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Re: “City Charged with Union-Busting Efforts as Federal Suit is Filed

OK, I understand that you are dismissing the fact that the fear of getting laid off in a year might pressure folks to take a buyout offer even though they know that it is not in their best interest.

But now you are also dismissing the fact that our current services pick up excess trash, over-sized items and huge amounts of yard waste? I don't think that anyone is still buying the number-of-stops argument anymore. According to the AFSCME administrator, public workers even go behind the privatized routes in the city to collect what they leave behind. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/… In nicer areas, it's not uncommon to see ten, thirty, fifty bags of leaves or yard clippings; it's obvious that it takes as long to load those bags as it would to do an entire block of one-can pick-ups. Let's see what happens in neighborhoods already suffering from blight when folks can't afford to hire someone with a truck to help them take their excess trash to the dump, much less pay the dumping fee. And let's find out if slumlords are really going to pay to dump what's left of someone's belongings after an eviction. Cutting services doesn't just mean that some people will lose their jobs or make less money--neighborhoods will suffer.

So let's see some legitimate numbers demonstrating how cutting the workforce of a sanitation department creates "greater efficiencies."

Posted by tennesseelabor on 07/13/2011 at 6:50 PM

Re: “City Charged with Union-Busting Efforts as Federal Suit is Filed

So is the buyout proposal in writing yet? Are there age/longevity limits or is it open to anyone?

We have already seen how eager people are to believe anything in order to push through privatization--including Councilman Conrad's completely debunked savings statistics. http://tri-statedefenderonline.com/article… So now that no one can even point to stats that suggest savings, you are saying that we should just believe that a buyout will make the sanitation department (that now pays for itself and contributed $1 million back into the general fund last year) more "efficient?"

That's a little vague.

Pitting the union leaders against the rank-and-file is a red herring here. The people running the local are from the international and will keep their jobs regardless of what happens to the local. No one thinks that a $50,000 buyout is a good deal--especially for the many workers with too many injuries to be hired by a private company and especially in a serious economic recession.

But if it is offered, those who take it might end up better off than those who gamble by sticking with their jobs and end up getting laid off without the chunk of cash.

I would be interested to see studies showing long-term efficiency gains (as you imply is possible) with a buyout of over 10% of a sanitation department, rather than the withering away of services leading to privatization that logic and history would suggest.

Posted by tennesseelabor on 07/13/2011 at 4:44 PM

Re: “City Charged with Union-Busting Efforts as Federal Suit is Filed

The city is absolutely trying to bust public workers' unions; pay cuts are one thing, but circumventing the negotiation procedure delegitimizes the entire process.

Also, it is completely disingenuous for council members to claim that the buyout is anything other than the first step to privatization. Mayor Wharton has already admitted that privatization is fine with him so long as it starts with people leaving voluntarily. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wkno/new…

And to Councilman Flinn, there is no conflict of interest between the unions and the employees here. Workers have an interest in working--in having a job. If you're going to be broke and jobless in a year no matter what, you might as well get in on the buyout. As the Mayor explained to WKNO, once there are not enough workers on a route, it will be privatized. Clearly those who do not take the buyout will be laid off once the department is anemic.

Managed competition is not a compromise. Jeff was correct in pointing out that a number of local governments must revert back to public control after trying managed competition (or privatization) because of cost overruns, failure to monitor contracts, cost of administration and monitoring, etc.

Managed competition has all of the same flaws that come with privatization, but with a twist. With managed competition, currently-employed sanitation workers "compete" with private industry for their jobs; usually there is an incentive to cut costs beyond even their low-bid estimate, by splitting additional savings between the city and the workers themselves. Once there is no more for the workers to cut back on (quality of services, pay, jobs & hours), which happens after a year or two, there are no more savings realized; the local government still has to administer and monitor the services & bidding process, just as they have to do now or would under straight privatization.

So at the end of the day, we have fewer people in this city working than before and those still working make less money, less trash is collected (we hope our neighbors can & will pay to take their excess or over-sized trash to the dump), and money will be leaking out everywhere when the contract is not monitored. http://www.tennesseelaborcoverage.com/2011…

Posted by tennesseelabor on 07/13/2011 at 1:46 PM

Re: ““There’s No Music”

Yes, that is correct. Last year, solid waste contributed $ 1 million to the general fund. Sounds like a great time for someone to capitalize on a profitable venture to me... It is terrible that our city services are going to be auctioned off for a one-time cash injection because the CA, Fox 13, WMC 5, etc. are more interested in a "Twitter threat" than looking at the numbers--both about our current services, and the long-term viability of managed competition in similar cities.

Managed competition might save a little money at first through cutting services and squeezing more work out of the workers due to a gainsharing program where they split the savings with the city, but there is only so much to cut; this is not a long-term solution. My bet is that Memphis will either end up reverting to public services after this massive waste of money with its tail between its legs (as other cities have done), OR (more likely) we will just have to live with another expensive, politically-motivated mistake.

Please contact your City Council member if this is important to you, but only after doing your own research. This will affect all of us.

Posted by tennesseelabor on 06/18/2011 at 12:34 PM

Re: ““There’s No Music”

Although proposals to privatize sanitation services smack of institutional racism (and out of the 500 sanitation workers today, 100 were working in 1968, so we are not talking about nostalgia), race is not the main issue here: the main issues are the decrease in the quality of our city services and a loss of jobs without guarantees of savings for taxpayers.

The statistics offered by Councilman Conrad in his proposal are questionable at best, and he has not been able to tell us where his dollar figures--as far as savings are concerned--come from.

Worse, many of our Council members are offering "managed competition" as a compromise. Managed competition requires sanitation workers to compete with private companies for the city sanitation contract. While this sounds good in theory (and that's about all most of our Council members know about managed competition), it will still require a cut in jobs, wages, and services for the workers to be able to compete. We will all need to get used to hauling our own excess trash, bagged leaves, etc. to the dump and paying the associated fees out of pocket.

According to even the most favorable studies, managed competition requires very close government oversight--constant monitoring, which often does not occur. Many cities that try out managed competition revert back to regular public services when promised savings do not materialize, due to the hidden costs associated with oversight of managed competition.

Council members constantly tell us that the sanitation workers must "compromise" (a sentiment indirectly echoed by the unquestioning media) but they already have: they have agreed not to have pay raises for the past two years, and have agreed again this year. Their insurance premiums have just gone up 20%. Many trucks do not have AC. While we constantly see the media repeat that they work for four hours and get paid for eight, the truth is that they are allowed to finish working early only after they have completed their run. This happens rarely, and only if workers do not take a lunch break. They do not have pensions.

Please learn the facts about managed competition; many of our Council members are not educated about managed competition and buy into the fact that it is a compromise. We must let them know by Tuesday not to balance the budget on the back of sanitation workers and our vital city services; there is plenty of fat to trim (how about tens of millions in tax abatements for corporations without clawback provisions when they fail to follow through with promised jobs and economic benefits?!), but not at such a high cost.

Our take on the media coverage of the "twitter threats," our videos, and lack of criticism of managed competition and privatization proposals: http://www.tennesseelaborcoverage.com/2011…

More information about the privatization issue in Memphis (with links to studies and articles): http://www.tennesseelaborcoverage.com/p/ar…

Posted by tennesseelabor on 06/18/2011 at 10:52 AM


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