Privatization undermines racial justice
Privatization threatens good jobs for Black and brown workers
Public-sector jobs have long been a pathway to the middle class for Black and brown workers. Public sector jobs are more likely to pay a living wage and benefits that help families build wealth, which, in turn, builds long-term economic security.
- Only 35.3% of Black workers in the private sector have good-job wages, compared to 61% of Black workers in the public sector. “Here, a good job wage is defined as a wage that would yield at least 60 percent of the median household income for a full-time, full-year worker.”
- For Latino workers, only 27% of private-sector workers have good-job wages, compared to 49.6% in the public sector.
- Even when public jobs stay public, the pressures related to privatization trends (based on the misguided idea that the government should be run “like a business”) have eroded protections at work. According to scholars, “Privatization-based reforms have undermined public sector workers’ rights and security and nearly erased grievance and Civil Rights protections and gains historically achieved by minorities.”
Privatization can create separate and unequal systems
Since the civil rights movement and before, people fighting for racial justice have refused unequal systems that left people of color holding the short end of the stick. Privatization can cause de facto racial and class segregation of what should be public goods and services equally accessible to all.
- Parks and green spaces in wealthy neighborhoods, for example, may be enhanced by private funding and maintenance, while parks in lower-income communities can suffer from neglect when public budgets are stretched. This produces “two park systems of uneven quality divided along socioeconomic, and many times, racial lines.”
- Charter schools, which operate outside many of the rules that govern true public schools, were found to have some of the highest levels of racial segregation in the nation. Educational segregation is known to have a negative effect on student learning.
Privatization threatens the affordability and accessibility of essential services
Systemic racism over centuries has led to extreme disparities in wealth. In the greater Boston area, for example, the median net worth of white households is over $240,000. The median net worth of Black households is $8.
- Economic inequality means that when critical public services like utilities are privatized, increased costs hurt some people more. For example,
- Food and Water Watch found that private water companies “typically charge 59 percent more for water service than local government utilities,” about $185/year.
- In its study on “Race and the Water Affordability Crisis in America’s Cities,” the NAACP recommended that states and localities “should consider legislation to prohibit the sale of public waterworks to a private company.”
- Economic inequality also means that people of color are more likely to use certain public resources, like public transportation and public housing. Ensuring equitable and affordable services is essential to fighting inequality and assuring all people have the services they need.
Privatization erodes democracy
Racial and economic injustice can only be dismantled with the leadership and robust democratic participation of working people and communities of color.
Democracy means more than voting. Public agencies must follow transparency and public input rules that provide opportunities for democratic oversight and control – from freedom of information laws to public hearings to oversight boards. With public services, we can make our voices heard and strengthen democratic oversight, such as by requiring labor and community representatives on boards like the Regional Transportation Authority boards.
Privatization weakens or eliminates mechanisms for public input, leaving marginalized communities with even less of a voice.