Campbell had a history of mental illness and heart trouble. But what killed the
13-year-old Iowan was the more troublesome combination of privatization and managed care.
The boys troubles began in 1995, when the state of Iowa gave Merit
Behavioral Care Corp. a $45 million annual contract for delivery of mental health
Merit, now part of Magellan Behavioral Health, donated generously
to Republican politicians calling the shots in Iowa. Merit has featured prominently in
corruption scandals in Maryland involving the governor and a high-ranking state senator
and was accused of price-fixing in a suit filed by mental health professionals.
The subcontractor claims 22 percent of its state contract for
administration. "$10 million could have provided a lot of services," comments UE
Local 893 Pres. Dan Kelley. But Merits reason for existence is to make money,
not provide services.
Merit refused to continue paying for Chris Campbells care at the
Mental Health Institute, where the boy received treatment for psychiatric problems,
including uncontrollable rages. Merit claimed the treatment was unnecessary and too
expensive. The youth was forced into an institution for juvenile delinquents.
On Nov. 2, 1997, while in the Iowa Juvenile Home, young Campbell went into
a rage. His heart gave out while under restraint.
His parents say the youngster would not have died if Merit Behavioral Care
Corp. had not refused to pay for his care in a psychiatric setting.
UE members employed by the state of Iowa wonder why a private
subcontractor is in a position to make any decisions at all. Local 893 has demanded an
investigation into the Merit contract, to protect clients and hundreds of
union-represented public-sector jobs.
"These are our clients, these are our programs and we want them to
run the way they are supposed to, to help clients, not to kill them," declared Local
893 Pres. Kelley.
Throughout the country, state, county and local government management have
bought into the philosophy prevalent in private industry: subcontractors can do it
cheaper. But privatization of public services and facilities threatens the quality of
services as well as good public-sector jobs.
Delegates to the 63rd UE Convention were unanimous
in their opinion on this management trend: No privatization of public services and
facilities and thorough investigations of those politicians and corporations promoting
this scam. UE backs legislative moratoriums on privatization.
UNC workers and students are facing a kind of creeping privatization. This
comes as a result of a six-figure study authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly
on privatization of a wide variety of services at the 16 schools that comprise the University
of North Carolina system.
At North Carolina Central, one of the states historic black
colleges, privatization is driven by underfunding. Lack of funds from the General Assembly
keeps staffing levels low and denies workers adequate supplies. (Custodial workers have
bought toilet paper out of their own pockets and created soap dispensers.) The
underfunding and understaffing create conditions that allow administrators to blame
workers for poor quality and push for privatization.
UE Local 150 members at NC Central have taken to the streets with
demonstrations against privatization. Students have held speak-outs against privatization
in their dormitories, and at open-air forums workers have made their case for proper tool
and staffing levels. On March 16, rank-and-file workers accompanied by Field Org.
Saladin Muhammad met with the chancellor to argue for protecting workers jobs.
TRASHY, SNOWY STREETS
In Montague, Mass., where Department of Public Work employees are
represented by UE Local 274, workers and public are paying for the towns decision to
subcontract refuse collection. Instead of taking trash to the curbside, residents have to
lug their rubbish to the nearest street corner. When trash spills, residents discover the
subcontractor is less concerned than regular town employees and its harder to
make a complaint.
The subcontractor required the town to sell its own rubbish collection
trucks, some of which were used in snow removal. Subcontracting reduced the DPW workforce,
which also hampered snow removal.
A very different result was obtained in nearby Greenfield, where DPW
workers are also represented by UE Local 274.
When Greenfield received $50,000 state grant for sidewalk construction,
Public Works Superintendent John Bean wondered if perhaps the work couldnt be
done in-house. He got only encouragement from Chief Steward Richard Chaisson and
RECLAIMING PUBLIC JOBS
The boss worried that creating three new positions would cost too much,
until Chaisson pointed out that the high-service DPW crew is at or near the top of the
rates. New hires would be paid the starting rate spelled out in the contract. Would the
union object if the new hires were laid off after a few months, Bean wanted to know. Why
not give these people a chance to work decent, union-represented jobs for as long as
possible, Chaisson and the Local 274 members replied.
The town hired three new workers a heavy equipment operator and two
laborers. The sidewalks were completed on time for the same cost per foot cited by the
subcontractor in his bid. But whats more, this past winter the additional manpower
allowed the DPW to do less subcontracting and more in-house snow removal. The DPW did a
better job on snow-plowing and sanding than the subcontractor and saved the town
UE members deliver public services.
We Have a
Right to Know!
Union members in the public sector and the community
as a whole have a right to demand that privatization be subjected to close scrutiny and
pubic discussion to protect jobs, union conditions, the public and taxpayers
Why is privatization being proposed? Is this the
best or only alternative? Who benefits?
The following checklist contains some of the
questions that should be raised by union members and other concerned taxpayers when
confronting privatization schemes.
(Many of these questions can be put to private -
sector employers considering outsourcing.)
is privatization or contracting out being proposed?
Is the decision
to privatize or contract out being made publicly, with long-term notice?
Have any alternatives
been attempted, such as the replacement of the existing administration with a new
management committed to improved delivery of government services?
Did the affected
public employees have an opportunity to help correct the "problems" driving the
move to privatize or contract out their functions?
affected public employees been notified that management is considering privatizing or
contracting out their jobs?
Is the decision
to solicit bids on the work in question being advertised adequately? How so?
precautions are being taken to ensure that public-sector management and administrative
employees have not accepted gifts, favors or inside information from those bidding
on government services?
and administrative employees been directed to avoid all contact with potential bidders
prior to the opening of the bidding process?
A LIVING WAGE
Has the bidding
corporation or agency agreed to compensate their employees at a rate not less than the
public workers they are displacing, so that massive "savings" are not
generated from wage reductions?
Has the bidding
corporation or agency agreed to offer employment to the displaced public-sector workers
prior to hiring off the street?
Has the bidding
corporation or agency specified and guaranteed the exact savings to
Is the bidding
corporation or agency being charged a substantial fee for the massive administrative costs
associated with the privatization or contracting out process?
successful bidders being charged a substantial fee to reimburse the government agency for
the costs of monitoring the contract terms and contractor performance?
What is the
exact procedure for monitoring the performance of the new private contractor?
Have the bidding
corporations or agencies agreed to accept all legal liability for lawsuits arising from
their performance of the work in question?
government agency soliciting bids on public work conducted an independent investigation
into the background and track record of bidding corporations and made this
information public prior to the awarding of the contract?
Have the bidding
corporations or agencies agreed to publicly disclose all of their political campaign
contributions (both organizational and individual) for at least the past seven years?
Have the bidding
corporations voluntarily agreed to refrain from making any political contributions to
lawmakers or other political parties who may exercise direct or indirect influence over
the privatization or contracting out process?
for clients of government services have been built into the privatization or contracting
displaced public-sector workers be humiliated by being forced to train and orient their