Media Release: State Workers Oppose Haslam Outsourcing Scheme

IB ImageState Workers Scrutinize, Worry About Haslam’s Newest Privatization Scheme Nashville—Just two years after embroiling itself in a multi-million dollar privatization scandal with property management corporation Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), the Haslam Administration has unveiled a new initiative to privatize all state building management services. On Monday, the Governor’s office issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the “purpose of identifying vendors with the capacity and experience to provide outsourced facilities management services to the state.” The dizzying scope of the RFI threatens to affect public services and tens of thousands of jobs across every county in Tennessee.

While Haslam states his intention is to improve efficiency in management and “realize savings,” questions about outsourcing’s efficacy and where those savings would come from, and memories of the JLL profitmaking fiasco cast serious doubts over the plan.

Indeed in 2013, in an effort to reduce facilities costs, the Haslam administration granted a no bid, $1 million contract to the multinational property management firm JLL, in which the Governor was personally invested. That contract swelled to $10.7 million as the firm profited from its own recommendations, fleecing Tennessee taxpayers until a scathing audit revealed the scheme and the legislature intervened. Fortune Magazine ranks Tennessee as the third most corrupt state in the union. Governor Haslam is the richest elected official in the country.

Now the Governor is moving once again to privatize facilities management claiming “to reduce operating costs”—most likely through reduction in personnel, pay, and benefits for working Tennesseans.

“The RFI’s scope includes every person, and every job, for every building everywhere. Haslam wants to outsource our safety, health, and education to some for-profit, out-of-state company. All of the maintenance, all of the purchasing, all of the utilities, all of the human resources, all of the security, all of the cleaning, all of the administrative work in our schools, our courtrooms, our service agencies. It will hurt everyone,” said Tom Anderson, a purchaser in Facilities at the University of Tennessee, who stands to be affected by the proposition.

Outsourcing has already proven to result in the decimation of benefits and pay for workers, and a sharp decline in the quality of services provided, including in some of the very public facilities that Haslam is pushing to privatize again. At the University of Tennessee—Knoxville, a contract outsourcing custodial services in Facilities was terminated and workers were brought back in house due to the company’s failure to deliver on all metrics. Outsourced workers were paid significantly less than other UT workers, had no benefits, were subject to arbitrary cuts in hours and experienced high turnover as a consequence. Cost savings were minimal as overages and hidden fees added up.

“It was horrible. It was bad for employees, students, the university, and the public,” remembers Anderson.

Heather Wilson, a custodian at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, is another worker who would stand to lose. “This directly affects me, my family, my friends and coworkers and my community by putting many of us out of work and without medical coverage,” she said.

For more information: Diana Moyer, President of UCW: dmoyer@gmail.com; 865-300-4297 Thomas Walker, Press Coordinator for UCW: thomaswaynewalker@gmail.com; 865-776-3094 !