Seattle Workers Protest Privatization
By Barbara Phinney|
AFGE 3197 Legislative Committee
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES--AFGE, AFL-CIO--sponsored a
rally in Seattle on 2/26/03, to actively protest the Bush Administration's
plan for mass privatization of 850,000 public sector jobs, which would
affect 1 -in- 3 non-postal federal workers jobs in Washington State
(Postal Workers are also under attack by privatization from a different
Hundreds of union workers and their supporters gathered at the Henry
M.Jackson Federal Building in Seattle, including members from at least
ten AFGE Locals, representatives of agencies including SSA, DVA, Dept.of
Ed., OWCP, Naval Shipyard and DoD. The rally was organized and
hosted by AFGE, Local 3197, Seattle Veterans' Affairs Medical Center, and
supported by AFGE District 11, and the National AFGE.
The privatization of federal jobs in every agency will affect democratic
accountability of federal programs and will impact the quality of
services taxpayers have come to rely upon. History has shown that privatization
neither saves money nor makes government more efficient. The rally
highlighted the need for legislation like the TRAC Act, Truthfulness,
Responsibility and Accountability in contracting. Currently there is NO
mechanism in place to track the quality and value of the $125 billion
dollars per year given to federal contractors, which includes a 'shadow
government workforce' of about 6 million workers. The Economic Policy
Institute, in a study published in 2000, stated that 1 -in- 10 of those
contracted workers earn less than a living wage and usually with no
Speakers at the rally on 2/26 included: Jim Davis, National AFGE,
Sec./Treas., who also read a message to the rally from Richard Trumka ,
AFL-CIO, Sec./Treas.; Gerry Swanke, AFGE, National Vice-President,
District 11; Cheryl Kelso, AFGE Local 3197, Legislative Chair and event
organizer; Steve Kofahl, AFGE Local 3937 President; Rick Bender,
Washington State Labor Council President; Steve Williamson, King County
Labor Council, Exec.Sec.; Mark Moshay, Representing IFPTE International;
Jennifer Mackay, SPEEA-IFPTE, Local 2001, President; Ray Miller, National
Director, National Association of Black Veterans; and Barbara Phinney,
AFGE Local 3197, Legislative Committee and event organizer.
Legislators who sent messages in support of this Rally Against
Privatization include U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell, U.S.
Representatives McDermott, Inslee, Dicks and Smith. Washington State
Governor, Gary Locke, sent a welcome message.
Messages for this rally were sent from LaborEducator columnist Harry
Kelber, and Professor of Labor History at Sarah Lawrence, and co-author
of the new book, From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend, Priscilla
Labor Coalitions, Unions and Community groups participating in the rally
included: Washington State Labor Council, King County Labor Council,
Pierce County Labor Council, Kitsap Central Labor Council, and Snohomish
County Labor Council; ILWU, Locals 19 and 52; SPEEA/IFPTE, Local 2001;
IFPTE Locals 6 and 12; American Postal Workers' Union, Greater Seattle
Area Local; WashTech/CWA Local 37083; Boilermakers, Local 502; IBEW,
Seattle Local; AFCSME Local 304; UFCW; Jobs with Justice, Seattle;
Coalition of Labor Union Women, Puget Sound Chapter; National Federation
of Federal Employees; Seattle Education Association; Community Allialnc
for Global Justice, Blacks in Government, Seattle; Radical Women;
Freedom Socialists; Organized Labor Against the War; Puget Sound Labor
for Peace, and no doubt more.
The organized march from the Federal Building to Westlake Center,
enjoyed spirited chanting with the help of a bullhorn. A favorite was,
Hey Hey, Ho Ho, OMB has got to GO! (repeat x2, 'union-busting', then
improvise). Also chanted was, What's Disgusting! Union-Busting!
A multitude of signs made for the occasion, included the slogans:
I Care for Veterans, Contractors Care for Profits!
Don't Oursource Security!
Demolition of the Civil Service - What For?
Best Value IS Civil Service
Contractors Gouge Taxpayers
Privatization Hurts National Security
Whistleblower Protection IS Homeland Security
Public Employees: American Diversity Personified
Eliminate Civil Service -Eliminate Diversity
Contractors Are Not Accountable To Taxpayers!
Contractor Cronies Waste Taxpayer Moneys
Privatization = Corporate Welfare
Privatization Cheats Our Nation!
Privatization Erodes Our Public Services!
Seeing Federal Workers marching with their families and the broad Labor
Community was a powerful and exciting experience. We were filmed
by 3 local TV stations and made the news: radio stations were there
interviewing people, the newspapers were there taking pictures. There was
real education on the importance to our community of the issue of massive
privatization of public sector jobs, and the need for legislation to
oversee and regulate the process of contracting out federal jobs.
This was an organizing experience that increased solidarity within our
Local, and to our ties with other unions in our community. It was an
action that has gained us respect from our legislators, and other unions,
and more recognition from the community.
It was great! And the ending chant of the rally was: 'We'll Be Back!
We'll Be Back!'