What Privatization Is
Privatization is when a government agency, like WMATA or the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), pays a private, for-profit company to operate a public service that the agency is responsible for. The hired private company is paid by tax payer dollars and seeks to maximize their profit by minimizing the money that they spend so that they can keep as much government funding as possible. In order to do this, private companies often pay their workers less and cut corners on maintenance and safety. Other names to describe privatization include: public-private partnerships, outsourcing, or private contracting. The proposed Maryland Purple Line, the D.C. Circulator, and the D.C. Streetcar are examples of privatization.
What Privatization Means for Local 689
Privatization puts the jobs of 689 members at risk of being cut. Local 689 has fought for nearly a century to earn family-supporting wages for their members. If bus service is privatized, these for-profit companies will force veteran workers out, offer lower wages and provide fewer benefits. In addition, these for-profit companies will not have to acknowledge the negotiated union contract.
Privatization and its Effect on the Public
Public services, like bus transit, exist to serve the public with the ability to get to work, school, church and leisure destinations, while lessening traffic and improving the environment. Providing this service is not always profitable. Adding a profit motive to a public service puts the public --- especially the poor, seniors and disabled --- at risk of losing services that they need because they won’t make the private company money.
What Privatization Has Meant Around the Country
From Savannah, GA to Fairfield, CA to Nassau County, NY there are countless example of failed outsourcing of transit systems. Drivers have been laid off and fired; people have been forced out of their jobs to make room for new, lower paid workers; and safety issues have caused workers to be injured and killed on the job with little public accountability.
Why Government Agencies Privatize
Many businesses and executives fund the political campaigns of some public officials so that they can get access to government contracts, like privatizing transit. Those public officials, in attempts to appease their corporate donor base, try to push privatization issue byu presenting it as good for the public, although it is not. Government officials often claim that privatizing service will result in cost savings and provide better service to tax payers. However, around the country, public agencies have found that privatization is not cheaper. In a few cases, savings have been realized through the cutting of services and relaxed safety and maintenance standards. In D.C., polling shows there is high disapproval for privatization.
What 689 Members Need to Know About Bus Privatization in D.C.
D.C.’s Ward 3 Councilwoman and chair of the Transportation and the Environment Committee, Mary Cheh, has proposed a transportation reorganization bill in her committee that will give the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) the ability to outsource D.C. bus service to companies that can cut routes and raise fares to increase profits. The D.C. Council has already moved toward outsourcing bus services by steering funding away from Metro buses and trains to fund the Circulator and the still-unopened D.C Streetcar, two systems that are privately-operated, tax subsidized and compensates their workforce by paying them nearly half a Local 689 member’s starting salary.