McGoldrick’s privatization betrayal

Pub date July 8, 2008
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

OPINION This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Most politicians break promises. That’s the nature of politics. But when someone signs a pledge — twice — saying he won’t privatize city services, when he holds himself out as a champion of anti-privatization and then goes directly against that stand —well, it kind of makes you wonder.

That politician is San Francisco Sup. Jake McGoldrick. In the past, he stood against privatizing services. He has fought for golf courses, for the Internet; heck, he even fought for horses when Mayor Gavin Newsom threatened to privatize the stables. During the Service Employees International Union endorsement process, he signed a pledge that he would not privatize work currently done by city workers. We endorsed him and even fought against the effort to recall him. But when the rubber hit the road for people, he screeched out of there.

Newsom has proposed contracting out the work of the Institutional Police, a group of workers represented by SEIU Local 1021. Institutional police officers work primarily at San Francisco General and Laguna Honda hospitals, but they also provide security at health clinics throughout the city. That security — not only for the workers, but for the community that these institutions serve as well — might soon be gone.

If you have ever been in SF General’s emergency room during a violent incident, you know exactly how bad a decision that would be. A nurse who met with McGoldrick described how bad it got on her shift one night. A man who had been shot was being transported to the ER, and the shooter was following closely behind, hoping to finish off the job. When the victim and assailant pulled up to General, the institutional police were there waiting with guns drawn. They disarmed the shooter and arrested him.

The nurse who told this story looked McGoldrick squarely in the eye and told him that the community would know immediately when the ER was staffed by private security officers, and that would endanger the workers and the patients there.

Even the union that represents the private security officers — whose members would get the jobs — told McGoldrick the work should remain with the institutional police.

Training for private security officers is minimal and inconsistent. Turnover is rapid. When private security officers are transferred to new buildings, they’re often not trained on its specific emergency procedures. There is little oversight to enforce existing state training requirements.

This shouldn’t be about money. A couple of weeks ago, during public hearings on the budget, the Controller’s Office reported on the exponential growth of six-figure salaried executive positions in the past few years; 55 new management jobs were created this year alone. McGoldrick, who heads the Budget and Finance Committee, could easily have moved some of that money around, as SEIU 1021 advocated, rather than leave the city’s health care facilities at risk. But he didn’t.

Unfortunately, it only takes one bad incident to expose the false "savings" of contracting out security to inexperienced and less-trained guards. Six supervisors appear to agree. What happened to Jake McGoldrick?

Robert Haaland

Labor activist Robert Haaland works for SEIU Local 1021.