1) National: The auto workers are striking in the public interest. “‘UAW’s demands also focus on the preservation of their communities,’ says Michael Shields of Policy Matters Ohio. ‘They seek the right to strike over plant closures, and a guarantee that if a company shutters a plant in their community, it will pay displaced workers to do community service work instead of leaving their families to transfer to a new state or losing their jobs. When General Motors closed its Lordstown Chevy Cruze plant in 2018, workers left behind spouses and children, aging parents, and houses they couldn’t sell as prices collapsed throughout the community. Research shows that every automotive job supports 7.1 other jobs in the labor market.’” On Lordstown see this. The structural issues, democracy foremost among them, facing the auto industry and the people who work in it also face every community in the U.S. It’s always been about democracy. “No justice, no Jeep.”
2) National: AFSCME’s Staff the Front Lines bus tour has wrapped up after a successful tour to 17 communities across the USA. “All told, the bus, painted in AFSCME green, logged more than 7,800 miles, stopped in 17 cities and attracted more than 2,000 job seekers to hiring fairs in cities nationwide, including in New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles and Minneapolis and others. AFSCME also held 11 listening sessions across nine states, which brought together AFSCME members and leaders and elected officials, to hear firsthand from the people who provide our vital public services about the toll the staffing crisis is taking, ways to stem the crisis and encourage people to apply for what are often good-paying union jobs. The bus tour was part of AFSCME’s broader Staff the Front Lines initiative, a comprehensive effort that, in addition to the hiring events, will include legislative advocacy, extensive partnership building, outreach to underrepresented communities and a robust digital marketing strategy.”
3) National: Regulations aimed at blocking a possible future Republican administration from engaging in massive dismissals of federal workers have been proposed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The proposed regulations are expected to be published in the Federal Register today. “‘The proposed rule honors our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping to ensure they can carry out their duties without fear of political reprisal,’ said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in a statement. ‘Career federal employees deliver critical services for Americans in every community. Prior attempts to needlessly politicize their work risked harming the American people.’”
4) National: The U.S. Transportation Department has announced that the Biden-Harris administration is making $100 million available to improve EV charger reliability; and the U.S. EPA has announced the recipients of $105 million in Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grants (SWIFR) meant to improve communities’ recycling, organics and waste management systems throughout the country.
5) California: On the verge of a strike, San Jose city workers have won a robust contract and a stronger union. “Although the challenge of fixing short staffing loomed large, the workers knew they had each other. As members of the Municipal Employees’ Federation (MEF)/AFSCME Local 101 (Council 57), they relied on the partnership of the City Association of Management Personnel/ International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21, which also represents San Jose city workers. If they needed to act big, they knew there was precedent—it wouldn’t be the first time they’d taken historic collective action. (…) MEF is 3,500 San Jose city workers strong. Members hold a wide range of positions, from librarians to parks and recreation workers, building and code enforcement officers, 911 dispatchers, airport employees and more. The workers ratified the agreement late last month by a vote of 91% in favor, and the city council formally adopted it this week.”
6) Indiana: Gary school bus drivers have unionized with the Teamsters in a private bus company, First Student. “The 52 workers at First Student will join Teamsters Local 777 in Lyons, Illinois. They will be covered under the First Student National Master Agreement, which is a collective bargaining agreement.”
7) Maine/National: Bill McKibben, the eminent environmentalist, author, and journalist, says that the upcoming ballot initiative on whether or not Maine should take two electrical utilities back into public hands will be a crucial measure of the state’s ability to take control of its future. “The two corporations sent $187 million in profits out of Maine last year—much of it to shareholders in such far-flung places as Qatar, Norway, and Canada. That’s serious money—and if it weren’t being sucked out of the state, the advocates of Pine Tree Power argue, Maine could lower rates by an average of $367 per household per year, which would mean shutting off fewer customers (nearly 10 percent of the state’s residential customers got disconnect notices last spring).” McKibben also sees “signs that the tide may have begun to turn decisively on climate issues in Maine.”
8) Michigan: Labor leaders and lawmakers have rallied to repeal “a ban on local project labor agreements (PLAs) and a law preempting local government control of labor and workforce policies—nicknamed the ‘Death Star’ bill in an ode to ‘Star Wars.’” Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) “said the ban on project labor agreements sends a message to local governments: ‘We don’t trust you to make decisions on the behalf of the people who elected you.’ Sam Inglot, the executive director of Progress Michigan, spoke out against laws restricting local government control over labor and workforce standards, calling them ‘anti-worker’ and ‘anti-voter.’”
9) New Jersey: Members of UE Local 119 have preserved their contract despite privatization, according to UE News. “Negotiations for the local’s third contract this spring provided an object lesson in how privatization can create havoc for the workers who provide essential public services like education. Although Local 119’s contract didn’t expire until June 30, they begin negotiations early in the spring because, in addition to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with their employer, they need to ensure that the contract between the school district and their employer contains enough funding to provide for wage increases and other improvements. After UE members attended school board meetings and spoke about the need for raises in order to keep pace with inflation, the district included enough money for substantial wage increases when it put out requests for bids in March. Somewhat to the local’s surprise, ESS agreed to many of the union’s proposals quickly and the union and company hashed out a tentative agreement in a single negotiating session. The members ratified the new contract on May 24. But then the trouble began. Long March Through the Contractors…
“Although the board rejected the district’s proposal to give the contract to Kelly Services on June 8, they did not award the contract to ESS, leaving Local 119 members uncertain about their future conditions of employment. It was the first of many board meetings that Local 119 members would attend in what would turn out to be a two-month struggle to keep their union contract and their jobs.”
10) North Carolina: Governor Roy Cooper (D) will release $8 million in federal money to help North Carolina’s preschools address needs as they begin a new school year, NC Newsline reports. “‘As the new school year starts, we are still waiting on Republican legislators to pass a budget that makes meaningful investments in public education,’ Cooper said in a news release. ‘NC Pre-K is a highly effective program that provides opportunities for young children to grow, learn, and develop new skills to put them on a path for success in school and this one time funding will help their classrooms right now.’ The state’s budget has been delayed because Republicans can’t reach agreement on adding provisions that would expand state-sanctioned gambling….”
11) Ohio: In a victory against a state preemption law blocking gun safety policies, “a judge has ruled that Ohio can’t block one of its major cities from regulating guns, finding that a state law violates the city’s ‘home rule’ authority. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Branch granted Cincinnati’s request for a preliminary injunction Thursday, finding that the ‘home rule’ amendment gives local governments the freedom to enact laws that address the unique circumstances they face. ‘While state law may regulate firearms in several areas, there are several meaningful gaps within which municipalities may regulate firearms,’ Branch said, adding, ‘provided they do not conflict with general laws.’”
12) Think Tanks: New research by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) shows that unemployment insurance enabled “hundreds of thousands of workers and their families—particularly people of color—to avoid poverty in 2022 as they looked for new jobs.” Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of the National Employment Law Project, says “policymakers at the federal and state levels must build a UI system that will support all workers at all times, giving workers the resources to not just avoid poverty, but to thrive.” [Read the full policy brief]
13) National: Charter schools can’t claim to be public anymore, writes Carol Burris. “The magical transformation of what should be a public school to a taxpayer-funded private school is not a trick confined to Oklahoma, nor does the hocus-pocus turn solely on the question of religion. Even as quasi-religious and perhaps overtly religious charter schools are on the rise, there is another effort intent on blurring the line between public and private. A recent bill passed in North Carolina, a state in which a large proportion of charters run by for-profits, dismisses other features that determine whether or not charter schools, in fact, deserve the title ‘public.’ Charter schools are supposed to be “free and open to all” without discrimination or favor. But HB 219, passed by a Republican supermajority legislature over the veto of Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, allows charter schools to charge tuition and grant enrollment privileges to certain students. (…) In a state known for its white-flight charters, high-tuition or religious preschools are likely to enter these ‘enrollment articulation agreements’ that grant their students access privileges.”
The issue of white-flight charters, parents fleeing public schools to escape diversity mandates, has a long history, and there is an excellent new documentary telling one such story in depth. For a look at what happens inside schools, both public and private, and how segregation and exclusion continues even over decades and generations, watch the terrific new American Experience episode The Harvest: Integrating Mississippi Schools. [Video, about an hour and 47 minutes]
14) National: In an excerpt from her new book in The Atlantic, Cara Fitzgerald marks out a new dividing line in the school privatization crusade—between religious and secular charter school advocates. “Some longtime advocates of charter schools fear that such a dramatic shift could threaten support for charters at a time when many prominent Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have become more critical of them. ‘This is probably the biggest challenge to the intent and origins of chartering that I’ve seen in 30-plus years,’ Ember Reichgott Junge, a former Democratic state senator who wrote the country’s first charter-school law, in Minnesota, told me.”
15) California: Plans for a charter school have been blocked in Anaheim. “‘Contrary to what the developer states, we the residents that border the property are concerned that this project before us would adversely affect our daily lives as well as affect the value of our property that we worked so hard to obtain,’ said Cecilia Flores, the resident who filed the appeal. ‘A realtor has stated to me, it could decrease the value of my home as much as $100,000.’”
16) Florida: Taxpayer-funded school vouchers are turbocharging expansion of Pensacola’s Catholic high school, ABC’s WEARNEWS3 reports. “This project has been in the books for at least five years, but has recently jumped to the top of the list after the school started seeing overcrowding. One thing driving higher enrollment is the state’s ‘School Choice Program,’ which allows all Florida students in grades K-12 to be eligible to receive taxpayer funded vouchers to attend private schools. ‘That means that the number of people who could access a scholarship to help them seek out alternatives to public education grew greatly,’ said Sister Kierstin Martin, the principal of PCHS. ‘Overnight really.’ Doug Tuthill is the president of Step Up for Students — the organization working with the state to give out these vouchers. He says the organization receives 3,000-4000 applications daily.”
17) Georgia: The Atlanta school board has denied approval of a charter school for neurodiverse students. “The APS Office of Charter + Partner Schools recommended the school board deny the petition for the Tapestry Public Charter School Atlanta. Concerns raised by the office about opening a new 6-12 charter school included district staffing shortages and the fact that many district schools, including several high schools, have less than 65% utilization. (…) The APS Center for Equity and Social Justice (CESJ) conducted an Equity Impact Assessment (EIA) on the Tapestry petition as part of the APS review process and found concerns as well, according to the Office of Charter + Partner Schools. ‘[T]he EIA noted that the existing charter school Tapestry operates in DeKalb County enrolls a higher share of white students compared to their representation in the DeKalb County Public School district broadly (40.3% vs. 10.3%, respectively) and a lower share of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (7.5% vs 34.6% direct certification respectively),’ according to the recommendation to deny.”
18) Georgia: A Macon charter school has been placed on probation and could lose its charter next year. “Then came Friday’s letter from the state that says if the school doesn’t fix other problems, their charter could be revoked. It alleges the governing board has ‘demonstrated an inability to provide effective leadership.’ They cite three board members leaving since March and alleged failures of the board to approve essential business, like school calendars. The letter says the school has only met state standards once in the last six years. The commission says Cirrus Academy failed to meet academic and operating standards the previous two years. According to the letter, the school can get off probation before January as long as they complete all the requirements in their corrective action plan. They need to file that with the state by October 15.”
19) New Hampshire: “We’ll open in a circus tent if we have to.” An increase in charter schools in the Granite State has created a real estate scramble. “Compass Classical Academy ended up finding a new home: a former public school building in Northfield that it now owns. It was able to do so thanks in large part to a years-long effort in the New Hampshire State House to make it easier for charter schools to acquire real estate. That effort has allowed charters to put down more permanent roots and meet the growth in student enrollment. But it’s also raised concerns and complaints from some school districts that lawmakers are making it harder for local education leaders to make decisions that affect their districts. The debate illustrates the tension that charter school policy continues to exert in state political and education circles.”
20) Oklahoma: Was the St. Isidore vote legal? “Bobek’s eligibility question is one of the big potential hangups to the board’s controversial split decision in June to approve the application for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School—which would be the nation’s first publicly funded religious school. In an eleventh-hour move before the June board meeting, board member Barry Beauchamp was replaced with Bobek, a former State Board of Education member. He received the appointment from House Speaker Charles McCall. But just before that meeting, Oklahoma Deputy Attorney General Niki Batt—who serves as the board’s legal counsel—emailed board leaders to outline her concern that the law may not technically allow Bobek to take over the seat until November. Without Bobek’s vote, St. Isidore’s application wouldn’t have been approved. But the members didn’t see the email in time, and the vote went through 3-2.”
21) Texas: After widespread protests and a lawsuit, state officials have delayed the introduction of school accountability ratings, Texas AFT reports. School districts have accused Republican state officials of moving the goalposts on school performance tests to drive up the number of people using vouchers to attend private schools. “Schools said the changes weren’t communicated ahead of time. [Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Dallas ISD] said she just wants time to know the rules of how they’re being graded so she can prepare for them and that didn’t happen. This year of change comes as lawmakers are trying to let parents take tax dollars and shift them to private schools. Proposed laws out there would only allow parents to get a voucher for private school, if their public school is failing. Elizalde said it’s no coincidence this new system of grading creates more failing schools. ‘There are a whole lot of very smart people who believe in certain outcomes. And I think it’s very intentional,’ she said. Dallas is the only large urban district to join the suit so far, but Fort Worth ISD is scheduled to take up the discussion in a special board meeting next week.”
22) National/California: Molly Turner, a lecturer at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley and a co-host of the podcast “Technopolis,” has weighed in with a New York Times op-ed about a group of multibillionaires who are trying to build a private city in Solano County. But the words democracy, accountability and the public interest do not appear in Turner’s piece, which focuses on how ill-suited the startup and venture capital mentality of the project’s backers are to the complicated business of building a city. If decades of privatization has taught us anything, it is that unless you have democracy you cannot make economic and technological progress for the public good, nor for that matter solve “real-world challenges in cities today.” As In the Public Interest’s Jeff Hagan says, It’s Always Been About Democracy.
What does “democracy look like,” as the saying goes? Well in Solano County it looks like the local League of Women Voters’ voter registration drive happening tomorrow as part of National Voter Registration Day.
23) International/United Nations: The United Nations has been put on notice that serious shortcomings exist in the United States concerning drinking water access and affordability and U.S. Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A report prepared by the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University School of Law was submitted for the upcoming 139th Session of the Human Rights Committee (Geneva, October 9–November 3, 2023) by Food & Water Watch, Center for Constitutional Rights, Community Members of Jackson Mississippi, and the Northeastern Law School Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy.
The report “calls on the US government to address inequities in access to water, recognizes the rights to water and sanitation, improve transparency in access to information, stop water shutoffs and tax sales, pass the WATER Act to fund water projects, among other recommendations. It has section with interviews with community members from Jackson, Miss., who document the problems with the new private water operator, Jacobs.” [H/t Mary Grant of FWW]
24) International/Philippines: The Philippine government is being urged to pursue regulatory reform and move towards expanding public ownership to ensure universal access to water resources. IBON Foundation Executive Director Jose Enrique A. Africa says that “water privatization in Metro Manila “has made water expensive amid persistent supply and sanitation gaps. Water privatization in the Philippines doesn’t fulfill the human right to water. The government should instead immediately have stronger regulatory controls against water profiteering and take steps towards public ownership and control which is the only way to ensure universal access and sustainable use of water resources.”
25) National: In a brazen effort to claim that it—an unelected private, for-profit company—has the same state immunity as federal and state governments, the GEO Group has asserted a claim of “derivative sovereign immunity” to escape accountability for violating minimum wage laws by paying detainees only $1 a day. “‘If the appellate court agrees with GEO’s immunity argument, ‘it may encourage other private prison companies to try this defense in other cases nationwide,’ Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told Bloomberg Law. But there’s ‘lengthy and well-established doctrine that federal contractors do not share the government’s unqualified immunity from liability and litigation,’ she added.” [Sub required]. Can the government outsource its sovereign immunity?
26) National: Whether it is Ron DeSantis promising to start “slitting throats” of federal workers or Vivek Ramaswamy promising to eliminate 75% of the federal workforce, Republicans seem to be competing for an Olympic Gold Medal over who can issue the most blood curdling threats to slash the federal workforce.
But the legal and constitutional obstacles to such a course of action are substantial, not to mention the popular resistance it would generate. “Ramaswamy’s plan is still likely to encounter significant hurdles and resistance. Congress typically includes in its appropriations bills requirements that the money not be redirected or used for reorganization without express sign off from the legislative branch. Even if he were able to push through [reduction-in-force, or RIFs], employees could appeal en masse to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a process that would bog down Ramaswamy’s proposed timeline. Dan Meyer, an attorney at Tully Rinckey who handles federal employment cases, said he would ‘have business all the way to my retirement in 11 years’ if Ramaswamy saw his plan through. ‘The RIF process isn’t quite as straightforward as he suggests,’ said Donald F. Kettl, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland and former dean of its School of Public Policy. He noted federal law requires RIFs be rooted in certain activities, such as a reorganization, lack of work or a shortage of funds. A president, Kettl added, cannot unilaterally ‘undermine agencies ability to carry out functions that Congress mandates.’”
27) Florida: The Citrus County Chronicle has run a hard hitting editorial demanding closer monitoring of public contracts with private, for-profit operators of local jails. “The county tried to ensure fair care and treatment for those that find themselves in the detention center. They entered a contract with CoreCivic, which establishes expectations that both sides agreed to and penalties if CoreCivic fails to live up to those expectations. CoreCivic has been getting fined by the county for some time due to not maintaining staffing levels, which can make for unsafe conditions of those we as society have taken responsibility for when they were incarcerated. The county reduced CoreCivic’s fines for various reasons. One was CoreCivic’s workforce challenges in today’s market. Some board members believe that is a reasonable excuse for CoreCivic to not perform their agreed contractual expectations. CoreCivic contracts with other agencies and the Virgin Islands to hold prisoners in our facility. Maybe they should make the hard decision to hold fewer out-of-county inmates and focus on Citrus County detainees. Penalties are fine but if it puts humans at risk, it is not an acceptable exchange. We were told recently that the county has hired a contract manager for the detention facility and CoreCivic will cover the cost. That is great news but CoreCivic must live up to its contractual agreements, not just go on with fines.”
28) Maine: W.T. Whitney Jr., a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine, reports on big privatized healthcare fraud in Maine. “The purveyors of healthcare plans or health insurance use [Medicare Advantage (MA)] plans as bait for institutional consumers looking for a bargain. They target companies, governmental agencies, and public service employers. Many of these entities, through union contracts, have to provide healthcare benefits for current and retired employees. They want to hold back on spending. Healthcare activist and analyst Kay Tillow explains how MA plans accomplished that. They shifted Medicare benefits to the privatized Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan. They also implemented the Employer Group Waiver Plans authorized by the enabling legislation. The so-called “egg-whip” (EGWP), allows MA plans to skirt traditional Medicare guidelines. They ‘impose conditions on the promised benefits.’”
29) Ohio: Workers at another public library, Pickering, have voted to unionize. “Many of these part-time workers form the core support for the unionization effort, according to Meuser. There are early signs that the eligibility of these part-time workers for union membership may be contested by the library’s Board of Trustees. Staff at the library were inspired by the successful unionization of nearby Worthington Public Library. ‘When brainstorming ways to serve the public, we were often impressed by many of Worthington’s initiatives and resources,’ said Meuser, ‘so it was natural that we would follow their lead in forming a union.’ Like the Worthington Library, Pickerington Public library is organizing under the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), a member organization within the AFL-CIO. ‘Librarians are very autonomous workers in general. We are all self-directed. We know how to do research. We are not uninformed about what’s going on,’ Meuser said.”
30) Pennsylvania: The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas will contract with Adelphoi, a Latrobe-based private company that provides services to at-risk youth, to reopen and run its juvenile detention center this winter, county officials announced Friday. “Some have opposed allowing a private company to run the county’s juvenile detention center, citing concerns about the quality of care given by for-profit companies and financial incentives to keep the facility full. Privately operated juvenile detention facilities were at the heart of a ‘Cash for Kids’ kickback scandal in Luzerne County more than a decade ago. County Council President Pat Catena said Friday he is ‘extremely disappointed’ with the choice to allow a private company to run the facility.”
31) International/South Korea: Railway workers have gone on strike to fight privatization. “Hyun Jeong-hee, chairman of the Public Transport Workers’ Union, said, ‘If we hadn’t fought for 20 years over privatization, we would have had to double or triple the KTX fare, and the Mugunghwa and Saemaeul trains would have disappeared a long time ago.’ He added, ‘The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said they would resuscitate the failing SRT. Railway privatization is a disaster for our workers and people,’ he argued.” [See also the statement of solidarity by PSI]
32) Think Tanks/New Resource: A great new resource has been launched by the Brennan Center. The State Court Report is the new commentary, news, and resource hub covering state constitutional developments nationwide. Among their first offerings, a contribution by former attorney general Eric Holder, State Judges Must Guard Their Independence. “Our democracy needs a strong judiciary in order to function as it should,” states Holder. “But it is incumbent upon everyone to do their part to achieve that—citizens, reporters, legislators, and judges. History has demonstrated that when we act collectively, we can always right the course of justice and democracy. Now is the time for all of us to do our part. If we want to protect our democracy, we have to DO democracy by being committed to our founding ideals and by getting meaningfully involved in the civic life of the nation. The stakes could not be higher.”
33) National: The Federalist Society continues rolling along trying to gut public education law and wage war on diversity, equity and inclusion in our society and its institutions. Tomorrow their Civil Rights Practice Group, which has been frantically undermining the gains of the civil rights movement for decades, will be holding a program on “DEI in the Executive Branch.” Such initiatives “cost time, money, and resources, and they are not without controversy,” the Federalists complain in their usual anodyne language. Regular readers of the Privatization Report may be especially interested in tuning in to one of their programs in October—targeting the National Environmental Policy Act’s permitting regulations, which are crucial for, for example, stopping environmentally disastrous infrastructure projects. Federal Permitting Reform: Now or Never? They are busy beavers. Last week, they had a program on education law which featured a keynote on “Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions” by antigovernment pundit Philip K. Howard, who has also found time to attack NEPA permitting on infrastructure projects. [Public Works Financing, September 2015, p. 13]
34) National: The U.S. Space Force is about to release guidelines for the use of commercial satellite services. “U.S. Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said the Space Force is finalizing a blueprint for how it will integrate commercial satellite services into military activities. ‘One way we are enhancing our relationships with commercial partners is through a soon to be released commercial space strategy,’ Saltzman said Sept. 13 at the Global Aerospace Summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ‘This new strategy will provide a unifying guidance to the force to achieve competitive advantage through commercial augmentation,’ he said.”
35) National: Is the famous “Big Short” investor Michael Burry shorting the GEO Group, the private, for-profit prison and immigration detention company? His current stock holding in GEO has now reportedly topped $4 million. “The widely-followed hedge fund manager first acquired GEO in Q4 2020. However, the stock witnessed a sluggish performance in 2023, declining more than 33% since January 1.”