The agency has a budget of $30 million, and about 1,000 employees, working under the same pay scales he offered to the Choices employees. Powell said he was surprised he was the only bidder on the Lubbock Choices program \(“I figured Lockheed would come in they’re already doing in employment services. “I laugh when people talk about ‘privatization’ as some new thing. We’ve been private for twenty-five years.” He has spent his career in social services, and he rejects the implication that the only motive for privatization must be profit. “We are a dedicated bunch of people out here.” The agency simply cannot afford, Powell said, to pay more to the Choices employees than it pays other staff, and if the workers are disappointed, they should look to the state of Texas. “These folks were laid off by the state they were given pink slips, and they agreed to come to work on our pay scale. If people are unsatisfied, they’ve got some options. Frankly, we didn’t have to hire them.” If there’s a villain in the story, says Powell, it’s the T.W.C., or perhaps the Legislature that directed the T.W.C. to privatize its programs. The state, he said, is passing on its problems to the local communities. “But I can’t alter our salary structure to accommodate one group; it wouldn’t be fair to our other staff. I’m a dead duck either way.” Asked what he knew about prior assurances that the new employees would be protected, he shrugged. “I don’t see how their supervisors could make those kind of assurances. They had no way of knowing.” McCullogh and Powell were both a little gun shy on the topic of Choices. The Choices employees have contacted an attorney about possible legal action, and have asked their state representatives \(Robert Duncan in the Senate, Delwin David Beshear said he’s recently heard about the problem, and the agency has decided to conduct its own investigation to see if the salary structure violates T.W.C. standards on comparable wages. However, he argued that the whole intent of the privatization is “local control.” “The local boards know best what needs to THE STATE THEY WERE GIVEN PINK “THESE FOLKS WERE LAID OFF BY SLIPS, AND THEY AGREED TO COME be done in their TO WORK ON OUR PAY SCALE. IF PEOcommunities, and PLE ARE UNSATISFIED, THEY’VE GOT that’s why we’re SOME OPTIONS. FRANKLY, WE DIDN’T giving them the au HAVE TO HIRE THEM.” thority. In many cases, it’s irrelevant to us who provides the service that’s not our job. Our job is to give the local people local control, and allow them to contract with whomever they wish. There are financial guidelines and performance guidelines, on everyone, regardless of whom they contract with.” He added that “privatization” in this context is in fact a misnomer because, although Lockheed-Martin has taken on a sizable Dallas contract, most of the subcontracting agencies elsewhere are smaller non-profit agencies, yet some are paying better than the state had paid. According to attorney Larry Daves, who is representing the Michael King Texas State Employees Union on the privatization matter, about 600 T.W.C. employees have been moved out thus far \(about 10 true, Daves says, that a few former state employees are now making more in salary, but they lose in the long run because no private employer can match the state’s insurance and retirement benefits. And he points to problems with the subcontractors as evidence that the privatization initiative is ill-conceived and inadequately monitored. \(Client database records have been incompletely or inaccurately transferred in some regions, and the Travis County contract was recently pulled from a non-profit agency after allegations of T.W.C.’s commitment to local control suddenly ends when a local board chooses not to subcontract social services, fearing just the sort of problems occurring in Lubbock. The T.W.C. insists that the programs must go. “Right now this process looks like it’s ‘succeeding’ in the cities because the economy is booming and people are finding jobs. But in the Valley, where you have a huge unemployment problem,” said Daves, “you’re going to solve the problem by adding to it. Even the loss of thirty or forty middleclass jobs [in social services] can have a major influence on the local economy.” A Margret Stanley DECEMBER 4, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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