January 23, 2003
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Thanks Senator Mikulski for Leading Fight Against Privatization

(Washington, D.C.)—“The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) privatization quotas are nothing more than corporate welfare disguised as public policy,” stated Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., following Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-Md.) attempt to abolish the arbitrary quotas.

“Senator Mikulski has once again proven to be a vigorous champion of federal employees, an apolitical civil service, as well as the nation’s taxpayers in offering her amendment,” Harnage said. “I want to thank the Senator for her typically fearless leadership to abolish OMB’s infamous privatization quotas as well as the 47 other Democratic and Republican Senators who voted against a hostile second-degree amendment that was designed to gut her own amendment.”

OMB’s quotas force agencies, regardless of their needs or missions, to review for privatization, either without any public-private competition or under a manifestly pro-contractor competition process, at least 850,000 federal employee jobs over the next several years.

“Had Senators Tom Harkin and Daniel Inouye, two strong supporters of AFGE’s privatization reform agenda not been detained by other business, contractors would have either lost or been forced to bring the Vice President to the Senate floor to break a tie,” Harnage added. “When all members are present, exactly one-half of the Senate stands in clear opposition to the Administration’s privatization goals.”

The quotas apply only to work performed by federal employees—not new work or work performed by contractors, who keep and retain almost all of their work without ever experiencing public-private competition. They explicitly encourage agencies to contract out the jobs of federal employees, particularly those from historically oppressed groups, without any competition. According to the Department of Transportation, ‘for smaller agencies or sub-agencies where direct conversion is often the only method, the impact of contracting out does affect the minorities and women more than any other group.’

“Only contractors can have their day in court—because only contractors have standing before the General Accounting Office and the Court of Federal Claims,” Harnage noted. “And only the work of federal employees is monitored with respect to cost and quality; agencies don’t even know what contractors are doing, let alone whether they are serving taxpayer interests.”

After the strong bipartisan vote, including the support of 52 Republican lawmakers, in support of a floor amendment in the House of Representatives that was identical to Senator Mikulski’s amendment, OMB officials said they would not impose numerical privatization quotas in Fiscal Year 2004.

“AFGE members look forward to hearing Senators who voted against Senator Mikulski’s amendment explain why Representative Tom Davis, the strongly pro-contractor House Government Reform Committee Chairman, could support a genuine prohibition against the OMB privatization quotas, but they could not,” Harnage added. “And given that even OMB says that the discredited privatization quotas should not be used next fiscal year, those Senators also need to explain why the quotas shouldn’t be abolished this fiscal year—before they do any more damage.”

“As shown by the hostile second-degree amendment to Senator Mikulski’s Amendment, even contractors and the Administration have finally admitted that AFGE was right and that numerical privatization quotas are wrong—it’s just that they want wiggle room and loopholes so they can keep on doing in private what they decry in public,” Harnage added. “That’s like the head coach of a notoriously dirty football team saying that his team would behave in a sportsman-like manner—except during the first, second, third, and fourth quarters, as well as any overtime.”

Harnage vowed to will work with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the conference over the Omnibus Appropriations Bill to support the House’s strongly anti-OMB privatization quotas language.

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