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Seattle Workers Protest Privatization

By Barbara Phinney
AFGE 3197 Legislative Committee
Seattle, Washington

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 strategy).

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 benefits.

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 Murolo.

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
No Fed-Mart
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!'

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