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Fight Against Outsourcing Starts Early

Too often the dangers of outsourcing hit us when the proverbial train has already left the station, making the pushback efforts that much harder. But AFSCME members at the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department got ahead of the curve.
Fight Against Outsourcing Starts Early
By Mark McCullough ·
Fight Against Outsourcing Starts Early
Speaking up against outsourcing the Miami-Dade water treatment plant were, from left, Local 121 President Emilio Azoy and members Viviene Dixon-Shim and Mishell Warner. (Photo by Mark McCullough)

MIAMI – Too often the dangers of outsourcing hit us when the proverbial train has already left the station, making the pushback efforts that much harder. So there’s a good feeling when you can get ahead of the curve.

This week in Florida, the men and women of the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department, proud members of AFSCME Local 121, strongly pushed back against even the idea of outsourcing a new water treatment plant that hasn’t even been built yet.

“No amount of double talk and flowery rhetoric designed to seduce the citizens of Miami-Dade County can erase the deplorable history of privatization,” said Local 121’s president Emilio Azoy. “But it has been successful in uniting the labor force in South Florida, both us in the public sector and those in the private sector, into a strong and focused coalition.” 

So when the county’s public-private partnership taskforce held its only public meeting on the issue, Local 121 rallied union members to pack the room and speak out against the very idea of moving forward with outsourcing.

Even though the meeting was started earlier than the publicized time, more than two-dozen union members showed up to the Lawson Courthouse in the middle of a workday, including representatives from AFSCME Local 1363, the Laborers, Painters and Interfaith Worker Justice.

Members pulled facts and figures from a detailed memo on the dangers of outsourcing water treatment infrastructure developed by the South Florida AFL-CIO, as well as from a recent Miami Herald op-ed by In the Public Interest’s Executive Director Donald Cohen about a disastrous outsourcing of a water treatment facility.

“Promises were made that the plant would be cheaper, better and faster, but all it has delivered are mechanical failures, leaks and acid water that must be boiled before using,” Cohen wrote.

“Outsourcing has never worked for anybody but the companies that come in and make a buck off the backs of the workers they lay off or underpay,” said AFSCME Local 1363 member Viviene Dixon-Shim. “And as a taxpayer, you just end up paying more but getting less.”

“We are happy to be standing out here with other union members because we know that if they chip away here and there at our rights and out jobs, one day they may be coming after us,” said fellow member Mishell Warner.

Azoy said the next step will be to keep the pressure on commissioners by meeting with them one-on-one and making sure they understand they have a full understanding of what this issue will mean – not just tomorrow, but years from now.

“They may think this is a good solution for today, but then in a few years they realize they have lost good employees, lost good jobs and set up something that our grandchildren will still be paying for,” he said.

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