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Torso of a man in a suit with hands cupped, surrounded by money.
Republicans like to complain about how overpaid government workers are. It's a complaint that's not mostly grounded in fact, and one that ignores the fact that one of the preferred Republican solutions—privatizing government jobs—leads to higher costs in most cases. But to say that private contractors cost more than federal workers in 33 out of 35 cases isn't enough. A new report by the Center for Media and Democracy looks at six of America's highest paid government workers—top executives of private companies that make most of their profits through government contracts. For instance:
  • Ron Packard of K12 Inc. is America’s highest paid “teacher.” Packard made more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, despite the alarming fact that only 28 percent of K12 Inc. cyber schools met state standards in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools. CMD estimates that K12 Inc. makes 86 percent of its revenue from the taxpayers.
  • George Zoley, America’s highest paid “corrections officer” and CEO of private prison giant GEO Group. Zoley made $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012. CMD estimates that GEO Group makes 86 percent of its revenue from the taxpayers. GEO Group writes language into private prison contracts that forces taxpayers to keep prisons full or else pay for empty beds. GEO Group has faced hundreds of lawsuits over prisoner deaths, assaults, excessive force, and more, which have led to secret court settlements.
  • Richard Montoni, CEO of Maximus, is America’s highest paid “caseworker.” Maximus is a for-profit firm that handles government services for poor and vulnerable residents. Montoni made more than $16 million between 2008 and 2012. In 2013, Maximus landed in hot water for improper billing in Wisconsin. In 2007, Maximus paid $30 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into fraudulent billing.
But Republicans are pretty much always trying to send more money to cyber schools and private prisons.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.


  • This trial could change public education forever:
    David Welch is a billionaire with a mission, which is to pretend that it was so difficult to fire "bad teachers" that he needed to fund a lawsuit led by a high-powered legal team, "for the children."

    That lawsuit - Vergara vs. California-- is now underway in downtown Los Angeles, with lead attorneys Theodore Boustros and Theodore Olsen of anti-Proposition 8 litigation fame.

    The goal? To destroy current negotiated protections for teachers, like tenure and fair hearings for misconduct, on the basis that such protections for teachers harm the civil rights of disadvantaged children in the school system. The entire theory is so utterly cynical you'd think it was ripped right from the pages of the Koch foundation, and maybe it was. But it's playing out in a city with a lot of education issues that have nothing to do with teacher tenure or unions.

  • A teacher's strike in Portland, Oregon, was averted at the last minute by a tentative deal.
  • Two English professors at the University of Illinois-Chicago explain why faculty went on strike for two days this week:
    Most of the state research institutions that have unions got them in the 1960s and 1970s, but, in a renewed push to organize campus labor, UIC and the University of Oregon just won certification in the past few years.  Oregon got to their contract pretty quickly; we’ve not been as lucky. What we hope now is that, after two years of fighting us followed by a year and a half of stonewalling on our contract negotiations, the Illinois Board of Trustees will finally start serious bargaining on the main issues that divide us. [...]

    Historically, the administration of the university was a function of faculty who were chosen to manage the running of departments.  The Dean was Dean of Faculty — chosen by and beholden to the people who actually teach students. But with the bureaucratization of the university and the growth of the university as corporation, deans, provosts, and their myriad vice-provosts have become management. This now-bloated segment of the university makes decisions about the welfare of faculty and students.  A recent study shows that non-faculty jobs have grown by 27 percent while faculty lines remain flat or decreasing. [...]

    One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like.  The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers.

  • Last Saturday I wrote about data walls. Here's more from Valerie Strauss.

A fair day's wage

  • Are low wages stifling productivity?
  • Five Minnesota lawmakers are doing the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge, living on (an approximation of) a minimum wage budget for a week. The lessons people can take from such challenges are complicated—you have to be as aware of what you can't possibly learn as of what you are learning, something that seems to get missed some of the time. And of course it's the people who are already interested in changing things who tend to participate. Still, it's an effort to learn.
  • A couple noteworthy settlements. A Philadelphia sports bar chain settled with more than 1,100 workers for $6.8 million in back pay and damages for minimum wage and overtime violations and stealing tips. A Walmart-contracted warehouse and staffing agency reached a settlement with workers who alleged retaliation after they spoke up about poor working conditions. And an Illinois contractor has been ordered to pay $400,000 to 96 workers who it misclassified as independent contractors.
  • McDonald's fired a manager for buying food for fire fighters.
  • Sarah Jaffe hits the cult of amateurism plaguing the sports world:
    It's part of the Olympic mythos that we play sports for the sheer love of them; that people who spend every day of their life for years on end preparing to compete at the highest level are just happy to be able to show off what they can do. It's an ideology that is embedded in our obsession with amateurism, at the Olympics and elsewhere. Sports are something we do for ourselves, on our own, as part of our very American pursuit of happiness. It's impolite to mention how expensive it is to become a pro athlete, even though between every event we're bombarded with commercials reminding us that only a few elite athletes get sponsorship dollars from global corporations like McDonald's and BP, and those athletes, as former Olympian Samantha Retrosi pointed out, are required to publicly praise their sponsors every chance they get.
  • Virginia Democrats kill GOP bill to prevent payment of a living wage.
  • Amateur student-athletes, my ass. Paul Campos summarizes Northwestern University quarterback Kane Colter's accounts of working conditions (yes, working) for players:
    -Colter said players were prohibited from scheduling classes before 11 AM because it interfered with practice.

    -Colter said players can’t take eight-week classes in the summer. They conflict with a training camp.

    -Colter detailed training camp schedule. Said during training camp (aug 1-31) the day is 6:30am-10pm.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Those CEOs are sociopaths (9+ / 0-)

    It makes me sick to think about their royal lifestyles compared to those under them.  And the private prison system is nothing short of a new form of slavery.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:20:53 AM PST

    •  All for the cheating wealthy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laconic Lib, spaceshot, flavor411

      Private prisons and charter schools are the biggest "takers" that there is.  I should also include Military contractors such as Halliburton.  Strange how the military managed to feed,and supply the troops before private industry took over.  Private prisons harbor more improperly trained individuals. This is good for the owner but not the workers.  That's why they hate Unions.  Charter Schools are another sham employed by the right.  Notice all the bad in this country is from the right.  Guess they are just plain evil and the devils Desciples.

  •  The CEO pay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib

    Is obviously an example of the visible hand of the marketplace.  

    If it were "invisible," would we know?

    [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    by MoDem on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:21:46 AM PST

  •  When was the last time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib, flavor411

    you heard a Republican complain about the pay of the actual public employees that do things like coach football at (I'm guessing here) Alabama or Michigan, or basketball at UCLA?

  •  More Importantly (0+ / 0-)

    Are they Gun owners who think Obama is a Socialist from Kenya?
    Let's get our priorities straight here...

  •  Union Yes! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib

    The decline of labor is the decline of the middle class. The republican labor policies encourage it.

    To be first in the soil, which erupts in the coil, of trees veins and grasses all brought to a boil. -- The Maxx

    by notrouble on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:49:42 AM PST

  •  Privatization (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kmom4kids, llywrch, Laconic Lib, atana

    Private sector prisons and schools are such a great thing, I can't wait for the privatization of the US Mail!  I will really enjoy paying $5.00 to mail a letter and have my package which cost me $90 to ship returned "address not located".  It will be a brave new world.

    "This is our version of capitalism: a system of economic policies that benefit the extremely wealthy, and the rest survive as best they can."-- Chomsky

    by truthronin on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:02:54 PM PST

  •  Talk About Getting Our Priorities Straight (0+ / 0-)

    The budget for US Olympic athletes support was $81.6 million.  This includes stipends, education, training, medical, etc.  That equates to approx. $3 million per Olympic gold medal won this year.  

    "This is our version of capitalism: a system of economic policies that benefit the extremely wealthy, and the rest survive as best they can."-- Chomsky

    by truthronin on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:15:20 PM PST

  •  Anyone remember back when a company that (7+ / 0-)

    had decided to file for bankruptcy hired a CEO, who worked for 17 days, getting the bankruptcy papers all filled out and into Court; and then was paid $25 MILLION for his "work"?

    And then we have the complaints that a raise in the minimum wage will cause inflation - while everything keeps going up, and Up, and UP, without a nickel raise in minimum wage in sight.

    Best part of that "joke" yet:  The restaurant where we eat at times - used to have an "all you can eat Fish Friday" - was charging $9.95 last week.  This week, a new menu prices the same meal at $11.95 - but no one of the hired help gets a penny more.

    Seems as if it is all "the fault" of the weather - or whatever.

  •  UI-Chicago Union (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib, jbsoul

    I am glad that the faculty elected to go on strike for two days to make a point about wages and about university structure.  I suspect this will become more of a trend in the coming decades because, frankly, most universities and colleges primary goal is no longer simply the education of our youth but the churning of money.

    Faculty have been the primary means toward that money.  It used to be that what was most prominently figured in in-person recruiting of students was the fame of the faculty, the ability to study with a person whose body of work was so significant or so impactful that he or she was a draw.  

    Now, the draw seems to be:  fun! great dorms! good food! great social networking! a diploma that is worth money to you because corporate recruiters love the status!  You can get a great high paying job with our degree!  Yay!

    Then our grads become our alums and they send us lots of money because they had such a great time and got so rich with our degree!  Yay!

    I am glad faculty are seeing themselves as workers, because they are, and have always been.  They've been used to being the highest paid class of workers, and used to the protections of tenure and an independence most other non-executive administrative university works have never had.   You never love a union until you need a union.  I hope that not just the faculty, but all university workers (particularly line and clerical and middle managers) unionize, too, and can count of the support of the academic faculty, as well.

    We are all field workers.  Just depends on the kind of field.

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:42:22 PM PST

  •  Well said (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib, jbsoul, Elizabeth 44

    I'm always amazed many people continue to believe the "overpaid government workers" tripe.  

    To be sure, we get paid more than unemployed people, which is one reason, I think, this talking point has some traction among those who are down on their employment luck (thanks, in large part, to the very people most loudly pointing at government workers as the ones to blame).  But when I was hired, my starting salary was quite a bit lower than the offers I'd received in the private sector, and even now, private sector people doing what I do (with less responsibility, actually) in many cases get paid twice or more than I do.

    This is NOT a complaint; there are intangible benefits to being a fed from my standpoint, and it is my choice.  But the "overpaid" charge does get old.

    •  On another point... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laconic Lib, jbsoul

      It should always be remembered that, when most Republican lawmakers or right-wing spokespeople talk about how "inefficient" government is, what they're really complaining about is the fact that they or their friends aren't getting rich enough off of the taxpayer dime.

  •  The highest paid government worker in my state, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not a contractor, is a $3-milion-plus football coach.

    That shows where the priorities are.

  •  K12, Inc (CEO, Ron Packard) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ishmaelbychoice, atana

    was called out in an editorial on Thursday in the Des Moines Register,  'Virtual schools' don't teach kids all they need. This "education" scam gets taxpayer funding through a loophole in the state's open enrollment law.

  •  Don't do business with them (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The solution seems simple enough. The administration should simply refuse to do business with any company whose highest paid executive makes more than the salary of a federal executive (about $200,000) divided by the percentage of revenue the company derives from the federal government. So for K12 Inc. to do business with the federal government, the company would have to reduce Packard's pay to $200,000 divided by .86, or $232,558.14. The administration would probably have to honor existing contracts, but could enforce such restrictions for new contracts or renewal of contracts. It seems to me that, at least in theory, the President could accomplish this by executive order.

  •  The Costs of Outsourcing (0+ / 0-)

    The problem with outsourcing government services is that the taxpayer pays twice: first for the service and then for the profits.

    We need to eliminate outsourcing. It's one of the reasons everything costs so much.

  •  I know at least 2 government workers (0+ / 0-)

    ... who happen to be teapublicans!!! Although in order to have a "smaller" government, they would prefer to work as contractors and wait for it ... yes, get paid twice + as much. I suppose they won't be counting as government employees then so the government would be "samller"?!

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