Press Releases
November 15, 2012

Chicago labor supports Privatization Accountability and Transparency Ordinance

Unions join aldermen in calling for greater transparency and discussion on privatization deals

The Chicago Federation of Labor, the umbrella organization for more than half a million working people in 320 affiliate unions in Chicago and Cook County, today announced its support for a reform measure to ensure greater openness and closer oversight when the City of Chicago considers privatizing public services.

The Privatization Accountability and Transparency Ordinance was introduced today by chief sponsor Alderman Roderick Sawyer and 31 co-sponsors in the City Council. Past privatization deals—such as those for city parking meters and health clinics— have raised serious unanswered questions about service quality, cost, the loss of middle-class jobs for city residents and the best interests of all Chicagoans. A current proposal to contract out the city’s water billing call center has raised the same issues.

“This ordinance would increase transparency when privatization is considered,” said Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor. “Too often, privatization is a rush to judgment, and promised savings don’t pan out. In fact, our Budget Efficiency Report found many examples of outsourcing and privatization that actually cost taxpayers more. This ordinance is part of a thoughtful, collaborative approach bringing together workers, their unions, the City Council and management.

“Any time the City considers taking jobs away from residents and outsourcing them to private companies, it owes those workers a fair chance to keep their jobs,” Ramirez added. “Let’s work together to keep those jobs here and continue to deliver vital services to taxpayers.”

The ordinance provides that any city department considering the privatization of any part of its operations must:

  • Conduct a study on the cost-effectiveness of privatizing the service prior to the award of any contract;
  • Work with the potentially affected employees and their union to pursue all reasonable options to improve the quality of service in-house;
  • Cooperate with the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Accountability which will hold at least one hearing on the proposed privatization plan; and
  • Demonstrate that the economic benefits of privatization outweigh the public’s interest in continued city operation of the service, among other reforms.

“Basic public services like good schools, safe streets, clean neighborhoods and a healthy water supply determine the quality of life of every Chicago resident every day,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31. “When privatization of these services is considered, we need common-sense rules of the road to protect the public interest. That’s what the Transparency and Accountability Ordinance would do, and we urge every alderman and the mayor to join us in supporting it.