An Open Letter to Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela

March 18, 2014

Karen Valenzuela, Commissioner District 3

Thurston County Courthouse, Building One, Room 269

2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia, WA 98502-1045

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity is a group of union activists based in Seattle Washington. Our  goal is to reach across union lines and support our brothers and sisters in their union battles.  We stand in solidarity with all workers now under assault by the expedient, partisan forces seeking to undermine and deny workers their hard-earned rights.

We are writing to protest your move to privatize the custodian services at the Thurston County Court House. We consider this union busting, and all the worse that it is being done by a political representative who calls herself a friend of labor.  Why do the attacks always start with those on the bottom, the ones who do essential, but unrecognized, undervalued work, and are the lowest paid? Government should set an example as a good employer–and not be first in line for the race to the bottom.

Contracting out compromises the security of information and public assets. Private companies are not subject to the same public scrutiny as public employees, who are required to operate in an open arena. These conditions create opportunities for corruption, such as bid-rigging, bribery and kickbacks.

Privatizing public services where profit is the prime motivation, not service delivery, is a disservice to the public tax payers.  Profit comes from cutting corners by skimping on the quality and quantity of work performed and not paying a livable wage.  The local economy and tax base suffers as decent jobs with benefits are replaced with low-wage and no-benefits. The negative social impact of outsourcing can be wide-ranging.  Low-wage positions contribute to maintaining a disadvantaged underclass and wind up costing tax payers more through the need for social services, lower income-tax revenue and increased healthcare costs.

As one of the Commissioners on the Board of Health it seems that you would be more educated than most on the importance of janitorial services and their contribution to the overall health of the public.

Innovative and responsible government leaders know that genuine partnerships with labor are the best way to truly improve service delivery. Public resources are most efficiently and effectively deployed when front-line workers are respected and managers work together with them for the public good.

These are just a few of the reasons that Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity strongly opposes your promoting the replacement of public employees with a private for-profit company.


Katherine Wiles, for Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity

PO Box 14153, Seattle, WA 98103

Cc:  Cathy Wolfe, Commissioner District 1, Sandra Romero, Commissioner District 2