Private Equity Firm Acquires Rita’s Italian Ice, Now Eying California Public Library

Donald Cohen Executive Director, In the Public Interest

January. The outskirts of Philadelphia. 23 degrees. It’s hard to imagine anyone buying Rita’s Italian ice.

But Argosy did just that earlier this year.

Specializing in acquiring companies, cutting costs, and selling them for a profit, the Pennsylvania-based private equity firm added the frozen dessert chain Rita’s to its portfolio of investments, which includes a prison phone company and a handful of Pizza Hut franchises, among others.

And now they’re eyeing the library in Escondido, California. That’s right, a public library.

Well, not exactly. Argosy owns Library Systems & Services (LS&S), the country’s largest library management company, which is trying to sell its services to the small city north of San Diego. LS&S is using the same rap—that privatization saves taxpayer money by bringing “optimization” and “efficiency”—that it’s used to gobble up 83 libraries across the country.

While the Escondido City Council seems to have bought in—they voted last month to outsource to LS&S but have yet to sign the contract—taxpayers aren’t having it. The library’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously against privatization and thousands of residents have signed a petition to keep the library public.

Even the American Library Association has weighed in, writing that after privatization the “community will not know how its taxpayer dollars are being spent.”

I’d imagine the City Council would reconsider if they knew what happens when public goods and services are handed over to private equity investors.

Like when water and sewer rates went up 28 percent after a New Jersey town leased its municipal utility authority to a private equity firm.

Or when an ambulance company owned by private equity investors sent a bill for hundreds of dollars to an infant girl born in one of its ambulances, threatening her with the possibility of a bad credit report.

Or how private equity-owned prison health care company Corizon was sued for negligence at least 1,364 times between 2009 and 2014.

Or how private equity firms are lining up behind President Donald Trump’s plans to “rebuild” America’s roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure by selling them off to…private equity investors.

Private equity has no business providing such a crucial public good as a library. Investors aren’t focused on the common good—they’re focused on wringing profits out of their investments. They’re bound to cut corners, take on debt, and pocket critical funds needed for decent staff wages and resources for the community. That’s if public officials even know where the money is going—a 2016 audit of an LS&S-operated library in Oregon revealed that 28 percent of the taxpayer dollars given to the company fell into a unknown category of “other.”

At a recent Escondido City Council meeting, a local religious leader invoked the value of public libraries:

“A library is a center of a community. Sacred centers belong to the people, should be controlled by the people, for the benefit of the people.”

I agree.

***

Reposted from The Huffington Post

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work