- Regulation failures in airlines and banking revealed
- GAO lists Bureau of Prisons as vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or in need of transformation
- Private prison operator to pay $7M for the blindness and death of a woman in one of its jails
First, the Good News…
1) National: Authoritarian bills that would have severely curtailed abortion rights were defeated in Nebraska and South Carolina. “I can’t support a bill predicated on the assumption that the state has a duty to protect an egg from the moment it is fertilized by a sperm,” said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort. “I’m uncomfortable arming government with that kind of power.” The Global Justice Center said, “Local resistance against these horrific abortion bans is both inspiring and instructive for all of us fighting for a world that respects our fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. Solidarity to everyone fighting for their communities.”
2) National: By an 11-10 vote, Labor Secretary nominee Julie Su was approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Su’s nomination now goes along with that of Jessica Looman, Biden’s nominee as head of the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL, to the full Senate. The National Women’s Law Center says “In the late 1880s, Chicago-based labor activist Lucy Parsons—the so-called ‘goddess of anarchy’ and one of the people we have to thank for the eight-hour workday—helped establish May 1 as the day to celebrate workers, organized labor, and the struggle to build a more just and equitable society. This May Day, there’s one big thing the Senate can do for workers around the country: Confirm Julie Su as the next secretary of labor.”
3) National: The Federal Reserve’s bank-supervision chief has called for an extensive reevaluation of requirements for U.S. financial firms as regulators said the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank exposed lapses in oversight, Bloomberg reports. A culture of deregulation, which the right wing has promoted for decades, catalyzed the collapses. “‘Under the direction of the vice chair for supervision, supervisory practices shifted,’ the report said. ‘Staff repeatedly mentioned changes in expectations and practices, including pressure to reduce burden on firms, meet a higher burden of proof for a supervisory conclusion, and demonstrate due process when considering supervisory actions.’ The report also cited ‘a shift in culture and expectations from internal discussions and observed behavior that changed how supervision was executed,’ which led to slower action or none at all in some cases, as well as an apparent erosion of supervisory resources.” [Sub required]
4) National: PowerSwitch Action announces the launch of Steal Estate, a new multimedia experience co-produced with the Rise-Home Stories Project. “Through audio testimony, photos, illustrations, and additional evidence, listeners and viewers follow the stories of four protagonists as they unravel the intricate web of corporate interests, predatory policies, and unethical practices that have enabled the systematic theft of homes in Black and Brown communities for generations.”
5) National: School food service workers have scored a major win as the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) of USDA has issued guidance to school districts who choose to contract with Food Service Management Companies (FSMC). “This memorandum provides additional procurement-related technical assistance and information for SAs and SFAs to consider when entering into and executing contracts with Food Service Management Companies (FSMCs). FNS plans to provide additional procurement and contracting guidance in the future. Finally, FNS is assessing future rulemaking regarding procurement and contracting in the school meal programs.” Read “Best Practices for Contracting with Food Service Management Companies.”
6) National: Writing in Capital & Main, Marcus Baram, former managing editor of the International Business Times and deputy editor of Business Insider, says “under Biden, big government is back—sparking a manufacturing renaissance, pushing a strong climate agenda, expanding health care access and reducing poverty — on a scale not seen since the Great Society programs of the 1960s and the New Deal during the Great Depression. The pandemic’s threat to the global economy called for drastic measures, ones that progressive economists had been planning and researching for years. ‘It’s a new age,’ says Anton Korinek, an economics professor at the University of Virginia. ‘Compared to anything we’ve seen in the last 50 years, industrial policy has really seen a resurgence—we see that in interventions directed at green energy in the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] and on a very large scale in boosting domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors with the CHIPS Act..’”
7) National: Congress is seeking to create a new independent federal prison oversight board, The Appeal reports. “The Federal Prison Oversight Act, sponsored by Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Mike Braun, comes in response to a series of revelations about widespread abuse and corruption inside Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities. Representatives Lucy McBath of Georgia and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota introduced companion legislation in the House. The bill would not apply to state prisons or local jails, which incarcerate the majority of prisoners in the U.S.” Ossoff said in a statement “my bipartisan investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system revealed an urgent need to overhaul Federal prison oversight.”
8) New Mexico/National: State preemption of local laws, a favorite tool in the toolbox for right wingers trying to prevent local government from regulating everything from weapons to school funding to protection of vulnerable communities, is being turned back against conservatives. The Kiowa County Press reports that “New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez submitted a briefing to the state’s Supreme Court regarding abortion last week. The briefing deals with an extraordinary writ filed in January against Roosevelt and Lea Counties, plus the cities of Hobbs and Clovis. In it, he argues that so-called sanctuaries for the unborn violate state law. These local entities have passed ordinances outlawing abortion in their respective communities. Torrez argues that House Bill 7, signed into law earlier this month, says municipalities lack the authority to enact abortion restrictions in New Mexico.”
9) Tennessee: The Jackson-Madison County Board of Education has voted 7-1 to deny American Classical Academy’s charter school application. “JMCSS comes as the fourth denial of ACA’s application this week, among Robertson County Schools, Maury County Public Schools and Clarksville-Montgomery School System. Rutherford County remains the only school system to have voted in favor of the charter. The partnership between Hillsdale College, a Christian liberal arts college in southern Michigan, and American Classical Education Inc. was established in February 2022 with the goal of expanding classical charter schools in Tennessee.”
The Jackson Sun reports that reasons included:
- the establishment of an ACA charter school “will have a substantial negative fiscal impact on the district” totaling $1.2 million dollars
- enrollment projections could not be determined in the application
- allegedly engaging with non-profit organizations in Jackson, despite inaccurately naming them and failing to contact them altogether
- lack of rigor in education
- no support that Singapore math, of which ACA’s curriculum is a proponent, is as rigorous as the determined Tennessee education standards.
10) National: In the Public Interest’s Communications Director Jeff Hagan writes that Libraries Keep Free Speech in Circulation. “Facing threats from anti-free speech activists, libraries and librarians are fighting back,” says Hagan. “In Texas, the Huntsville City Council voted to outsource its public library operations after city officials had ordered library staff to remove a Pride Month display highlighting books with LGBTQ themes. That’s only the latest privatization attempt, which we wrote about earlier this year. A private company, Library Systems & Services, continues to circle around libraries that have faltered in funding or in satisfying book banning activists. Its efforts include privatization or partial privatization of libraries in Escondido, California; Farmers Branch, Texas; and Sumter County, Florida, among others.”
11) National: How will economic conditions impact charter schools? That depends on the financial health of the public sector. Bloomberg reports that charter school corporate debt is somewhat insulated from a possibly looming recession, but “still, charter schools are publicly funded and privately run, so they are considered riskier investments than traditional public schools, in part because their charters are subject to renewal. (…) This year, charter schools have issued about $469 million of long-term debt, with highest issuance coming from Texas and Arizona, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The sector saw no first-time payment defaults in 2022, and has yet to face any in 2023 so far, according to data from Municipal Market Analytics.” [Sub required]
12) Florida: “Florida won’t tell you what’s wrong at its voucher schools—unless we pay $10,413,” says Tampa Bay Times columnist Scott Maxwell. “One little-known fact about Florida’s wild, wild west of unregulated voucher schools is that some of the biggest critics about what happens inside these publicly subsidized schools are the teachers who work there and parents who came to regret sending their kids. Teachers and parents have filed hundreds of complaints about these schools that are currently subsidized with more than $2 billion in public money. Some of the complaints are eye-poppingly disturbing. Like:
- “Cleaning lady substituting for teacher.”
- “Children of all ages are running out of classrooms screaming and hitting each other.”
- “They don’t provide lunch and they don’t even have a place to eat.”
- “I don’t see any evidence of academics.”
- And ‘vast scope of educational neglect.’”
“So how did Florida’s education department respond to these complaints? Well, the state won’t provide the public records that answer that question—unless the Orlando Sentinel coughs up more than $10,000.”
13) Illinois: For the ninth straight year, Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL) has written a letter on private, for-profit colleges. “As the conclusion of the academic year approaches and high school seniors make their final decisions about higher education, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is enlisting the help of Illinois high school principals, counselors, and teachers to warn college-bound students and their families about the risks associated with attending for-profit colleges. (…) They spent massively on marketing, bombarding students with misleading advertisements. Owners and investors lined their pockets while students paid exorbitantly high tuition in exchange for often worthless degrees… For-profit schools are using the same tactics today.”
14) Kentucky: “The debate over Kentucky’s public schools is one of the toughest we’ve faced,” says Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “Whether the coalition of market and cultural fundamentalists is big enough to continue the move away from public schools is yet to be seen. A trial may be coming soon in Kentucky, as some say they’ll push next session to put a school choice constitutional amendment on the ballot. And at some point the economy will stumble, weakening tax revenues and eventually forcing difficult public school funding decisions due to a lower income tax. This emerging debate is one of the toughest tests this commonwealth has ever faced. The outcome depends on how many people understand the stakes, and join the fight.”
15) Montana: The state Senate first rejected, then revived two charter school bills. “If the bills pass through the Senate without being amended, they will go to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk. Another school choice-related measure is already on its way to Gianforte. House Bill 393, sponsored by Vinton, passed a final vote in the Senate Thursday, 28-22. That bill set up “education savings accounts” to allow families of students with special needs to access money for additional educational resources.” The legislative session ends on Wednesday.
16) New York: Citadel hedge fund manager Ken Griffin gives $25 million to Eva Moskowitz’ Success Academy charter school chain. “Third Point’s Dan Loeb, who gave a $15 million gift in 2018 to establish a fund to innovate high school education, has helped recruit many donors. Griffin said Loeb introduced him to Success, and on Monday the two visited a high school and sat in on Advanced Placement classes in calculus, art history and macroeconomics. ‘I’m not going to say which classes we struggled in the most,’ Griffin said. ‘But I think I need to go back and look at some of my high school textbooks again,’ Griffin said.” [Sub required]
17) New York: After tense negotiations over the charter school cap in New York City, both sides in the Albany budget wars seem to have come up with a legislative moonwalk that enables them to claim they are maintaining the charter school cap while bringing 14 zombie charters back to life.“”
18) North Carolina: An East Charlotte charter school has appealed the decision by North Carolina’s Charter School Advisory Board and the state Board of Education not to renew its charter. State Charter School Director Ashley Baquero “told the judges that the state staff recommended a three-year renewal for Eastside. But the Charter School Advisory Board, made up of appointees who have often run charter schools, voted not to renew the charter and the Board of Education agreed. The board will make a final decision after getting a report from the appeal lawyers.”
19) Illinois: A new P3 bridge has opened on I-80. “A new direct route between Interstate 80 and CenterPoint Intermodal Center that officials said will significantly reduce traffic on local streets and cut down on travel time for local truckers and motorists as well as cut down on the area’s carbon footprint opened for business on Thursday morning, officials announced. The Houbolt Road Extension opened at 10 a.m. on Thursday, which creates the direct route from I-80 and cuts down on traffic congestion, officials said. The Houbolt Road Extension is a joint venture between United Bridge Partners and CenterPoint Properties and officials said the route will provide more direct access to the expressway.”
20) Maryland: Advocates are calling for public input into the Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force and transparency. “The task force will recommend a new governance model for the Baltimore water and sewer utility, with the intention to guide state legislation to enact the recommended changes as early as next year. The task force is viewed as the first step to establish a regional authority. The Governor, Senate President Bill Ferguson, Speaker Adrienne Jones, Mayor Brandon Scott, County Executive Johnny Olszewski, and BMC Chair and County Executive Calvin Ball III will appoint the task force members. Twenty-one groups have signed on to a letter to those officials to (1) include labor and low-income ratepayer representation on the task force; (2) require racial equity and economic equity impact assessments; (3) preserve existing labor and ratepayer protections established by local jurisdictions; (4) require public comment and public hearings; and (5) provide adequate time for due diligence.”
21) Texas/Utah: The Republican-controlled Texas House is trying to impose increased fees on electric vehicle use. “According to the Texas Tribune, legislators have said the fees would make up for gasoline taxes that electric vehicle drivers aren’t paying and would be used for transportation projects. Money collected from this fee would go into the state’s highway fund. Renewable energy and environmental advocates have argued that the fees are too high, including Environment Texas, which released a statement from executive director Luke Metzger calling the fee ‘punitive’: ‘The Texas Legislature is pouring sugar in the tank of the electric vehicle revolution. This punitive fee will make it harder for Texans to afford these clean vehicles which are so critical to reducing air pollution in Texas.’” Utah has done the same. No prizes for guessing how the incentives work from an environmental perspective on these deals..
22) International: The Indian state of Kerala, under public pressure, is conducting a probe of artificial intelligence-powered traffic cameras. Were the contracts properly executed? “Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan wondered why the government kept the VACB probe a secret. ‘News of it emerged only after we wrote to the CM seeking documents related to AI cameras. If a probe was on, why did the cabinet approve the project without mentioning it in the cabinet note?’ he asked. He warned of a strike if the government failed to order a proper investigation. As per the tender, subcontracting is not permitted for critical aspects like data security and management, but was done in this case, he alleged.”
23) International: What is the political effect of water pollution? The Financial Times’ Stephen Bush says it has a definite influence. “A pet theory I have is that water pollution in England and Wales has a similar political effect. The sight of raw sewage being pumped into the rivers and oceans isn’t something that is ever going to rank more highly in voters’ priorities than the economy, or healthcare, or education, or crime. But it compounds the general feeling that nothing much in the UK works properly, the country is on its back, as well as the general malaise and sense of ‘time for a change,’ as we discussed in our webinar (and that you can listen back to in this week’s podcast). The problem is not really the present government’s fault. The UK’s privatisation of water and sewerage utilities — an experiment that almost no other countries have trialled—hasn’t worked well, and the consequences are being felt under [Conservative Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak.” [Sub required]
24) National: Regulation failures are piling up. Federal Aviation Administration engineers who wanted to ground the Boeing 737 Max after two crashes claimed the lives of 346 people were overruled by top agency officials, the inspector general of the Transportation Department said in a new report. And the failure of federal banking regulators to act on overwhelming data that two banks were heading over a cliff contributed to the disasters, according to the GAO. The latter will likely cost taxpayers billions.
25) National: Last Tuesday the GEO Group, the private, for-profit prison and immigration detention corporation, had its First Quarter 2023 results call. The company is looking to the expiration of Title 42 (i.e. a potential increased influx of migrants) to shore up its position. “We have also made important progress recently towards our objective of reactivating our currently idle facilities,” Executive e Chairman George Zoley said “We have recently announced entering into a new lease agreement with the State of Oklahoma for the use of our 1,900-bed Great Plains Facility. The new lease will have an initial term of 5.5 years effective May 1, 2023, with subsequent unlimited one-year options and is expected to generate approximately $8.5 million in annualized straight-line lease revenue for GEO. With the reactivation of our Great Plains Facility, we now have approximately 9,000 idle owned beds in our Secure Services segment, primarily comprised of five former Bureau of Prisons facilities. We continue to actively market these modern and well-located facilities to government agencies at the state and federal level. And the reactivation of any of these five idle facilities could represent significant upside to our current forecast. In addition, the scheduled expiration of Title 42 restrictions at the Southwest border could provide upside to our current forecast.”
26) National: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put the federal Bureau of Prisons, which supervises and contracts with private, for-profit prison companies, on its critical list. BOP was added “to its ‘high risk’ list of ‘government operations with vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or in need of transformation.’” The Lisa Foundation reports, “speaking of management failings, the Associated Press reported last week that an inmate whose death sentence was commuted in 2019 remains housed on death row at USP Terre Haute. Four years later, AP reported, the BOP has not moved him to a less restrictive unit. Asked about the prisoner’s continued placement on death row, a Department of Justice official told AP that “the Bureau of Prisons is considering [the inmate’s] designation determination.” At least the BOP is taking the time to carefully consider whether someone without a death sentence should be housed somewhere other than death row.”
Purely coincidentally with the bad GAO review, last week the Bureau of Prisons rolled out a “New Mission, Vision and Core Values.” We’ll be on the lookout for any PR contracts involved.
27) National: A Florida Republican U.S. House member has uncorked a new attack on the “inherently governmental” standard, which is used to protect the public from private companies making inappropriate decisions on public policy and administration. Rep. Aaron Bean invoked the usual bogeyman of government competition with private business at a time when massive amounts of government work is being privatized to contractors at all levels of government. The Associated General Contractors of America applauded Bean and his co-sponsors for trying to move the bill.
28) National: Whole Foods and the corporate chemical ingredients lobby are attacking a study by the Office of Food Additive Safety, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) that finds risks in the oral toxicity of cannabidiol (CBD). “The mechanisms of CBD-mediated toxicity are not fully understood, but they may involve disruption of critical metabolic pathways and liver enzyme functions, receptor-specific binding activity, disruption of testosterone steroidogenesis, inhibition of reuptake and degradation of endocannabinoids, and the triggering of oxidative stress. The toxicological profile of CBD raises safety concerns, especially for long term consumption by the general population.”
29) National/Colorado: Colorado immigrants are alleging cruel treatment in ICE enforcement tactics and detention, and are calling for changes. “The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition teamed up with CSU researchers to increase understanding and awareness of how the U.S. immigration system functions and to detail the lived experiences of immigrants in Colorado who came into contact with ICE, local jails and the immigration detention facility in Aurora—run by private prison company GEO Group—over the last decade. After the researchers concluded their interviews, many of the people they spoke to worked with advocacy groups to voice their support for HB23-1100, a Colorado bill now headed to the governor’s desk that would restrict local and state government entities from getting into agreements with ICE to detain immigrants suspected of civil immigration violations.”
30) Indiana: Larry Kane, a retired environmental attorney residing in the Indianapolis area, has an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star denouncing the privatization of in-house lawyers for the State Department of Child Services (DCS). “Second, the work of DCS in assessing the welfare of children in situations of alleged parent neglect is a specialized area involving unique factors and considerations such that becoming an effective counsel for DCS requires training and experience to develop skilled insight and techniques. Most private attorneys will not have such experience and expertise except, perhaps, for the relatively small cohort who routinely represent parents charged with child neglect (who are, no doubt, earning more than current DCS in-house attorneys). The pay from DCS would be too low to be an incentive for private attorneys to invest much time in acquiring the specialized knowledge needed to do child welfare work well. Again, it seems probable that children will suffer as a result if DCS is unable to hire private attorneys or is only able to hire inexperienced novices in this practice area.”
31) Iowa: Dubuque County Teamsters Local 120, says, “In a blow to these essential workers, the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors have proposed a contract that would strip workers’ contracts down and remove critical language about seniority, vacation time, and other benefits. ‘The proposal from the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors is a non-starter,’ said John Klootwyk, Business Agent at Local 120. ‘It is shameful that a historically pro-union town like Dubuque is treating its municipal workers with such disrespect. The Teamsters remain committed to getting the absolute best contract for our members—and what the county is offering is not that.”
32) Oklahoma: The Department of Corrections is terminating its lease with CoreCivic’s 2,400-bed North Fork Correctional Facility (NFCF) as of June 30, but has signed a new major lease with the GEO Group. “The acquisition of GPCF comes after several years in which ODOC encountered staffing limitations with North Fork Correctional Center (NFCC) in Sayre, a facility leased from CoreCivic since 2016. The location of NFCC, which lies approximately two hours west of ODOC’s headquarters, made recruiting and retaining staff difficult. With the 66-month lease now in place, ODOC will begin populating GPCF with inmates from around the state and allow the lease agreement with CoreCivic to non-renew. Affected staff at NFCC are given the opportunity to transfer to GPCF or other vacant positions throughout ODOC.”
33) Texas: LaSalle Corrections has agreed to a $7 million settlement for the blindness and death of a woman in one of its jails. “The payout over Holly Barlow-Austin’s death after being held at an East Texas jail operated by LaSalle Corrections is among the largest public settlements of its kind, attorney Erik Heipt said in a statement. Her death was one in a string of other deaths and incidents that led to lawsuits and investigations of the company, which runs facilities where thousands of people are incarcerated. “If you’re going to cut corners and put profits over people’s lives, there will be a steep price to pay,” said Heipt, a Seattle-based lawyer who represents Barlow-Austin’s husband and mother. He said the payout ”should serve as a wake-up call to all private jail and prison operators.””
Holly’s mother and husband said “Holly was a kind, compassionate person with a generous spirit—someone who always wanted to help people in need, even strangers. She made the world a better place. What happened to her was inexcusable. No one deserves to be treated the way they treated her. We wanted justice. We wanted to show that Holly’s life mattered. And we wanted those responsible for mistreating her to be held accountable.”
34) International: Roger Etkind, a former metalworkers union official in South Africa, analyzes “the four stages of privatisation of state assets—neoliberalism, corruption, incompetence, collapse.” Etkind writes, “There used to be public services. We live in a world in which it is very common to ridicule the public sector. It is characterised as both incompetent and corrupt. We are fed this story day in and day out, on radio talk shows, on social media, on TV. ”
But despite this, he says, there is a need to “take back the public sector. Here in South Africa, we see a state which fails to function at the most basic level. It fails to provide water, electricity, functioning sewage systems—the most fundamental utilities. But this is not an accident. And it’s not simply because of corruption. It is the result of a deliberate strategy to undermine the public provision of services. The results are there for all of us to see: privatised services are more expensive and lower quality. They employ less people to deliver these degraded services, so they cost large numbers of jobs. And private companies make big profits from providing them. Public services for the majority are degraded. Anybody who can afford to buy private services to substitute for the dysfunctional public ones—education, health, security, now electricity. And the contracts for these outsourced services provide almost infinite opportunities for corruption. The message is clear. A privatised and privatising state is a dysfunctional one. It’s time we all realised that and started fighting vigorously to reverse this strategy.”
35) International: Workers at the GEO Group-operated Junee Correctional Centre in Australia are on strike over a wages and staffing dispute. “Mr. Madgwick said negotiations with the jail’s operator, the GEO Group, had broken down. ‘Over the last couple of years, obviously with COVID, our members have been working hard at the corrections centre, making profits for the company,’ he said. ‘Now comes the time for negotiations and the company just doesn’t want to move.’”
36) National: A federal prosecutor has opened up in the New York Times on how private equity is fleecing America. “Yet when Ms. Salley’s family sued for wrongful death, Carlyle managed to get the case against it dismissed. As a private equity firm, Carlyle claimed, it did not technically own ManorCare. Rather, Carlyle merely advised a series of investment funds with obscure names that did. In essence, Carlyle performed a legal disappearing act. In this case, as in nearly every private equity acquisition, private equity firms benefit from a legal double standard: They have effective control over the companies their funds buy, but are rarely held responsible for those companies’ actions. (…) But it isn’t just that firms benefit from the law: They take great pains to shape it, too. Since 1990, private equity and investment firms have given over $900 million to federal candidates and have hired an untold number of senior government officials to work on their behalf.”
37) California/National: LaborFest is sponsoring a May Day event this evening in San Francisco at 6 pm PDT. “The world is on fire from the general strikes in France, in Greece and struggles around the world to defend public services, against privatization, to stop union busting, to protect the planet and to stop the growing repression, racism, fascism and danger of world war. Workers are fighting for unions throughout the country from Amazon, Starbucks. From the railroads, airlines, docks and auto plants workers are fighting as well for health and safety on the job.”
38) International: The biggest nurses strike in history has begun over pay and working conditions in Britain’s National Health Service, which critics say has been underfunded and beleaguered by privatization for the past decade. Have a look at the privatization map. Visit the Royal College of Nurses Strike Hub. The strike has public support.