Your weekly rundown of news and analysis about the corporate takeover of education, water, and other public goods—and about the people fighting back. Not a subscriber? Subscribe here for free.
- California’s San Diego County has established new transparency measures for subcontractors, requiring construction and right-of-way permit holders to disclose the subcontractors they are using to complete permitted work.
- Why did Oakland decide to shut down its popular community schools? Jeff Bryant explains.
- The right-wing Federalist website calls public schools part of “cowardly bureaucracy” in wake of Uvalde shooting.
First, the good news…
1) National: In a major development with nationwide implications for fair employment and fair contracting, New Flyer, one of the U.S.’s largest bus manufacturers “has agreed to hire and promote more women and racial minorities, a deal that worker advocates say is a model for ensuring that federal funds to replace diesel buses with battery-powered buses boosts workers in struggling communities.” The Washington Post reports “New Flyer struck the deal with worker advocacy organization Jobs to Move America. It comes as transit agencies are set to receive billions from last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package to transition fleets to battery power and as the Biden administration is seeking to ensure that racial equity is a priority as money is spent. ‘This is a hands-on, full-blown partnership between a company and a set of community groups and the workers themselves to achieve this kind of opportunity and equity that everybody’s talking about,’ said Madeline Janis, Jobs to Move America’s executive director. ‘This gets in there and creates a holistic plan to achieve racial justice and gender justice in green manufacturing.’” [See also Jobs to Move America’s report on “How to Electrify our School Buses and Center Kids, Communities, and Workers in the Transition.”]
2) National: A Los Angeles federal judge, Dolly Gee, is considering a tentative agreement on a major immigration rights issue—the safe detention of immigrant children. “In the proposed settlement, filed over the weekend in Los Angeles federal court, the border patrol agrees to protocols requiring that detained minors be held in safe and sanitary conditions, not be separated from relatives, and have access to medical evaluations and prompt medical treatment when needed. The 61-page agreement was reached two years after the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law challenged the conditions of children’s detention in border patrol facilities in Texas where tens of thousands of minors were reportedly held during the Trump administration.”
3) California: San Diego County has established new transparency measures for subcontractors. Communications Workers of America (CWA) “CWA praised the passage of two ordinances by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which will require construction and right-of-way permit holders to disclose the subcontractors they are using to complete permitted work. The right-of-way measure, which CWA played a key role in crafting, will go into effect on June 10 along with the construction portion of the ordinance. Currently, contractors permitted for right-of-way or construction work are required to verify that they are properly licensed to do business in California, but have not been required to disclose any information on companies they subcontract work out to. These multiple layers of contractors, along with a lack of transparency or reporting, have made it increasingly difficult for localities to hold companies accountable for shoddy work, damage to public property, and to ensure safe conditions for workers and the public.”
4) California: The first-ever proposed California offshore wind lease sale, issued by the Biden administration, has requirements for a community benefits agreement. The project procurement requires bidders to “establish a community benefit agreement (CBA) with a community or stakeholder group that is directly impacted by the potential offshore wind development. While in previous lease sales BOEM has considered non-monetary factors to enhance workforce training and the domestic supply chain, its non-monetary factor to foster development of the lease area through cooperation with local affected communities is novel. BOEM is also exploring whether it has authority to pursue an additional bidding credit for a CBA not covered under the current proposed bidding credits.” It will reportedly be posted in the Federal Register today and will commence a 60-day public review and comment period. [Proposed Sale Notice (PSN)]
5) California: From PowerSwitch Action: “Great news! #AB2847 by @AsmEGarciaAD56 & 12 co-authors passed out of the California State Assembly and we are 1 step closer to building a #SafetyNet4All with unemp. benefits for excluded immigrant workers! Let’s keep it up! (1/3).”
6) Michigan: PowerSwitch Action’s new newsletter has a profile of Detroit Action, which has been heavily campaigning for a right to counsel ordinance in Detroit, which the City Council has passed. “The historic measure will give low-income residents access to free legal representation if they’re being threatened with eviction. Detroit Action is celebrating the ordinance as a step in the right direction, but calling for adequate funding for the policy—and vowing to continue organizing until Right to Counsel is fully funded.” Read more here.
7) National: AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler says “America’s labor movement is absolutely devastated by the loss of 19 children and two teachers who were shot and killed in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (…) These mass shootings are a stark reminder of why the Senate must stop hiding behind arcane procedures to avoid preventing gun violence and take action. Because working people deserve safe workplaces without fear of a mass shooting. And America’s children deserve to learn and thrive in safe schools.”
The National Education Association (NEA) rejects call to arm teachers in wake of school massacre in Uvalde. “Mere hours after the senseless school shooting, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called for arming teachers. Previous polls conducted by the National Education Association showed that educators reject the preposterous position that gun violence can be reduced by bringing even more guns into schools.”
From Samuel Sinyangwe: “Legislators responded to the 2018 Parkland school shooting by hiring police officers in every elementary, middle and high school in Florida. It didn’t make students safer. Instead, it led to this:
- The percentage of youth arrests happening at school hit a five-year high of 20 percent.
- The number of students expelled from school increased 43 percent.
- For the first time ever, there are more police officers working in Florida schools — 3,650 — than there are school nurses, who number 2,286.
- The number of police officers in schools is more than double the number of school social workers (1,414) and school psychologists (1,452).
- Schools reported more than four times as many incidents of using physical restraints on students.”
8) California: Why did Oakland decide to shut down its popular community schools? Jeff Bryant explains. “Community schools attend to the basic needs of the communities they serve, which often entails, according to news reports, such things as access to health and dental care, nutritious food, arts programs, sports and recreation, or after-school activities. But in February 2022, Oakland, despite its commitment to its districtwide reform plan, announced it is shutting down several of its community schools. (…) Much of the criticism focuses on the fact that the closures disproportionately affect families who are often the most in need of the full-service nature of the community schools approach, principally, families of color with children who often struggle the most in schools. (…) If a school district commits to a collaborative model for school transformation, how can that plan coexist in the context of market competition from charters? Oakland seems uniquely at the forefront of these difficult policy questions. Are districts that are adopting the community schools model elsewhere in California, in Maryland, and around the country paying attention?”
Indybay reports that “parents, students, teachers and community members have occupied Oakland Parker Elementary school to stop its closure. The OUSD board has voted to close Parker and 10 other schools while opening and expanding charters.” Labor Video Project reports that “An OEA teacher Gregorio Gutierrez and a school resource worker Timothy Killins talk about the occupation of the Parker Elementary in Oakland school district. It was occupied by students, parents with the support of teachers and the community on Wednesday May 25, 2022. They also discussed the systemic racism, charters, privatization and the role of schools that are fighting the attacks.. Also discussed was the failure of the OEA/CTA leadership to organize a fight against closures and also unite districts throughout the state who face similar attack. Also Gregorio Gutierrez who is a teacher and former US Marine who served in Iraq talks about the massacres, guns and arming teachers as well as profiteering by the gun industry.” [Video, about a half hour]
9) Illinois: The arts educators at Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) are voting this week to certify a union with the CTU. “CEO’s and administrators from 12 of the 13 charter operators where CTU represents members participated in a Healthcare Committee meeting and received information and asked questions about a potential healthcare pool for all employers willing to engage in multi-employer bargaining with the CTU. (…) Over 300 CTU members from almost all 36 CTU-represented charter schools came together for a rally with students, parents, and allies to demand equal pay for equal work and staffing for special education, bilingual education, and social/emotional services needed to recover from the last two years of pandemic.”
10) Iowa: Republican governor Kim Reynolds is running a fear campaign against public schools on the campaign trail, reports Todd Dorman of the Gazette. “Fear became the governor’s prime pitch. Public schools are places where children can access ‘X-rated books.’ Schools are following alarming policies supportive of transgender students, allowing them to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Never mind these districts are simply trying to protect transgender students from discrimination and follow the law.” Reynolds and her backers are also targeting any Republicans who might be inching toward a reasonable position on public schools in the June 7 primary. “Now the governor and conservative groups, which I call Friends of Kim, or FOK, are working to take some of them out in the June 7 primary. Three groups, the American Federation for Children Action Fund, Americans for Prosperity and the Family Leader have poured in more than $220,000 this month, largely in GOP House races, according to campaign finance disclosures.”
11) Massachusetts: In the wake of a withering state report and talk of a possible state takeover of Boston Public Schools, “the city is proposing an updated plan to address the problems and asking to partner with Massachusetts education officials for help and $10 million in additional funding.” The charter school industry is hungrily monitoring the situation.
12) Michigan: Minneapolis-based writer and researcher Sarah Lahm says Betsy DeVos and her school privatization agenda are no match for Michigan parents. “A perhaps unlikely place where parents have organized to defend their public schools and keep them inclusive and welcoming places for all children is in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan, the backyard of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (…) These days, she is busily reasserting her role as a key player in Michigan politics, particularly when it comes to the dismantling of the state’s public education system. But although DeVos says she is a staunch supporter of “parent rights,” some parents affected by her agenda think she is dead wrong.”
13) Nevada: Chartwells K12, the food service outsourcing company, is being kicked out of the Elko School District in favor of Southwest Foodservice Excellence. “The committee studying the proposals from Chartwells and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based SFE gave a score of 92 out of 100 to SFE and a score of 83 to Chartwells. The categories covered cost; method of approach and implementation plan; experience, expertise and reliability; and evaluation of 21-day menu samples.”
14) West Virginia: Just as more charters are entering the state, the Preston Board of Education has gotten bad news about charter school enrollment and funding. “It looks like Preston County Schools is going to lose $272, 000 in state aid because of charter school enrollment. ‘I think this is huge. None of us knew this was coming,’ Superintendent Stephen Wotring told the Preston County Board of Education. ‘… We have been promised by our legislators that neither the Hope Scholarship nor charter schools were going to affect our budget. … But just to give you the down-and-dirty version of the whole thing: We do have to pay for every child who goes to a charter school.’”
15) “Think” Tanks: Well there have been some flamboyantly nonsensical things coming out of the right wing blabbosphere this past week in response to the horror in Uvalde, but surely a top candidate for the Olympic Gold medal in this category is weaponizing the mass murder of small children to justify yet another specious attack on critical race theory, LGBTQ+ rights and the very idea of community to basically call for school and public safety privatization as a solution.
16) National/Think Tanks: The National Tradeswomen Taskforce organized an action clinic on helping tradeswomen in your state get their share of infrastructure jobs. “The good news is that the $1.2 Trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has workforce goals for women and people of color. The bad news is most states don’t have a great track record of enforcing the goals. But your local advocacy can push your state to ensure women have access to these good jobs. This free 90-minute clinic will provide an overview of the Infrastructure Act as well as Executive Order 11246 which sets the workforce goals. It will provide tips and templates for communicating with your state’s public officials, so you can be prepared to advocate for jobs and respectful workplaces for tradeswomen. Presenters: Connie Ashbrook, Co-Chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues; Martha Valadez, Organizer with Jobs with Justice, and Liz Skidmore, Business Representative/Organizer, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.” [Watch the video, about 45 minutes].
17) California: IJ reports that “San Francisco Public Works has requested revised proposals from teams shortlisted for the DBFM of the Potrero Yard Modernization project.” Details of the project. [Sub required]
18) New York: New York City’s 421a tax break for housing development will likely expire, in a significant blow to developers. “Critics say it has amounted to a tax giveaway for developers in return for too few units for low-income New Yorkers, and sometimes none at all. ‘421a is a broken, absurdly expensive Band-Aid placed on top of New York City’s broken property-tax system,’ said Brad Lander, the New York City comptroller, who has advocated for the end of the tax break. ‘It’s good that it is not being renewed.’ The immediate impact of the expired subsidy, which officially ends on June 15, won’t be felt for years.”
This battle has been going on for years. For example, see Good Jobs First’s report from seven years ago, Subsidies and Corruption in New York. “According to a report by the Community Service Society, 421-a costs the city over $1 billion a year in tax expenditures, yet produces ‘well under 14 cents of affordable housing investment for every dollar of tax subsidies.’ Recent articles in the New York Daily News and The New York Times describe the political maneuvering of a 421-a beneficiary called Glenwood Management.”
19) New York: Schenectady is awaiting funding for a virtual community power plant. The program “would retrofit low- and middle-income households with green technology, an initiative officials say will reduce carbon emissions, lower the cost of living and serve as a model for the greater Capital Region and beyond. The so-called Schenectady Community Virtual Power Plant, unveiled during a Monday press event at City Hall, would supplement the city’s HOMES program by setting aside millions to cover the costs of installing solar panels, battery energy storage units and other smart technology in homes sold under the program.”
20) Think Tanks: There’s a new paper out on Value for Money assessments in so-called public-private partnerships across countries. Unpacking the Context of Value for Money Assessment in Global Markets: A Procurement Option Framework for Public-Private Partnerships, by Jianfeng Zhao et al.
“This paper, therefore, aims to understand governments’ assessment context and provide a cross-continental comparison of their VfM assessment. (…) Findings – There are individual institutional characteristics that have shaped the way each country assesses VfM. For the methodological level, we identify that: (1) these global markets use a public sector comparator as the benchmark in VfM assessment; (2) ambiguous qualitative assessment is conducted only against PPPs to strengthen their policy development; (3) Australia’s priority is in service provision whereas that of the UK and China is project finance and production; and (4) all markets are seeking an amelioration of existing controversial VfM assessments so that purported VfM relates to project lifecycles. As such, an option framework is proposed to make headway towards a sensible selection of infrastructure procurement approaches in the post COVID-19 era.”
21) Think Tanks/National/California: Adam Millsap of the Stand Together Trust—founded by Charles Koch—is out with an opinion piece in Forbes advocating the privatization of America’s ports. For a reality check on such asset-stripping boosterism, check out Alexander Sammon’s recent piece in The American Prospect. “As the country’s most cynical economists and credulous news anchors would tell it, the breaking of the ports was the natural result of lavishing stimulus checks upon lower-income Americans, who nearly ruined Christmas with their indomitable desire for foldable furniture and Tickle Me Elmo. In reality, it’s the combination of some of the worst sins in economic policy: privatization, deregulation, cartelization, with some parasitic private equity sprinkled in too, all of which sacrificed resiliency, long-term planning, and even the country’s aptitude for economic growth in favor of corporate profits.”
22) Revolving Door News: InfraStrategies LLC, which provides infrastructure financing advice to a number of major bond issuers nationwide, has brought on board Emma Huang from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation. [Sub required]
Criminal Justice and Immigration
23) National/California: Attorney General Rob Bonta has led a multistate coalition in defense of state minimum wage protections for employees of federal contractors. Read the amicus brief. “The case centers around a lawsuit filed in 2017 by the State of Washington challenging GEO Group, Inc.’s (GEO) failure to pay state minimum wages to individuals who worked for GEO during their confinement to GEO’s private, for-profit detention facility while awaiting the outcome of civil immigration proceedings. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition highlights the critical importance of state minimum wage protections, pushes back on GEO’s efforts to evade broadly applicable wage and hour laws, and urges the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to affirm the lower court’s judgment.”
24) National: Questions have been raised about what the GEO Group is doing about rape in its federally-contracted facilities. “The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards and corporate policies by detention center operator the Geo Group are supposed to protect detainees. Yet, they remain vulnerable to abuse, and victims can expect little to no accountability, researchers found. Through state and federal records requests, researchers found 63 reports of sexual assault or abuse over a roughly seven-year period at the Northwest Detention Center, though some reports mentioned multiple incidents. Alleged rape or harassment of immigrants happened at the hands of GEO officers, health providers and other detainees.”
25) National: Forbes senior contributor Morgan Simon weighs in on “how corporations like Chevron use the law to get their way.” “My story, however, is nothing compared to that of Steven Donzinger, the lawyer who stood up to Chevron’s environmental abuses in Ecuador and lost his personal freedom as a result. (My story of being sued by CoreCivic for $55M for defamation is perhaps a bit more comparable, but at least I have not lost my personal freedom). Both stories should be a cautionary tale for shareholders who think that corporate money should be focused on fulfilling a company’s mission, not prosecuting those who may challenge it.”
26) Arizona/National: The Arizona Department of Corrections has announced it has awarded a prison health care contract to NaphCare, “an Alabama based health care provider that settled with the United States Department of Justice over allegations of overcharging clients in 2021.” In a 2021 settlement, “NaphCare agreed to pay nearly $700,000 after allegations the company had violated the False Claims Act by overcharging Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. ‘The United States alleged that NaphCare submitted inflated claims for evaluation and management services provided by several physicians at BOP’s Terre Haute, Indiana, facility between January 2014 and June 2020,’ the Department of Justice said in a statement at the time of the settlement.” NaphCare will take over from Centurion, which took over from Corizon. “Several whistleblowers have come forward in recent years accusing both Corizon and Centurion of improperly attempting to evade protocols established by the settlement agreement.”
27) International: The Daily Telegraph reports that there was a “shock number of job vacancies” at a privately-run Australian prison where an inmate died last month. “Serco, the operator of the facility, has issued a statement saying Serco, Corrective Services NSW, and NSW Police are investigating the incident. All deaths in custody are subject to a coronial inquest, and police have confirmed a report will be prepared for the NSW Coroner.” The Financial Times just reported that “Serco has upgraded its revenue and profit guidance for this year as the outsourcer’s income from its work in immigration, healthcare and defense offsets the end of its Covid-19 contracts. The group, which manages services for governments worldwide, said it expected revenue to be between £4.3bn and £4.4bn, and underlying trading profit to be £225mn, in 2022.” [Subs required]
28) National: “In the last year, Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans passed a law eliminating ANY permit requirement for guns—and then slashed $211 MILLION from Texas’s mental health budget,” says Tristan Snell.
29) National: Common Dreams reports that “senior citizens, doctors, progressive lawmakers, and activists gathered virtually on Monday to launch a ‘summer of action’ to prevent the back-door privatization of traditional Medicare. (…) These profit-maximizing third parties have plans to completely take over Medicare by the end of the decade, but progressives are gearing up to fight back, as detailed during Monday’s Protect Medicare event, organized by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and titled ‘Turning Up the Heat on Direct Contracting and REACH.’ ‘Despite undeniable evidence that Wall Street middlemen drive up costs and deny care, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has begun to move traditional Medicare beneficiaries into a program called Direct Contracting or ACO REACH, which inserts profit-driven middlemen between seniors and their healthcare,’ said Rick Timmins, a member of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.”
30) National: The Stand reports that last Wednesday, “members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) VBA Local 1128, AFGE Local 3197, AFGE Local 498, plus union and community supporters rallied outside the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle to demand better workplace conditions at local VA facilities and condemning the Veteran Affairs Department’s recommended closure of dozens of facilities nationwide.” They urge you to sign the petition.
31) National: Amazon investors are pushing the company on global tax transparency. “‘Americans recognize that our tax system is unfair. Amazon uses our public goods—for example its delivery trucks use roads paid for by taxpayers—and it’s past time for Amazon to reveal information so that investors and the public can have a complete picture of how the company’s structure enables tax dodging,’ said Susan Harley, managing director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and a FACT Coalition member.”
32) National/California: A very useful discussion of the destruction of public housing and homelessness. Also check out this sharp exchange between the San Francisco Chronicle and Randy Shaw over housing policy.
From the This is Revolution Podcast description of their conversation with Randy Shaw: “A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported violent, and vile unlivable conditions in the city’s Hotels for the unhoused. From overdoses to rat infestations. We witnessed during the early days of the pandemic, the great source of refuge the single room occupancy hotels became for the city’s homeless. Are the hotels as bad as the Chronicle is reporting? Or is this hit piece perfect fodder for a crackdown for a vulnerable population that is often overlooked and underfunded. Randy Shaw Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw’s latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.” [Video, about 11 minutes]
33) California: Unionized L.A. County nurses have reached a tentative labor contract to avert a strike. But now resident physicians and interns at three of L.A.’s largest hospitals have threatened to strike. “The doctors-in-training have worked throughout the pandemic. Their contract expired in September. They claim they work up to 80-hour workweeks with salaries that they say add up to minimum wage.”
34) New York: In a letter to the editor of the Financial Times, veteran privatization critic Elliott Sclar says city real estate holds the key to the future of urban transit. “We are now at an inflection point, hastened by the onset of a pandemic. Highly efficient forms of information and communications technology are viable substitutes for many existing uses of city centre space. The future of urban transit will be largely determined by the new uses that emerge to fill the gap for this real estate as older use imperatives fall away.” [Sub required]
35) New York: Scott Beyer, a pro-privatization publicist, wants to privatize the NYC ferry.
36) International: Protestors disrupted a campaign rally by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to denounce his plans to privatize public health care. “‘I think that I have the right to let people know before they vote that Doug Ford is really a fraud,’ he said. ‘The Conservatives have been destroying this province and this country at the expense of the most vulnerable.’ ‘We need a change,” he added. Shortly after, Ford continued with his remarks, touting his party’s plan if re-elected.’ The election is this Thursday.
37) International: Britain is facing the largest rail labor dispute in a generation as 25,000 workers have voted to strike, “which is an historically huge mandate that the union rightly hails as the biggest industrial action since privatisation. It also arguably transcends privatisation since strikes will be taking place across the fragmentation of rail sector against the state-run track maintenance company Network Rail and more than a dozen of the dysfunctional train operating companies (TOCs). This very much expresses the reality that none of these entities really run the railway: since Covid, the government has been doing that, and this is really a strike directly against the Tory government.”
38) A voice from Uvalde, Dee Noonan Draws. “Then we heard he was chased into the school. We are helpless. The cops do nothing but harass citizens they are suppose to be serving and protecting. I’m disgusted by our mayor sitting with Abbott and Cruz. Throwing bullshit rhetoric of thoughts and prayers. I need people to know. We are not a red state. We are a oppressed state. Gerrymandering has put the power into the few. Stop telling us to just go vote. We vote. But the system is rigged. We need help. We are being held hostage by this corrupt government. It is such a helpless feeling. I’m so angry. I’ve been angry. And I feel like I’m just screaming into a void. Abbott and Cruz, let us die in the cold two years ago. They let us die in the ongoing pandemic. And they will continue to let our children die with gun reform because of money. I don’t know what more I can do. Sorry for this unorganized rant. I just don’t know what to do.”
39) National: Well, at least someone is admitting it instead of hiding behind a fog of greenwashing and mendacious speeches at Glasgow and Davos. Vanguard, the world’s second-largest asset manager ($8.1 trillion AUM) says it will not end new fossil fuel investments, citing its duty to maximize returns for clients. [Sub required]
40) International: Is the Great Sri Lanka Fire Sale About to Begin?, asks Bloomberg. “The newly appointed prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe — his sixth time in the job — wasted no time in announcing the government would privatize Sri Lankan Airlines, which prior to the pandemic had flown to 126 destinations in more than 60 countries. (…) The problem is, Sri Lanka has already essentially given away some of its most strategic points to China, which until recently was working hard to expand its footprint there. (…) So what else can the country privatize? It’s a question that’s worrying political economists like Ahilan Kadirgamar, who is concerned about the social impact of key assets leaving government hands. Kadirgamar, a senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna, said officials were most likely to consider the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Ceylon Petroleum Corp. He predicts there will be significant resistance to such a move.”
Photo by Lorie Shaull.