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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 15 (1990)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 15(1990)

Privatization & Contracting Out


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    Subcontracting: Innovative Labor Strategies
    Helper, Sue (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Over the past 15 years, U.S. corporations have searched desperately for ways to turn back stiff foreign competition. One of their strategies has been subcontracting—letting work out to outside firms, so as to gain access to both better production techniques and cheaper, more docile labor. Responding to subcontracting will be one of the principal challenges facing labor in the 1990s. The impact of subcontracting has already been quite severe, particularly for unionized workers. Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and others have taken pay cuts. Unions are responding to this challenge by using both collective bargaining and public policy mechanisms. This article will focus on innovative efforts by two unions: the Steelworkers (USWA) and the Auto Workers (UAW). It is not surprising that both these examples come from heavy manufacturing, since this was the unionized sector first hit by foreign competition; other sectors have not been faced with the problem as severely until recently. Even though the circumstances may differ, workers in sectors as diverse as hospitals, telecommunications and airlines can learn from the auto and steel industry experience because in these industries, deregulation has intensified competition in much the same way that the rise of foreign competition has affected manufacturing.
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    It's Never Too Late: Office Workers at Bethlehem Steel
    Needleman, Ruth (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Once jobs are contracted out, it's an uphill battle to bring them back into a bargaining unit — even if the union has strong contract language. If the jobs never did belong to the union and there is no favorable language, then many reasonable people would not even put up a fight. But the office and technical (O&T) workers at Bethlehem Steel's Burns Harbor Plant did, and so did their union, the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).
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    Temporary in Tennessee: CATS for Stable Jobs
    Yount, Linda; Williams, Susan (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Morristown is a mid-sized town in the mountains of upper east Tennessee. Like the rest of Tennessee, Morristown has a low rate of unionization and has seen minimal organizing on workplace and fair labor issues. At the same time, Tennessee has been hard hit by plant closings and layoffs and has seen higher paying industrial jobs replaced by lower paying, part-time and service jobs and temporary and contract-labor jobs. The security of the workforce is declining dramatically. From this setting, a citizens group called Citizens Against Temporary Services, or CATS, organized last year in search of a better deal for workers in Tennessee. In little more than a year, CATS has made remarkable strides. This is the CATS story.
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    Justice for Janitors: The Challenge of Organizing In Contract Services
    Howley, John (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] In 1988 Omar Vasconez, a commercial office janitor in New York City, earned $11.29-an-hour plus full benefits. In Atlanta, janitor Mary Jenkins was earning $3.40-an-hour with no benefits. While Mary could be fired at the drop of a hat, Omar had job security and would keep his job even if his employer, a janitorial contractor, lost the cleaning account at that building and was replaced by another contractor. Both worked for large, multinational service contractors with tens of thousands of employees in all major U.S. cities. Omar is a member of Local 32B-32J, Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Mary typifies the nonunion office cleaner. This tale of two cities reveals at a glance some basic features of service contracting. In service industries, labor markets are strongly segmented by geography: janitorial services don't compete in international markets, like cars and computers do. At the same time, cutthroat competition among contractors amplifies the already sharp competition among unskilled labor within the local market. Omar's total compensation is over four times that of Mary for one reason only: his union controls the local labor market.
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    Growing the Post Office: The Canadian Campaign
    Lee, Caroline (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has fought Canada Post's privatization plan every step of the way. With strikes and public demonstrations, at the bargaining table and in the community, CUPW has fought to protect jobs and work standards while at the same time promoting an alternative vision of the postal service, one that truly responds to the requirements of the Canadian public.
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    Cottage Cheese or Chicken? An AFSCME Fight for Public Food Service
    Magid, Marcia (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Confronted with mounting fiscal problems, many state and local government officials consider privatization or contracting out of public services a "quick fix" for their difficulties. The on-the-job experience of the 1.2 million members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at all levels of government shows that the use of private firms to deliver public services has serious consequences—including deterioration of service, increased and hidden costs, corruption, and negative social effects on the community.
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    Fighting on Many Fronts: SEIU in Los Angeles
    McNichol, Liz (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has a unique perspective on the issue of contracting out because it represents both public and private workers in industries which involve significant contract work. While some of the problems with contract work can be resolved when employees of contractors are unionized, there are many services which are most appropriately performed by governments. In addition, when work traditionally performed by public workers is contracted out, the motivation is generally to cut costs by reducing wages and benefits, cutting staff and reducing the quality of service. SEIU's public employee locals continually see the problems caused for public workers and the general public by the privatization of public sector work.
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    Privatizing Philly vs. AFSCME DC 33
    Cohen, Ann; Dooley, James (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] "One word from me and the traffic lights don't work, the bridges don't open, the trash isn't collected and the heat in all the city buildings is cut off," boasted former AFSCME DC 33 President Earl Stout in 1975. At the time that statement was made, it accurately reflected the power and practices of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest blue-collar union in the City of Philadelphia. In the 15 years since Stout's declaration, things have changed dramatically both for the City and the union. By the 1980s, the union faced a fundamental threat from the contracting out of bargaining unit work. This article will describe how DC 33 moved from a one-dimensional confrontational approach to its problems of the 1970s to a successful multifaceted fight against privatization.
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    Showdown at Nacogdoches: The CWA in Texas
    Fetonte, Danny; Braden, Larry (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] When a state university in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches decided to contract out and de-unionize 156 food service jobs in 1985, they did not expect to face a fight that would mobilize the combined strength of the civil rights, women's and labor movements in the state of Texas. But that's what they got — a fight they lost and one which no state administrator will soon forget.
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    Privatization: Selling America To the Lowest Bidder
    Bilik, Al (1990-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Elected officials and citizens are now learning in hundreds of communities that privatization is not the way to improve the quality and efficiency of public services. Cities such as New York and Phoenix, where privatization proliferated in the early 1980s, are now bringing work back "in-house." And in the federal government, despite a massive privatization campaign waged by the Reagan Administration, resistance by agency directors has resulted in a job loss of only 0.7% of all nondefense federal jobs. (The job loss rises to 2.1% if civilian defease department jobs are included.) A recent report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office concludes that privatization of federal employees' jobs is neither cheaper nor better.