Standing Strong to Stop Outsourcing in Hallandale Beach

When the City of Hallandale Beach passed a budget late last month it was a long time coming. And while the headlines focused on the sausage-making process that the city commission took to finally get to that point, and the intense nature that have become common for this South Florida community, it also represented a huge victory for the city employees of AFSCME Local 2009.

Earlier this year, members learned that some commission members were pushing to privatize their jobs by outsourcing the city’s fleet management, landscaping and sanitation departments. On top of that, a new high-deductible health insurance program would require a $6,000 deductible plus additional out of pocket expenses for prescriptions.

“To say this was a revolutionary turn of events would be an understatement,” said Amber Cox, secretary-treasurer of the local and administrative assistant for the City's Code Compliance Division. “We had two choices, do nothing because the challenge was too big or mobilize and fight with everything we had.”

Members decided to fight back.

After a series of studies by city management found that the only savings would come from partially privatizing some of the sanitation services the goal became clear: find $1.5 million in savings and switch the minds of a majority on the commission.

“Many of our members have been in this community for years, decades even, so we knew we had to make this about hearts and minds, not just numbers on a spreadsheet,” said Cox.

Members went door to door during the evenings and on weekends, talking to residents about what was happening and enlisting them to talk to commissioners and to show up to budget meetings to make clear that they didn’t want to see any privatization in Hallandale Beach.

And they dug into the proposed budget, working with state council staff and allies on the commission to find areas of compromise that could free up the funds needed to save their jobs.

“When it came time to vote we filled the room with more than 50 members in AFSCME green and tons of citizens there to support us, and I truly feel that our unified group made an impact on the commissioner's decision" said Cox.

In the end, no jobs were lost, no positions were outsourced and money was allocated to help cover employee health care out-of-pocket expenses.

“We always knew we had a strong voice,” said Cox. “I just don’t think we knew exactly how strong it was until now.”