by Bianca Kendall | August 08, 2012
Months of work by members of AFSCME Local 3293 resulted in the overwhelming defeat of a plan to privatize sanitation services in North Miami Beach, Fla. (Photo by Bianca Kendall)
MIAMI – Needing only 10 minutes of deliberation, the North Miami Beach city council early Wednesday morning overwhelmingly voted down a plan to privatize sanitation services. The victory came following months of intensive work by members of AFSCME Local 3293 to engage and educate the community about the value of quality public services.
Community leaders and residents packed the council chambers Tuesday night for the vote. Local 3293 members and their sisters and brothers from across South Florida earlier that night delivered petitions supporting the existing service and wearing “Let’s Pull Together” stickers. For more than two hours, city residents came to the microphones to speak out in support of public services and the workers who provide them, and to inform the council of the dangers of privatization.
“They’re doing a fantastic job,” Civic Association President Mary Hilton told a local news crew. “So why would we outsource when we don’t know the result?”
Six members of the city council agreed when the vote was called, shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. Only the mayor voted in favor of the privatization proposal pushed by his city manager.
That proposal would have sold off the city’s entire Solid Waste Division to private companies, and eliminated many of the jobs in the Fleet Maintenance Department as well.
AFSCME members joined with community members, churches and civic groups to collect petition signatures and educate North Miami Beach residents about the privatization issue. (Photo by Bianca Kendall)
“I’ve been here seventeen years, said Shawn Raines, one of the members who organized against the city manager’s plan. “I’ve made a (work) home here and I didn’t want to lose that. We are part of this community.”
Starting in April, Raines and other AFSCME members reached out to the community, going door to door every other weekend, holding town halls, and forming partnerships with civic organizations. And it worked. Community members, churches and civic groups joined with workers to collect petition signatures and educate residents on the privatization issue.
“The community support was 100 percent,” Local 3293 President Janice Coakley said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have lasted this long. By having a good relationship with the community, we were successful.”
The fight in North Miami Beach is not isolated there. Across the country, public services are being eliminated by private companies as local and state governments look for supposed quick fixes to budget woes. These quick fixes often result in long-term problems, and once a public service is sold off it is almost impossible to bring back, even as quality drops and costs escalate.