First, the Good News

1) National/Tennessee: Volkswagen workers just made history. The Financial Times reports that “the workers, who voted 2,628 to 985 to join the union, had said that Volkswagen was underpaying them, targeting the German group as part of a $40M campaign to organize workers at 13 mostly foreign-owned carmakers with non-union plants in the U.S. The closely watched election underscores the resurgence of the labour movement in America. United Auto Workers organizers see southern states including Tennessee as hostile territory and have tried to organize there for decades with little success.” The auto giant acknowledged the “the vote was administered through a democratic, secret ballot vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.”

Kelcey Smith, a worker in the paint department at Volkswagen. said, “people in high places told us good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this isn’t the time to stand up, this isn’t the place. But we did stand up and we won. This is the time; this is the place. Southern workers are ready to stand up and win a better life.” VW worker Angel Gomez said “people for the most part are smartening up. And they’re not paying attention to the political crap.  The politicians know nothing about blue-collar work. They are born with a silver spoon in their mouths.”

Jobs With Justice’s Michaela Winter saysmore than 30 labor, faith, and community organizations rallied behind the Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, including Jobs With Justice East Tennessee. The infrastructure of solidarity JWJ East Tennessee and other community groups have cultivated continues to build a network of workers willing to throwdown—from contract fights to picket lines.”

2) National: Food & Water Watch is celebrating the EPA’s issuance of a final rule requiring PFOA and PFOS polluters to pay for cleanups. Mary Grant, the Public Water for All Campaign Director at Food & Water Watch, says “Right now, Congress must reject various legislative proposals to exempt for-profit companies, including the water and sewer privatization industry, from being held accountable to pay to clean up PFAS. It is an outrageous hypocrisy that large for-profit water corporations seek to privatize municipal water and sewer systems by touting themselves as a solution to PFAS contamination, and yet they want to carve themselves out of accountability for cleanup costs. No corporation should have free rein to pollute.”

Common Dreams reports that Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the federal policy program of Toxic-Free Future, “similarly celebrated the EPA rule, calling it ‘an important step forward that will go a long way toward holding PFAS polluters accountable and beginning to clean up contaminated sites across the country.’”

3) National: Route Fifty’s Kaitlyn Levinson reports that “a Medicaid waiver can help state corrections facilities finance reentry services aimed at keeping former inmates in recovery and curbing the opioid crisis.”

4) International/National: The private sector, at least the more sophisticated elements of it, are finally waking up to the dangers of privatization. “Thames Water could benefit from a spell of public ownership,” says the Financial Times. “Privatization’s failures are stacking up for the UK,” says Bloomberg. The Murdoch press, which has been stamping its feet for decades insisting that privatization is cheaper, is suddenly indignant about this privatization disaster’s price tag: a projected 56% rise in rates; and is covering news of the deep panic among public pension plans that invested in this infrastructure privatization deal. Meanwhile the Tory press, in the form of the Telegraph, is fretting about the expensive lawyering-up process Thames Water is launching, alongside of fears that the contagion could spread to Thames’ rivals. [Sub required]

And let’s not leave out the vindicated Cassandras. Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who ran on a platform of strengthening the public sector, has reiterated his demand that Thames Water be brought into the public domain. But before we get too complacent, let’s not forget our own woes over the privatization of infrastructure and public services. Here’s a list of the 15 Worst Man-Made Environmental Disasters in American History.

5) Minnesota: The Minnesota Reformer’s Max Nesterak reports that “Minnesota lawmakers are likely to fund a 15% pay increase for state certified court interpreters after an unprecedented seven-week strike forced the court system to postpone hearings and turn to lesser qualified interpreters, sometimes through an expensive phone service. Yet court interpreters, who are independent contractors and not unionized, say the higher pay of $75 an hour still won’t be competitive with other state courts or the private sector, and the Minnesota Judicial Branch will continue to struggle to uphold its constitutional mandate to provide interpreters to all court participants who are deaf or non-English speakers.”

6) Ohio: Policy Matters Ohio puts some numbers on the news in the Buckeye State.:

  • 6%: Share of revenue collected into Ohio’s General Revenue Fund that came from the sales tax last year.
  • 4M: Number of children who would benefit from the Thriving Families Tax Credit proposal.
  • 59%: Share of parents not currently working full time who would do so if childcare was more affordable.
  • $600M: Size of a grant made to Intel Corp. by the state last year to support building two semiconductor fabrication plants.
  • 8%: Ohio’s unemployment rate in March, according to the latest JobWatch from economist Michael Shields.
  • 395K: Estimated drop in the number of Ohioans enrolled in Medicaid from April 2023 through February 2024.
  • $500: Monthly amount provided to families participating in St. Paul, Minnesota’s basic income pilot program.

7) Washington: A new state law provides contracted bus drivers with the same benefits as district employees. “The law states that a school district may only enter into, renew or extend a pupil transportation services contract with a private company if the company provides employer health benefits and an amount equivalent to the salaries of the employees of the ‘of the private nongovernmental entity multiplied by the employer normal cost contribution rate determined under the entry age cost method for the school employees’ retirement system, as published in the most recent actuarial valuation report from the office of the state actuary for the first year of the contract.’”

8) Think Tanks: The Appeal has published the first national database of prison commissary prices. “The project covers 46 states, revealing an exploitative system that forces incarcerated people to pay up to 5x the outside price for some items.” And “it gets even worse when you know private companies owned by private equity firms get involved and look for ways to make as much money off of it as possible.”


9) National: The Biden administration is to roll back the Betsy DeVos Title IX regulations. “This new rule will roll back Title IX changes overseen by DeVos. Those regulations narrowly defined sexual harassment, and directed schools to conduct live hearings to allow those who were accused of sexual harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers. Many advocates argued that practice would discourage victims of sexual misconduct from coming forward. President Joe Biden during his campaign in 2020 promised to nix the Trump administration’s Title IX regulations.”

10) National: Right wing legal activists are suing the Portland Association of Teachers and the Oregon Education Association “about whether their bargaining demands unnecessarily prolonged the strike and school closures.” Similar cases have been filed in other states. The lead attorney for the lawfare group (Chicago-based Hughes & Suhr LLC), Daniel R. Suhr, is a former deputy director of the Federalist Society’s Student Division.

11) National: What does responsible contracting mean when it comes to AI services? EdWeek Market Brief’s current issue serves as a bit of a marketing brief on the sell-side of the AI government contracting space. So as a starting point to evaluate these services, which are coming thick and fast to every public entity, and for formulating some of the right questions, here are In the Public Interest’s guides on responsible contracting and procurement best practices.

12) California: “The efforts and shared leadership of Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA), Anaheim Union High School District, students, parents and community partners “means the community schools movement in Anaheim is flourishing,”  the California Teachers Association reports. “To date, 16 of 21 middle and high schools in AUHSD, whose students speak almost 50 languages in their homes, have transitioned to community schools. The ASTA/AUHSD ‘Leading and Learning Days,’ which are informational tours and presentations at those schools, have drawn hundreds of educators from across California and nationwide.”

13) Louisiana: The best research money can buy. The Guardian, has co-published an investigation by New Orleans’ The Lens (“LSU’s fossil-fuel partnerships”), that reports, “for $5 million dollars, Louisiana’s flagship university will let an oil company help choose which faculty research projects move forward. Or, for $100,000, a corporation can participate in a research study, with ‘robust’ reviewing powers and access to resulting intellectual property. Those are the conditions outlined in a boilerplate document that Louisiana State University’s fundraising arm circulated to oil majors and chemical companies affiliated with the Louisiana Chemical Association, an industry lobbying group, according to emails disclosed in response to a public records request by The Lens.”

“Records show that after Shell donated $25 million in 2022 to LSU to create the Institute for Energy Innovation, the university gave the fossil-fuel corporation license to influence research and coursework for the university’s new concentration in carbon capture, use, and storage. Afterward, LSU’s fundraising entity, called the LSU Foundation, used this partnership as a model to shop around to members of the Louisiana Chemical Association, such as ExxonMobil, Air Products, and CF Industries, which have proposed carbon-capture projects in Louisiana.”

To compound matters it’s not only at the production end of the research business that we find the power of money to shape scientific outcomes, it’s at the distribution end too. See, e.g., Derek Lowe’s “Just Bribe Everyone—It’s Only the Scientific Record” (Science, 19 January 2024).

14) Massachusetts: Half of the Bay State’s residents support the right of teachers to strike. “In a new  CommonWealth Beacon/GBH News poll, 50 percent of state residents favored legalizing teachers’ strikes, while 34 percent said strikes should remain illegal, and 16 percent said they were unsure or did not answer. (…) The survey, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, comes on the heels of strikes in five Massachusetts school districts over the last two years. It is illegal for public sector employees to strike in the state, but that hasn’t stopped a wave of walkouts signaling a more militant posture on the part of teachers’ unions. The longest—and most recent—strike closed schools in Newton for two weeks in late January and early February. The poll results point to a strong degree of sympathy for teachers’ efforts to secure better pay and other changes, even if it means shutting down schools to get there.”

15) Nebraska: Via Jennifer Berkshire: “Thanks to an 11th hour move by Nebraska legislators, NE taxpayers will now be funding private religious schools. It’s a deeply unpopular idea in NE but thanks to sneaky legislative move, voters can’t repeal vouchers.”

16) Pennsylvania: Sharp debate over charter schools dominates discussion of school board nominations in Philadelphia. “In addition to the intense questioning about charters, returning board members were grilled about the “deplorable” condition of school buildings and the absence of a promised school facilities plan from the school district. They were also pressed about the new, lottery-based special admissions policy that has contributed to a surge in empty student seats in many of the district’s top schools.”

17) Tennessee: Pearson, the school privatization/testing behemoth ($8.4 billion market cap) that markets itself as bringing efficiency and cost effectiveness to its customers, is having issues, according to Tennessee Holler: “INBOX: We’re being told @pearson is having server error issues again, and TCAP testing across Tennessee is again being disrupted today. TCAP vendor Pearson was just awarded ANOTHER $40 MILLION—bringing their total to $130 MILLION+ in state contracts. @TNEdReport”


18) National: Jeffrey Scruggs, head of the Public Sector and Infrastructure Group at Goldman Sachs, sat down with Bond Buyer Executive Editor Lynne Funk to talk about shifting Federal Reserve rate policy and other issues. Scruggs on so-called public-private partnerships (P3s): “I do think that there’ll be a long-term availability of this type of financing program. The question is whether it ever explodes in the way that people were thinking, maybe some people hoping 15 plus years ago, and again, that hasn’t happened to date, but there’s still the money that’s searching for a home right now.” [Sub required]

19) National: Thermal energy networks may be about to have their moment, says the Wall Street Journal. Nikki Bruno, vice president of clean technologies at Eversource, “says geothermal networks make business sense for gas utilities because they require similar skills for installing and managing long-lived infrastructure. The pipes, made out of plastic and metals, have 40- to 50-year lifespans, and the geothermal boreholes can last up to 100 years or more. There are currently fewer safety requirements compared with natural gas, but regulations are still being developed.” [Sub required]

20) California: The City of Anaheim City Council has approved Disney’s development plan, which involves the privatization of an important public road. The public discussion was heated. [Video by Titan News, 2 minutes]

21) California: “Are for-profit developments consistent with the values of a public university?” asks Emily B. Marthinsen. “I believe it is, at best, a misnomer to call these public-private partnerships. More accurately, these are philanthropic blackmail. (…) Public-private partnerships, including donor-developed projects, are facts of life at most U.S. public universities. Yet it’s imperative that the physical campus shaped by these projects reflects the core values of our institutions. Price and donor interest shouldn’t trump the need for buildings that fit with community culture, that address program needs, and that balance past, present, and future in ways that preserve the physical campus as a unique and identifiable place.

Our responsibility as campus planners—as designers and stewards of campuses—is to step outside the echo chamber and to realistically assess proposed public-private relationships and the deals that we make with private partners and donors out of exigency. We have to be the skeptics.”

22) International/Australia: Ownderdriver.com reports that “serious criticism from the Transport Workers Union has led to the delay of a six-month driverless truck trial that was set to begin in Melbourne this week. Announced on Thursday, the six-month trial headed by Transurban has been criticized for a lack of public consultation and the potential of leaving freight routes in chaos. The TWU issued an emergency message to its members yesterday afternoon announcing ‘the proposed driverless trucks trial tonight on the Monash Freeway has been cancelled.’ ‘Sneaky tactics, and lacking any community input, Transurban maliciously chose to squeeze this trial through in bad faith.’”

23) International/India: A new wave of airport privatizations is coming after the current elections. But Mohan Phuyal writes, “To date, there are 21 airports in the pipeline of privatization. However, there remain several challenges and constraints for development and commercialization with private enterprises.” Read the paper and also Phuyal’s critique of P3s in India: “The procured models are in ad-hoc- arrangement, absence of clear rules and regulations as well as unclear institutional responsibility to procure, manage, and monitor these projects, which has caused many disadvantages for the implementation of PPP projects in India. As a result, very few PPP projects are recommended through Public-Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC).”

Public Services

24) National: States are aiming to combat private equity in healthcare, the Wall Street Journal reports. “More than a dozen states have passed laws to require corporate buyers such as private-equity firms to notify states of planned healthcare acquisitions. In some cases, these laws let state authorities block deals if they consider them against the public interest.” Axios reports that Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has “released draft legislation called the ‘Health Over Wealth Act,’ which is aimed at both private equity and other for-profit health services providers. Both types of owners would be required to disclose a laundry list of financial and operational data, including around debt, political spending, wages, and the use of areas like hallways and waiting rooms for patient care. They’d also need to create an escrow account to cover essential health services costs for five years in the event of a facility closure. The biggest change would be vastly expanded powers for the Department of Health and Human Services.”

25) National: The Biden administration has issued a new rule to protect federal workers from a political purge threatened by Trump. “The Biden-Harris Administration knows that career civil servants are the backbone of the federal workforce and should be able to provide the expertise and experience necessary for the critical functioning of the federal government,” said White House Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller.

In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Walter Shaub, former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, does a deep dive on Trump’s plan to purge up to 50,000 federal employees. “Another important member of the Project 2025 coalition is the Center for Renewing America,” says Shaub, “founded by former Trump White House budget director Russell Vought. Shortly after Trump issued his Schedule F executive order, Vought recommended moving 88 percent of the Office of Management and Budget’s nonpolitical employees into Schedule F. In February a federal union released documents showing Vought stretched the meaning of ‘policy-making’ positions covered by Schedule F to include even relatively junior and administrative positions, potentially demonstrating that a second Trump administration could target far more positions than Project 2025 is saying publicly.”

As In the Public Interest’s Communications Director Jeff Hagan writes in the current ITPI newsletter, “Public service and public servants are everywhere—they drive our children to school, they teach our children, they pave our roads, they maintain the parks, they process benefits for veterans and the elderly, they process the tax forms some of us filed this week, they make sure our meat and vegetables are safe to eat—the list goes on and on. They support us in ways we often cannot see. And they deserve our support.”

26) National: What does the Partnership for Public Service do? Read The Fulcrum’s interview with PPS executive vice president James-Christian Blockwood. “The Partnership for Public Service takes bold action to develop effective leadersand address critical talent gaps; increase employee engagement and recognize excellence in the federal workforce; promote innovation and collaboration; rebuild public trust in government and help agencies meet customer needs; and strengthen the presidential transition process. The organization serves as a bridge between administrations, across the political aisle and from the public to the private sector to develop forward-thinking solutions that improve the way our government works.”

27) National/Florida: After a vigorous presentation by the Teamsters, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “has ruled in favor of 80 drivers at United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) in Sarasota, Fla., refusing to accept the company’s plans to outsource jobs to notorious nonunion employer J.B. Hunt. The decision by the NLRB protects jobs and safeguards the rights of UNFI workers seeking union representation with Teamsters Local 79 in Tampa, Fla. ‘UNFI’s attempt to outsource jobs was nothing more than a desperate, union-busting tactic to stop drivers from becoming Teamsters. The company’s actions were shameful and illegal and won’t be tolerated,’ said Tom Erickson, Director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division.”

28) Illinois: The Elmhurst School District 205 board has settled a grievance filed by custodians represented by Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “District officials did not release details of the agreement, but said it had to do with the section of the union contract that deals with family and medical leave.”

29) Kentucky: As pay cuts loom, Jefferson County custodians rallied for a fair shake. “Jefferson County Public Schoolscustodians held signs while rallying outside of the VanHoose Education Center on Tuesday, calling for living wages. The workers have been earning $3.50 pay differential since the pandemic. However, the money allocated by the state is set to expire on June 30. Union leaders said many workers cannot afford to lose that pay. The rally took place before Tuesday’s school board meeting. The union is asking the board to make that $3.50 a permanent part of the budget going forward. ‘It’s become part of our everyday living now,’ Johnathan Ward, a custodian at Shawnee High School, said. ‘We’ve been able to afford reliable transportation to and from work. It’s allowed us to pay our bills and provide groceries for our families.’” The rally was rally organized by SEIU 32BJ, which represents 415 district custodians. Negotiations are continuing.

30) New York: New York City retirees vow to fight Medicare privatization, Amsterdam News reports. “Members of the group Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC) showed up at Manhattan’s 26 Federal Plaza on April 12 to deliver a letter addressed to President Joe Biden to bring attention to the concerning direction they see Medicare going in. CROC members are mostly New York City municipal retirees who said they wanted to deliver a letter to Medicare and Medicaid Services representatives about something they call a ‘(Dis)Advantage’ plan, a play on Medicare’s Advantage plan terminology. ‘We are mostly New York City retirees, and the city has been trying for three years to take away our wonderful Medicare,’ said Julie Schwartzberg, a CROC founder who also once served as vice president of AFSCME District Council 37’s Local 768. ‘We found out that all over the country, the same thing is happening. In states all over the place, in cities, they’re taking away retirees’ Medicare and putting people on Medicare Advantage.’ (…) ‘These plans are literally killing us. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that 10,000 Medicare Advantage patient lives could be saved every year if insurance companies did not delay and deny the care their doctor ordered as a method of increasing their profits.’”

31) International/Australia: RTBU NSW, the transport workers union, “says government privatization, outsourcing and mismanagement has impacted the transport system negatively and that commuters and workers deserve better. (…) ‘Over recent years, we have seen bus services and stops axed, rail services cut, and poor government planning combined with the government’s decision to fight against common sense and safety has meant the region still hasn’t got access to the new fleet of trains that were meant to be delivered years ago,’ [President] Holmes said. ‘The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) NSW has been fighting alongside local commuters to improve services in the Hunter, especially in adding in extra services so people can easily get from A to B.’ RTBU Branch Secretary, Alex Claassens, said the New Intercity Fleet, currently at Kangy Angy undergoing vital safety upgrades, was a classic example of poor transport planning. ‘Rather than build the new fleet of trains here in Australia and consult with experts, the former NSW Government tried to cut corners by going overseas and purchasing off the shelf trains,’ Mr. Claassens said.”

All the Rest

32) National: The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an anti-privatization group, is praising the U.S. House for passing “the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which would effectively close the data broker loophole. For years, we’ve been pushing to close this gap in legislation that allows government agencies to buy your data from third-party data brokers instead of getting a warrant for it. The bipartisan 219-199 vote reflects the most support for this reform yet and shows that there’s momentum building to see this hard-fought effort through.”

33) Arizona: An Arizona State University student who has spent years in service to her Mesa, Arizona, community “has been named a Truman Scholar, the nation’s most prestigious award for undergraduates who are pursuing careers in public service. Yudidt Nonthe Sanchez, who is pursuing a degree in public service and public policy with an emphasis in law and policy, became ASU’s 23rd Truman Scholar since the inception of the program in 1977. (…) Each Truman Scholar receives $30,000 for graduate studies, plus leadership training, career counseling and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. ‘For students who aspire to careers in public service, the Truman Scholarship is the biggest award there is,’ said Kyle Mox, associate dean of national scholarship advisement in the Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU. ‘Not a lot of people appreciate how much hard work goes into winning a Truman Scholarship.’”

34) Think Tanks: Some pathbreaking articles that have structured the debate on the risks of artificial intelligence have been published in the new issue of First Monday. From Jenna Burrell and Jacob Metcalf’s introduction: “This introductory essay for the special issue of First Monday, “Ideologies of AI and the consolidation of power,” considers how power operates in AI and machine learning research and publication. Drawing on themes from the seven contributions to this special issue, we argue that what can and cannot be said inside of mainstream computer science publications appears to be constrained by the power, wealth, and ideology of a small cohort of industrialists. The result is that shaping discourse about the AI industry is itself a form of power that cannot be named inside of computer science. We argue that naming and grappling with this power, and the troubled history of core commitments behind the pursuit of general artificial intelligence, is necessary for the integrity of the field and the well-being of the people whose lives are impacted by AI.”

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