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Houston public employees protect city water by defeating privatization proposal

Houston public employees protect city water by defeating privatization proposal
By Anna Dang ·

AFSCME members in Houston used the power of their voices to block a privatization proposal that would have made the city’s water supply more about profits and less about people.

Earlier this year, the city of Houston officially canceled its plan to privatize one of its water treatment center’s operations, management and maintenance control.

The announcement came after the collective pressure from a coalition that included members of AFSCME HOPE Local 123, West Street Recovery, The Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience, Bayou City Waterkeeper and Corporate Accountability. The coalition brought community members together to testify at Houston City Council meetings against a city proposal to privatize the Southeast Water Purification Plant, for 20 years.

Roy Sanchez, a senior electrical inspector who has worked at the Houston Permitting Center for 31 years, spoke out due to his concern for the 1 million citizens that the plant serves.

“Safe, clean water that you can actually have confidence in is one of the basic things that the city should provide,” Sanchez said in an interview. “If it's a private company running it, they're not beholden on the citizens, they're going to be in favor of the stockholders. They’re looking at profit over people.”

The stakes were high due to the precedent that the privatization deal would have set for Houston’s public services.

“People are losing their jobs and their benefits because of private contractors,” said Sanchez. “And it’s like a domino effect. Usually if they get one, they'll go after another one, then they go after another one. Privatization of one plant would be something that impacts all the city employees who are working and contributing together.”

As HOPE Local 123’s district representative for public works, chair for the political committee and former president, Sanchez was proud of his union membership in this fight to keep Houston’s water public.

“We're still continuing to fight,” Sanchez said. “This privatization game never ends.”

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