First, the Good News
1) National/Pacific Northwest: The White House has announced an historic agreement with Native American communities and conservation groups regarding 14 dams on the Columbia River basin. “Tribes and conservation groups sued the federal government in 2021, arguing the dams it operated were largely responsible for the sharp decline of native fish in the Columbia River Basin, particularly salmon and steelhead trout.”
Earthjustice responded, “The new initiative, the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative (CBRI), developed by Washington, Oregon, and the four Columbia Basin Tribes, provides a comprehensive new roadmap for salmon recovery, including a call to replace the energy, transportation, irrigation, and recreation services provided by the lower Snake River dams so they can be breached. The Biden administration is supporting the bold new blueprint with federal commitments and a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to continue working together on next steps.”
2) National: The National Labor Relations Board has moved on Starbucks for its union busting. “The NLRB’s latest action against Starbucks was applauded on Thursday by the AFL-CIO, which said executives at the coffee giant ‘thought they could mess around’ with workers’ rights. ‘This complaint is the latest confirmation of Starbucks’ determination to illegally oppose workers’ organizing,’ said Mari Cosgrove, a member of Starbucks Workers United who works at a location in Seattle, on Wednesday. ‘It adds to the litany of complaints detailed in the company’s own report released this morning. If Starbucks is sincere in its overtures in recent days to forge a different relationship with its partners, this is exactly the kind of illegal behavior it needs to stop.’”
3) National/Think Tanks: A powerful New Year’s message from PowerSwitch Action. “As we look forward to 2024 and beyond, the threats and challenges ahead are daunting. But we’re in this fight for the long haul, because that’s how we win. When we work from a long term vision, each campaign we wage, each leader we train, and each narrative we shift brings us one step closer to a multiracial, democratic, feminist future. We’re ending this year filled with energy and hope for what we can accomplish together.”
4) California/Think Tanks: The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)’s Executive Director Roxana Tynan says, in an end of the year email, “As we wrap up 2023—LAANE’s 30th year, and the continuation of a #HotLaborSummer into a #SeasonofSolidarity—I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a year quite like this one. 2023 was a year of crisis, of daring, and of workers building unprecedented power, from UTLA and SEIU 99 to the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, the Teamsters, the UAW, and UNITE HERE Local 11. Together, by organizing and building leadership, we pushed back on corporate greed and pushed forward with community demands for pro-worker climate policy, for community schools, and for affordable housing. And together, we didn’t just flex power. We created it.”
5) Idaho: The Hechinger Report tells the story of some mostly Republican moms in rural Idaho who are taking on extremist enemies of public education. “Following multiple contentious meetings with Hall and Barton, who pressed board members to reconsider Durst’s candidacy, in late June, he was selected by a 3-2 vote. After his hiring was finalized, Barton charged that “the direction of our board has turned into a fascist dictatorship with an agenda which is far from our conservative point of view.” (…) Whitney Hutchins, a 2010 graduate of West Bonner County Schools and a new mom at the Priest Lake resort her family has run for generations, got involved out of concern that “the right-wing extremists,” she said, “are taking over our community.” (…) “I am a Republican. I am a Christian conservative,” said Douglas. “But I am 100 percent pro–public education, and I am pro–every child, and I will do anything for this community to embrace everyone and to love everyone.” She, Turner, and others, including Hutchins, Rogers, and the Turcos, began meeting. How to take back the district? It started with the school board and, said Douglas, included a notion that should seem obvious: “getting people who value public education” to serve.”
6) Illinois: Has the Illinois Commerce Commission developed a backbone? Time will tell. “So earlier this year it was with some level of chutzpah that ComEd petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities, for a record-shattering delivery rate hike of $1.5 billion over four years. To their credit, the regulators Thursday rejected most of ComEd’s filing, substantially reduced its requested profit level on the capital spending they did approve, and told the utility to go back to the drawing board on the investments needed to fulfill the state’s clean-energy goals. Thursday’s events were a jaw-dropper for those used to watching previous commissions act essentially like patsies for the utilities they’re supposed to regulate. Now, the question is, how will ComEd respond?” [Sub required]
7) Kentucky: In a major setback for school privatizers, a state judge has ruled a 2022 state law that allows public funding for charter schools unconstitutional. “In his decision, Circuity Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd said that the law, known as HB9, violated a section in the Kentucky constitution that prohibits the collection of taxes for any educational purpose other than “common schools” without the consent of voters. Common schools are traditional public schools, which are funded by taxpayers and overseen by public entities. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated, sometimes by for-profit companies, and educate about 7 percent of U.S. schoolchildren.”
Spectrum News 1 reports that “The Council for Better Education, whose mission is to ensure constitutional commitments to students and common schools, was the plaintiff in the case. They fully support the court’s ruling. ‘This was a violation of our constitution. It was about, you know, taking public funds and using them for private purposes, which violates our constitution,’ said Tom Shelton, one of the plaintiffs. Shepherd said there is another issue than just using taxpayer dollars. ‘The companion idea that common schools must be free and open to all children and serve all children has been part of the law for over a hundred years…,’ Shepherd said. The plaintiffs agree. ‘It’s our belief that common schools are in place to help all students because we are by law, you know, we take all students. All students are accepted. When you have a private school, they decide who is accepted,’ said Shelton.”
8) Virginia: The state will close four prisons and take control of its only private, for-profit prison. It will “end its contract with Florida-based GEO Group to operate the Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County on Aug. 1, 2024. The medium-security prison has been operated privately since 1998 and under GEO management since 2003. Prison reform advocates have pushed for control of Lawrenceville to be turned back over to the state for many years, arguing that private companies’ need to produce profits leads them to cut corners in staffing and other resources that endanger inmate safety. In 2021, Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, proposed legislation that would have prohibited the state government from contracting with private prison operators, but it was defeated in committee.”
VADOC Director Chad Dotson said in a statement he was “committed to ensuring that those individuals impacted by facility closures will be able to maintain continuous employment within VADOC if they choose to do so.”
9) Wisconsin: Underground Infrastructure reports that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), “together with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), announced $414.4 million has been allocated for financial assistance through the Clean Water Fund Program to 84 municipalities to improve their wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. The funding will help municipalities across the state construct needed water infrastructure, including projects that reduce phosphorus discharges and address aging equipment, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.
10) Wisconsin: AFT Wisconsin reports that Wisconsin public employees have filed a lawsuit “challenging the constitutionality of a state law which eliminated the freedom to engage in collective bargaining for most public sector workers. [The] Wisconsin statute unconstitutionally discriminates against most public sector workers, denying their freedom to negotiate with employers on subjects beyond base wages and to be represented by a union without jumping through the hoops of burdensome annual recertification elections, the lawsuit asserts. It excludes many sworn law enforcement officers and other public sector workers including corrections officers, teachers, and education support personnel.”
“‘I worked for 13 years as a firefighter paramedic in Wisconsin, where I had the freedom to negotiate; however, when I became law enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources, I immediately lost my right to a voice on the job,’ said Ben Gruber, a conservation warden, president of AFSCME Local 1215 and plaintiff in the lawsuit. ‘Every single day, I am proud of the work we do to protect the public. We are an essential part of our state’s public safety system, often working in dangerous conditions and making arrests miles away from any backup. We are certified as law enforcement by the same state board, but my co-workers and I are denied the same union rights enjoyed by other public safety personnel. It’s time that public sector workers across Wisconsin have our freedoms restored to us.’”
11) National: Charter schools are getting squeezed in the retreat from low-rated debt, The Wall Street Journal reports. “New charter schools sprang up across the country over the past decade when wealthy households desperate for yield snapped up all manner of risky investments. (…) At charter schools, as elsewhere, boom times have given way to belt-tightening, raising questions about who will survive. Higher salaries and dwindling federal Covid aid are stretching revenues and squeezing budgets. Repayment problems are rising in the $30 billion market for the low-rated bonds sold by K-12 public charter schools, according to research firm Municipal Market Analytics. At the same time, higher rates on ultrasafe bonds have sapped investor interest in risky charter-school debt, limiting stressed schools’ access to new financing. Charter-school bond issuance dropped to $2.8 billion this year through Dec. 13 after averaging $4 billion to $5 billion since 2019, according to a Municipal Market Analytics analysis of Bloomberg data. (…) Most of the nation’s nearly 8,000 charter schools have continued to steer clear of the bond market, opting for example to set up shop inside old public schools or nonprofits. But others increasingly pledged their per-pupil dollars to finance renovations and new campuses. Slow growth in salaries and other costs helped convince them that they had money to spare for debt payments.” [Sub required]
12) National: Despite recent scandals and defeats, Moms for Liberty is still determined to attack public education, Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider report in The Nation. “The more bitterness and resentment about public schools the group can generate, the easier it will be to privatize education—a long-standing goal for its deep-pocketed backers. (…) But if your goal is to undermine faith in public education, and to advance a narrative that Americans are so hopelessly divided that public schools are no longer possible, then it makes sense to keep fanning the flames, even if the cause is a loser at the polls. Many culture war candidates may think that the purpose of their crusade is to take charge of the public education system. But the money behind those candidates has a bigger purpose in mind. The purpose of the flames is to burn the system to the ground.”
13) National: After more than 30 years, charter schools are still facing legal challenges, Education Week reports. “The latest bump in the road for the expansion of charter schools came Dec. 11 in Kentucky, as Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd declared unconstitutional the state’s law setting up a funding stream for charter schools. The law requiring districts to send portions of their revenue to charter schools passed in 2022 despite fervent objections and a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Shepherd wrote in his ruling that the law amounts to approving ‘taxpayer funded private schools that are exempted from traditional public oversight and regulation.’ Similar litigation is unfolding in Montana, where public education advocates are challenging a recently passed state law that established a state commission, separate from the state board of public education, for considering applications for charter schools and exempting those schools from most regulations that apply to the state’s public schools. And in Oklahoma, a fierce legal dispute over whether to allow a religious charter school to open could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” [Sub required]
14) Florida/National: Why is child labor a public education issue? “Jennifer Sherer, a director at the nonpartisan think tank Economic Policy Institute, said the Florida bills follow a nationwide trend of construction industry groups, homebuilder associations and other groups seeking exemptions to ‘long-standing, research-based limits’ on hazardous work for teenagers. She said the industries that depend most heavily on youth workers are the same industries that often pay the lowest wages, including agriculture, fast-food service and retail. Letting teenagers work more allows companies greater access to low-wage labor, Sherer said. These rollbacks could jeopardize the health and safety of teenagers in school, she said, noting that research shows that fatigue from excessive work is tied to more car accidents and workplace injuries. She also said it could contribute to more teens dropping out of school, adding that high school graduation rates have risen in the wake of passage of stricter child labor laws. ‘Are we committed as a society to ensuring equal opportunity, equal access to public education for every child no matter what their background is?’ Sherer said. ‘Or are we willing to sort of open the door to going back to a world where a handful of wealthier children have full access to that kind of education and most others are in the workforce at younger and younger ages.’”
In his new book, Corporate Bull****, Donald Cohen reminds us that even Establishment figures spouted false Cry Wolf-type objections to child labor laws in the 1930’s. In a recent episode of the 5-4 legal podcast, it is pointed out that a proposed constitutional amendment to ban child labor, introduced in 1924, is still out there. The Economic Policy Institute has a great report by Jennifer Sherer and Nina Mast on the issue. For a vivid collection of child labor photographs from early in the last century maintained by the Library of Congress, see here.
15) Illinois: The Chicago Board of Education has announced a move to vigorously support public education and resist privatization. The goal is to center neighborhood schools to rectify structural racism. “The resolution aims to address long-standing structural racism and socio-economic inequality. The board wants to transition away from privatization and enrollment policies that drive student enrollment away from neighborhood schools Chicago’s school system currently allows students to apply to the high school of their choice, but the board looks to focus on elevating students’ neighborhood schools.” The board “wants to create a model where neighborhood schools are central to the education system.”
Public school supporters praised the action. “Well-known activist Jitu Brown used to be a regular at Board of Education meetings, pushing for better schooling for the city’s Black children. He was one of several voices supporting the change of direction at Thursday’s monthly Board of Education meeting. ‘I have not been to a school board meeting since 2014 when I swore off coming to a place where the voices of people impacted by public education policy were just not respected,’ Brown told board members. But he said he was optimistic for the school board’s vision—particularly because of the parent, educator and activist makeup of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s board—as long as it took a different approach by authentically listening to families and advocates in reshaping the district.”
16) Pennsylvania: The state Democratic Party is taking on Governor Josh Shapiro’s support of school vouchers. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “Shapiro signed legislation Wednesday expanding a tax-credit scholarship program, and still wants to explore vouchers. Now his own political party is likely to send a clear message: We’re not with you on this. It could have been worse. The original resolution, pushed during a party meeting in September, said ‘Shapiro made the case for this harmful legislation recently on Fox News’ and that ‘school voucher policies are widely supported by the political opponents’ of the Democratic Party. The sponsors, Armstrong County Democratic Party chair Chuck Pascal and Delaware County State Committee member Colleen Kennedy, deleted the shots at Shapiro while streamlining the document. Still, anyone familiar with the voucher brouhaha can see the revised resolution as a dig at Shapiro. Just ask Pascal. ‘Given the context—we have a Democratic governor supporting a voucher scheme that in every other state is something Democrats clearly oppose—it’s important that the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania stand up and say we’re opposed to using public funds to fund private schools,’ Pascal told Clout.”
17) Tennessee: Opposition to school vouchers extends across the state, from urban to suburban to rural counties. “Leaders of Shelby County’s suburban school districts have grown increasingly critical of the proposal which could be debated in the upcoming legislative session,” WKNO reports. “For Germantown Municipal Schools Superintendent Jason Manuel and other officials, it’s a question of fairness. Private Schools aren’t as heavily regulated as public schools, and if healthy competition is justification for ‘school choice,’ then all schools that receive taxpayer funding should have to play by the same rules.”
The Board of Education of Anderson County (Knoxville) has “asked state lawmakers to reject a proposal that would use public money to provide scholarships for families that want to enroll children in private schools, faith-based schools or charter schools. In late November, Governor Bill Lee announced a proposal that would effectively give money to parents to pay for tuition and other expenses. Critics said it would divert public money away from public school systems, and a resolution passed Thursday in Anderson County Schools echoed those criticisms.”
Sullivan County Director of Schools Chuck Carter says, “‘I don’t want to see our students be left out and then money be needed for programs, for facilities… We have a new requirement of $50,000 to start paying our teachers as a beginning salary and then take everyone else with that.’ At its December meeting, the Sullivan County Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the voucher program. The resolution will face a second reading by the board in January. The resolution follows a similar one passed in Greene County by the board of education there in early December. Carter said before private school enrollment becomes so available, public education ought to be prioritized.”
18) Texas: After facing multiple defeats in the state legislature of his school voucher program, Gov. Abbott (R) is holding $800 million in teacher salary increases hostage. It’s hitting high-growth Gainesville hard. “‘I think that anyone that has driven by Chalmers sees the frames going up for the houses at Liberty Pointe … there are 946 homes scheduled to be built right behind Chalmers,’ said Stewart. ‘I’ve been working with Mr. [Joe] Warren [Director of Maintenance and Operations] and I’ll continue to work with our staff to identify and try to get a good picture of that the future facility needs are going to be.’”
Texas AFT has produced a useful retrospective on a busy year for public education in the Lone Star State.
19) Connecticut: Madison schools are to privately outsource food services, sparking an outcry among lunch staff. “Now that the Board of Education has decided to outsource the district’s food services, Kilbride said, she fears many lunch staff will have to find new jobs and health care plans. About half a dozen lunch staff shared the same fears on Tuesday, when the school board voted to approve a subcontract in an effort to reduce costs. Kilbride said she wasn’t sure that Chartwells, the company floated as the most likely subcontractor, was a company she wanted to work for. ‘When jobs are outsourced, you don’t know what will be brought into the schools and how they will interact with your children. And I can assure you that they won’t be as caring and involved as our staff is,’ she said.”
20) National: In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen takes aim at the conflict between privatized parking and the public interest, recounting a story about how the Scottish government had to pay out over $7 million to for-profit companies during the COVID pandemic to make parking space available during the massive public health emergency. “To put that sum into perspective, had this money been spent on extra personnel it would have paid the yearly salary for 214 newly qualified midwives, or 137 experienced nurses with specialized skills,” a report from Jubilee Scotland stated. The organization pointed out the funds could have also been spent on much needed safety equipment and urgent patient care. So much for ‘We’re all in this together.’”
As for the disastrous Chicago parking meters privatization deal, pushed through by the late Mayor William Daley, Cohen reports that it is still interfering with public interest decisions. “Concerns over triggering a compensation event now factor into every effort to alleviate traffic or introduce new and cleaner modes of transportation. (…) A billion-plus in pure profit? Nice work if you can get it.”
21) National/Illinois: Should the EPA let Chicago have 40 years to remove lead pipes? “Officials in Chicago, one of three water systems that the EPA told Route Fifty could be exempted from the 10-year requirement, estimate it will take 40 years to remove all of its 40,000 lead pipes. The exception is drawing criticism from those that say they’ve lived with dangerous lead pipes for too long. ‘Even 10 years is too long. We need to change as soon as it can happen because this is going to impact my generation,’ said a city resident during a public hearing last week before the Chicago City Council on the lead pipe problem.”
22) National: Citibank’s exit from the municipal bond market, which underpins much of the infrastructure sector, has hit the market like an earthquake. The bank was once a behemoth in the space. The Bond Buyer reports: “‘While we are very proud of the impact they have had over the years, the economics of these activities are no longer viable given our commitment to increase the firm’s overall returns,’ the [Citibank] memo states. ‘Most of our municipal sales, trading and banking colleagues will unfortunately be leaving Citi over the next few months,’ the memo continued. The closure of Citi’s municipal division, which Bloomberg News first reported, comes weeks after the real possibility of it exiting the business took hold.”
The Bond Buyer reports that Citi’s exit carries costs for issuers and market liquidity, but the industry expected to weather it. “‘It’s a major disappointment,’ said Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics Inc. ‘Near term, municipals already lack liquidity and dealer capital, and Citi was a major provider of those, so their removal makes things tighter, makes the market more prone to excess volatility in both up and down trends,’ Fabian said. ‘In the longer term, when we expect municipal bond issuance to see substantial growth because of climate change and legacy infrastructure issues, our industry is going to need to expand as well to minimize the pricing impact on our issuers,’ he said.”
According to Bloomberg, “the decision comes after months of intense deliberations inside Citigroup, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. On one side were top trading executives, including Morton and Mickey Bhatia. They were keen to get out of the business because it was hurting the unit’s broader efforts to improve profitability. On the other side was Ed Skyler, a key lieutenant of Fraser and head of the firm’s enterprise services and public-affairs division. To Skyler, it was important for Citigroup to keep working on financings that lead to the building of bridges, roads, schools and hospitals across America. Not only did they help the bank make inroads with lawmakers, they gave Citigroup a tangible connection to the American public.” [Subs required]
23) New York: Construction delays are impacting New York State Thruway service areas ‘public-private partnerships.’ Privatizing rest stops became a fad several years ago, and on-time delivery was supposed to be a major factor. Public Works Financing reports that “technically, that means that the design‐build contractor is in default for delays exceeding 9 months for some of the service areas. The liquidated damages generated by the delays, if required to be paid in full, would also exceed one or more of the liquidated damages caps included in the financing. The DB contractor is currently negotiating with the public sponsor for the P3, the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA), to amend the completion dates for each of the sites due to a supervening event. If those claims are granted, the contractor would no longer be in default.” [Sub required]
24) National: Spending on infrastructure has fallen in real terms in the U.S., The Economist reports. “With headlines proclaiming its $1.2trn in investments, worth about 5% of GDP, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement. That makes the current state of the big dig all the more disappointing. Instead of the anticipated surge, total infrastructure spending has fallen by more than 10% in real terms since the passage of the law (see chart).”
But there’s more: inflation. “The problem is that inflation has been rampant in the construction sector, making delays that much more pernicious. The single biggest component of the infrastructure package was a 50% increase in funding for highways to $350bn over five years. But highway construction costs soared by more than 50% from the end of 2020 to the start of 2023, in effect wiping out the extra funding. ‘A lot of the cost estimates that states and local agencies have are from three to five years ago, and they are just totally off now,’ says Santiago Ferrer of BCG, a consultancy. This, he adds, leads to two outcomes: either authorities get no bidders because contractors think their prices are too low; or they revise their cost estimates, which takes yet more time. Delays are also a product of the infrastructure law itself. It included strict ‘Buy America’ rules, requiring builders to source things at home to boost domestic manufacturing. ” [Sub required]
25) California/National: The environmental review for the major north-south underground water tunnel has been completed. “The Newsom administration says the tunnel is a necessary upgrade of the state’s aging infrastructure because it will protect the water supply from earthquakes and capture more water from rainstorms known as atmospheric rivers that scientists say have been increasing because of climate change. But environmental groups, Native American tribes and other opponents say the project will take more water out of the river than is necessary and will harm endangered species of fish.” The project must still pass a federal environmental review.
26) Virginia: The shock announcement that the DC Wizards and Capitals are planning to move to a new northern Virginia facility was accompanies by a financing plan. As of now, word is that taxpayers will not be on the hook. QED. “During the meeting Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson tried to allay fears about where the funding for the project was coming from. ‘I have heard quite a bit over the last twenty-four hours about concerns that we are providing a billionaire with taxpayer money. That is not what is happening here,’ he said, according to local press reports. The project’s organizers said that an extensive community outreach effort would take place throughout early 2024. The project is tentatively scheduled to break ground in 2025, with the arena opening in 2028. The two teams are owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which is helmed by Ted Leonsis. On Thursday, Monumental released a project fact sheet breaking down the financial basics of how the $2 billion public-private partnership would be funded.” [Sub required]
27) International/Kenya: After reviewing the history of Nairobi’s water utility problems, Adrian Wilson, Faith Kasina, Irene Nduta and Jethron Ayumbah Akallah come out against privatization. “The Nairobi County government is currently debating a bill that could privatize Nairobi Water Company. We believe that privatization is not the solution for water in Nairobi. In the Kenyan health care system, for example, we have consistently learned that privatization does not serve the poor. Past examples of water privatization—in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in the late 1990s and, closer to home, in Dar es Salaam in the 2000s—ended in complete failure. We strongly believe that reform and democratized governance—not privatization—of Nairobi Water Company should be part of the way forward. And in the context of the ongoing crisis over the escalating cost of living, we believe strongly that a privatized water company will be that much less likely to ensure that water is affordable (if not free) for even the poorest Nairobians. Water justice, as enshrined in Kenya’s 2010 constitution, must be made a reality for poor people living in precarious urban neighborhoods like Kayole-Soweto. We echo the words of Mathare Social Justice Center: “maji ni uhai, maji ni haki”—water is life, water is a right.”
28) National: 50 years of mass incarceration has devastated American society and countless lives, says Chris Hedges in an interview with Liz Komar, Sentencing Reform Counsel at The Sentencing Project. “If they work for a for-profit corporation companies like McDonald’s in prison, maybe they get 1 or $2 an hour. Nobody pays into their social security so they can work a 40-hour work week. (…) And then the commissaries have been privatized. So the average wage in the New Jersey prison system of $20 a month hasn’t gone up in decades, but the commissary prices have gone up by over 100%. And not only that, everything else. The phone service is privatized, the money transfer service is privatized, the commissary is now privatized, the medical is privatized, so they’re charged if they want to go down and get an aspirin. So talk about the financial aspect and the labor aspect.” [Watch the video, about 43 minutes]
29) National: The Guardian reports that Louis DeJoy’s plan to privatize the U.S. Postal Service is still ticking. A longtime postal worker in Tennessee said, “I am disappointed with the lack of response from our union leadership at the national level regarding the most radical realignment of postal operations that will impact timely service and the lives of postal workers. I am disappointed that I spent endless time and energy opposing multiple consolidation and closure plans over three decades only to see cursory opposition now. I am disappointed that all of this may result in privatization of our great institution.”
30) National: Privatization of palliative care is happening under the radar, Brynn Bowman of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and Diane E. Meier of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tell Forbes. “With little visibility into the quality of care being provided, and a high-cost population that is a ripe target for profit under value-based MA plans, the rapid privatization of palliative care is worrisome. We have seen growing national attention to the (deleterious) effect of profit motive on quality in hospice and long-term care, but palliative care is not yet on the public’s radar. So in 2024 we will see private companies continue to expand their footprint in the palliative care space, but we won’t yet see substantive efforts to monitor and hold providers accountable for the quality of care they provide to a vulnerable population”
31) Maryland: Baltimore Fishbowl reports that “a task force’s recommendation for a regional water authority is drawing criticism from a group of community, labor, environmental, and social justice organizations. While the Baltimore Water Regional Governance Task Force recommends a regional authority in its draft report, 21 organizations are demanding the Task Force reject that approach. Instead, they ask that city and state elected officials protect local control of the $5.5 billion water and sewer system, which is the city’s largest asset. The organizations opposed to the Task Force’s recommendation include CASA, City Union of Baltimore, Food and Water Watch, AFT-Maryland, Jews United for Justice, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), among others.”
32) New Mexico/National: “We’re told about 20-30 men, CoreCivic guards who are masked, entered the unit and dispersed pepper spray into the entire unit,” said Sophia Genovese, managing attorney with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. ““The context for this incident is really implicating the entire immigration system. People feel like they are starving, everyone is losing weight, there’s not enough access to clean water, which is just completely unacceptable. And they’re not receiving information about their cases, their deportation dates, and are just sitting and waiting for something to happen. And they’re getting agitated.””
33) Pennsylvania: As utility fees soar, lawmakers are revisiting a law that opened the door to privatization. “The law allows municipal water and sewer utilities to negotiate with for-profit utilities for the fair market value rather than the actual value of the system. The higher purchase prices, in turn, give new owners a basis to seek approval to charge higher rates, which they usually receive, consumer advocates testified. The result, state Consumer Advocate Patrick Cicero said, is that customers of public water and sewer utilities acquired by for-profit companies since the law took effect pay about $85 million more annually for service that they otherwise would.”
34) National: Is private equity plundering low-wage burger flippers and pushing them onto government social support programs? Writing in the Financial Times, noted financial journalist William Cohan has some numbers. “3G’s acquisition of Burger King and the purchase of VMware have proved to be among the most profitable industry transactions. (…) I also have been following another remarkable deal, the Brazilian-American firm 3G’s 2010 buyout and transformation of Burger King into Restaurant Brands International, which has yielded 3G nearly $19bn on its initial $1.6bn equity investment.” [Sub required]
35) New Book: Free with a donation to Counterpunch, you can get The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods by Greg King.
NOTE: This is the final issue of the year for the Privatization Report. It will return early next year.
IMAGE: Early 20th century poster from the Industrial Workers of the World, with a quote from William “Big Bill” Haywood.