive for very obvious reasons. A contractor needs only to pay minimum wage. That contracted worker cobbles together a meager living working sometimes two or three jobs, often with no health insurance (or insurance that is unaffordable if offered.) This leads to use of the county hospital emergency room for health care, which is a poor use of health care resources and unfairly burdens taxpayers.

AFSCME will fight any efforts to contract out union jobs at every level. Union leaders stand ready to take this issue on. These are hard times for public agencies, but contracting out of public services is a tempting quick fix, but ultimately a proven poor solution. 



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