January 29, 2014


Security Check Firm Said to Have Defrauded US. The company that conducted a background investigation on the contractor Edward J. Snowden fraudulently signed off on hundreds of thousands of incomplete security checks in recent years, the Justice Department said. The government said the company, U.S. Investigations Services, defrauded the government of millions of dollars by submitting more than 650,000 investigations that had not been completed. The government uses those reports to help make hiring decisions and decide who gets access to national security secrets. In addition to Mr. Snowden, the company performed the background check for Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old military contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year.  New York Times

Obama will force federal contractors to raise minimum wage. For years, liberal groups privately – and unsuccessfully – pressed President Barack Obama to use the power of the federal government’s purse to raise the minimum wage for employees whose companies had contracts with the federal government. Last year, after Obama again failed to act, they changed strategies, launching a public campaign complete with employee strikes. It worked. McClatchy

The hype and reality of ‘school choice’. As for public charter schools, here’s the bottom line after several decades of experimentation: Some are great, some are horrible, most aren’t any better than traditional schools, and the push for charters is decimating neighborhood school systems and helping to privatize an education system that should remain public. As researcher Matthew Di Carlo said in this blog post: There is a fairly well-developed body of evidence showing that charter and regular public schools vary widely in their impacts on achievement growth. This research finds that, on the whole, there is usually not much of a difference between them, and when there are differences, they tend to be very modest. In other words, there is nothing about “charterness” that leads to strong results. Washington Post (blog)

CA: Labor protests Postal Service privatization amid deal with Staples. Bearing blue T-shirts and banners stating “Stop Staples! The U.S. mail is not for sale!” 70-plus protesters from the United States Postal Service Union, along with members of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Union of Healthcare Workers, today rallied outside the Staples store on Van Ness Avenue in opposition to USPS’s “Retail Partner Expansion Program” that began in November. The pilot program is seen as stripping jobs from postal workers and starting down a road to the privatization of the post office.  San Francisco Bay Guardian

TN: Contract May Fall Below ‘Expected’ Savings By Tens Of Millions. When you hear the word “expected,” that may not really mean expected. So says the company that got a multimillion-dollar contract from the Haslam administration to outsource the management of state buildings…. But recent projections provided by the Haslam administration show they’re only counting on savings of $33.4 million during the five-year contract. That’s about a third of what JLL had said could be “expected.” “This is bait and switch — plain and simple,” said Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis. “We paid them to be the experts, to be the experts to advise us. Now you are telling us you were not experts, you did not know what you were doing. Give us our money back.”  NewsChannel5.com

NJ: Newark Teachers Battle Governor’s School Privatization Agenda. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie aims privatize Newark’s school system by closing public schools and promoting charters—but a growing rank-and-file caucus within the teachers union is organizing members to resist. They’re holding weekly pickets, dressed in black, and packing the school closure hearings to protest. Labor Notes

NJ: Congressman’s letter: I have concerns about privatizing NJ Turnpike toll operations. “Two years ago, toll collectors, under the threat of privatization of their jobs, agreed to a union contract that substantially lowered both their wages and benefits, which has resulted in a 30 percent reduction of their standard of living. Full-time jobs that previously supported a family — $50,000 and $60,000 a year — became jobs that pay $35,000 and $40,000 a year….Stable middle-class jobs were essentially eliminated. Now, the same workers through Administrative action are threatened again by layoffs and privatization that could negatively impact nearly 800 jobs.” — U.S. REP. ALBIO SIRES  The Jersey Journal

GA: Private sector always most efficient? No, not hardly. Georgia officials seem intent on clearing the way to privatize some or all of the state’s foster-care system, at least in part by utilizing faith-based organizations. While I can see advantages to that approach, I can also think of reasons to be wary…. State officials are and should be accountable directly to the public. Private entities — whether profit or non-profit — are first accountable to someone else with other priorities. Which leads us to …Privatizing core government functions ought to be done with extreme caution. If you want to privatize accounting or human resource functions at DFCS, it might be a money-saver. But taking care of Georgia children whose parents cannot or will not care for them is a core government responsibility.  Atlanta Journal Constitution

OH: Ohio Appeals Court Green Lights Class Action Suit Over Photo Tickets. Last Thursday, the state’s second highest court gave the green light for a class action suit against Cleveland’s red light camera and speed camera program. Janine Lycan sued in 2009 after she received a $100 ticket from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS, now Xerox) that insisted she was responsible for the citation because she was the vehicle owner. Lycan countered that she does not own the car, she leases it. Cleveland’s ordinance did not contemplate that possibility. Recognizing the legal peril it was in, the city council changed the ordinance immediately after the suit was filed. TheNewspaper.com