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Florida AFSCME Members Fight Privatization

by Joe Lawrence  |  April 19, 2012

Janice Coakley and Lee Saunders
Janice Coakley, President of AFSCME Local 3293 in North Miami Beach and Region V PEOPLE Chair, and AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders examine a list of public services in danger of being privatized. (Photo by Gaston Cardenas)

MIAMI — More than 130 AFSCME activists met here this past week to share the knowledge they’ve gained fighting privatization, and they sounded a warning bell, calling outsourcing a troubling threat to vital services for the community.

Council 79 members, including President Jeanette Wynn and members from 24 locals, were participating in the Push Back Summit to Save South Florida. The event kicked off a joint effort by AFSCME and Council 79 to increase membership in South Florida and protect public services.

Outsourcing, in which private companies get paid tax dollars to provide services, is a grave threat to Florida, especially given Gov. Rick Scott’s penchant for selling off public services, summit participants said. AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders briefed the activists on similar battles across the country.

“Corporate-backed, corporate-hacked politicians like Rick Scott are going to take the microphone and say that privatization will save us money,” Saunders said. “That’s a lie, plain and simple. Private companies may come in bidding low, but at the end of the day, their goal is to make a profit, to pay their executives multi-million dollar salaries. Costs skyrocket. Delays plague projects. But it’s not the privateers who suffer. It’s the public.”

Efrain Montano
Efrain Montano, AFSCME Local 1542. (Photo by Gaston Cardenas)

One of the more notable success stories at the summit was the recent victory by Local 2009 in stopping an attempt to outsource building code inspection for Hallandale Beach. Members there alerted the public to the dangers of undermining code enforcement in hurricane-prone Florida and the galvanized public spoke out at hearings on the matter, bringing an end to the scheme.

Participants left the summit with kits that included a list of warning signs that public officials are considering privatization; sample leaflets for the community; tough questions to ask city councils about privatization; sample contract language and other tools for pushing back. Sixty participants committed to march on April 28 with Local 199 to call attention to the dangers of privatization. 

“The Push Back Summit did a great job of giving people the information and tools we need to beat privatization,” said Efrain Montano, Local 1542.

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