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The perils of privatization

MARTA outsourcing mobility leaving workers and riders behind

 

MARTA Mobility bus operator Preyonda Price loves her job helping Atlantans with disabilities and seniors get to the doctor, church, grocery store and other daily tasks. But sadly the Local 732 member and single mother, who also cares for her own mother and grandmother, may have look for a new job because she is now going to have pay more than $1,800 per month for health care costs – almost more than she makes.

Why? Because MARTA is privatizing its paratransit service, contracting it out to MV Transportation in direct violation of its contract with Local 732.

Adding insult to injury, Price and her fellow workers will also lose their pensions and hundreds could lose their job as a result of MARTA outsourcing this critical service that many people depend on each day.

 

‘Devastating’

“This is devastating to me and my family. I’ve already had to give up my house, and move with my children into my mom’s apartment with my grandmother,” Price said. “I love my job and the people I pick up each day. It’s not an easy job; it’s humbling. And MARTA is trying to take it away from me. My kids have health issues and now I’m not going to be able to afford to provide the care they need. I’m one of many of my fellow workers facing this dim future.”

This is the cost of privatization – real hard working people losing their livelihood and their health care while greedy executives at private transit companies get bonuses.

 

Riders lose too

Riders also lose. These private companies win transit contracts with lofty promises of cutting costs and improving service, but time after time they end up costing more, leading to fare increases, service cuts, and safety and maintenance shortcuts.

This isn’t a new story at MARTA. The board and CEO Keith Parker have been scheming to dismantle and sell off MARTA to private contractor for years.

They say people learn from their mistakes, but that doesn’t seem to apply to MARTA. The agency outsourced paratransit in the 1990s, but the service was so bad the Board brought it back in-house.

Furthermore, in a previous job Parker commissioned a report sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration concluding that the quality and stability of privately operated paratransit service is extremely poor, nationwide, compared to service operated by public agencies.

 

Disturbing trend

This is a disturbing national trend says a new report, by the group, “In the Public Interest”, detailing the many ways private contractors harm the public, workers and the environment in their pursuit of profit.

Cutting Corners describes how companies, like First Transit and MV, have reduced the quality and accessibility of services, lowered worker wages, and sidestepped protections for the public and the environment “MARTA once lifted a generation of workers, especially African Americans, into the middle class,” said Local 732 President Curtis Howard. “Now, MARTA is throwing those workers under the bus by ramrodding the outsourcing of its Mobility service and leaving our city’s most transit dependent – seniors and people with disabilities – to face an uncertain and unsafe future.”