Raising Our Voices Against Outsourcing at the CT Dept. of Labor

New Britain, CT–Organized labor in Connecticut criticized the Lamont administration for allowing the Department of Labor to enter into a no-bid agreements with two Virginia-based corporations, including Maximus, a Rowland-era privateer with a reputation for poaching safety net services. 

Unbeknownst to the public and to the State Contracting Standards Board, which is supposed to review contracts with outside vendors, the DOL has privatized Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) functions currently performed by agency employees represented by AFSCME Local 269. 

In a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont, Council 4 AFSCME Executive Director Jody Barr and AFSCME Local 269 President Xavier Gordon warned that the contracts with Maximus and Protiviti Government Services (also known as ProGov) will harm clients and the agency that is tasked with advocating for workers. 

“Maximus has a long history of poaching safety net services throughout the country and in Connecticut, where it infamously bungled the distribution of childcare benefits…Handing [DOL client’s privileged] information to a private entity that we all know will cut corners to increase profits will only lead to additional problems for the agency in the long term,” Barr and Gordon wrote to Lamont. 

Barr’s and Gordon’s reference is to the Rowland administration's selection of Maximus to manage to child-care payments to families and providers. The $13 million contract attracted controversy when Maximus failed to provide timely payments to families and providers.

Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano, who is one of organized labor’s representatives on the State Contracting Standards Board, also called out Lamont and the DOL for allowing the Maximus deal to go through without a look.

“I firmly believe the agreements with Maximus and ProGov go against the will of the legislature when it created the Contracting Standards Board,” he said. “The supposed savings from this deal are nowhere near the 10% benchmark. Our Committee never even had an opportunity to do a cost-benefit analysis.” 

Council 4, which represents 30,000 workers in the public and private sector (including the 300-plus members of Local 269), has long advocated against outsourcing public services.  

“We believe that ‘Privatization Equals Corruption’ because it harms workers and taxpayers,” Barr said. “We can’t think of a more reckless path to follow than to hire these two companies without giving legislators and the Contracting Standards Board a heads-up or consulting with our front-line members at the Department of Labor. Both contracts must be terminated.” 

  • Click here to read press coverage of the DOL privatization.

AFSCME has assembled research showing how Maximus continues to move aggressively to win contracts administering unemployment insurance and other vital public services despite numerous media articles and reports questioning its treatment of clients and its own workforce. Council 4 and Local 269 believe this deal will siphon taxpayer dollars to benefit an out-of-state corporation when Connecticut residents need jobs. Maximus employees are working remotely, using Connecticut state government email addresses. 

“The privatization of public-sector jobs during this time of COVID not only deprives workers access to good jobs they need, but is an example of state government gifting tax-payers' dollars to the already rich and powerful,” noted Gordon, a career development specialist at the DOL. “The fact that we're in a pandemic is all the more reason to make sure that state government is doing right by all of us.” 

Gordon’s co-workers at DOL shared his concerns.  

Local 269 member Carol M. Torres-Gonzalez, a community careers trainee at the DOL, said, “We have amazing and efficient workers who get the job done day in and day out. We are transparent and we are accountable. But we are understaffed, which is why, in this time of crisis for Connecticut citizens, the state should be investing in its own people instead of boosting the profits of a billion-dollar corporation like Maximus.” 

The agreement with Maximus focuses on the PUA intake and application process, while the agreement with ProGov (a subsidiary of the Robert Half Group) focuses on PUA overpayments.  

“We understand the Governor has certain rights to exercise executive authority to protect people during the pandemic,” Luciano said. “But we don’t believe state agencies have the right to fast-track deals that will create a shadow government of private companies chasing profits at the public’s expense.” 

  • Click here to take action on the privatization of DOL services.