Last Friday, Boston Globe columnist, Joan Vennochi, wrote a column titled: “Labor’s hot rhetoric grows cool without facts.” Judging by the title of her column, the only one light on facts appears to be Joan Vennochi herself.
In her column, Vennochi criticizes organized labor for attacking the Pioneer Institute. Pump the breaks right now and think about that for a second. Joan criticized organized labor for attacking the Pioneer Institute. What she should have done was commended us. For those as unfamiliar with the Pioneer Institute as Joan Vennochi appears to be, let’s be clear about the facts. The Pioneer Institute is a right-wing think tank (think tank is almost too kind) funded by the Koch brothers and Walton Family (who own Wal-Mart and despise labor), created to push out and promote false data and a right-wing agenda designed to eradicate organized labor.
As for why labor would attack the Pioneer Institute, the better question is why wouldn’t they? The Pioneer Institute doesn’t care about telling the truth. Despite historic snow falls which severely crippled and contributed to the shutdown of the T, the Koch-funded institute says if you’re looking for someone to blame, why blame Mother Nature when you can blame the hard-working men and women of the Boston Carmen’s Union. Saying the snow had nothing to do with the shutdown of the T is like saying the Koch Brothers don’t care about money. They make up their own facts because they don’t care about customers and hard-working people … they only care about cash. And, for them, the fight pitting greater greed against greater good is one they’ll never stop fighting.
These profit-seeking barbarians and others like them have been at the gates before and will be again. Thankfully, the last time they came knocking at the door, state watchdogs and responsible, un-Vennochi-like media members saw the silliness and called out Governor Bill Weld and his crooked cronies for a troubling pattern of abuse that fueled a perilous push to privatize as many state services as he could.
At the time, Working Massachusetts, a well-respected pro-labor policy institute, opting to refute the con, offered the following report, “They (the watchdogs) discovered that private vendors with state contracts used taxpayer money to rent posh vacation villas, buy luxury cars, and pay for lobbying activities. Watchdogs also discovered that there was little or no competition for contracts. Lucrative contracts were being awarded to former administration officials and huge executive salaries were being paid to private vendors.”
And, like a son looking to atone for the sins of his father, here comes Charlie Baker looking to succeed where Bill Weld failed. By blaming the Carmen’s Union and making them look like the problem, Baker knew labor was vulnerable and getting the legislature to repeal the Taxpayer Protection Act (or Pacheco Law) ultimately leading to the privatization of T services was going to be easier than a Larry Bird lay-up
So, Joan says the Pioneer Institute is right and labor is wrong and has no facts to back up their allegations.
Well, Joan, if you cared about facts, you probably should have read your own column first because in it, therein lied plenty of them. Apparently, you failed to see the link to an article titled, “The Politically-Driven, Koch-Backed Campaign to Undermine Boston Transit,” which furnished the FACTS that you claim labor failed to provide. The article correctly and rightfully states: “any legitimate watchdogging of the MBTA has been buried underneath a pile of exaggerations and misleading claims originating from Pioneer and its allies.”
So, Joan, let’s examine a few of the erroneous exaggerations created to demonize and disparage MBTA employees:
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage MBTA employees, the Pioneer Institute gets even the easy ones wrong. According to them, the MBTA spends more money and is the fastest growing major transit agency in the country. Fact is, there are 45 other major transit systems in the U.S. that spend more than the T. If you don’t believe us Joan and you want some facts, here’s the link to the report: http://www.frontiergroup.org/blogs/blog/fg/pioneer-institute-says-mbta-fastest-growing-transit-agency-its-not.
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage MBTA employees, a Pioneer report said the rejection of two contracts under the Pacheco Law cost the MBTA $450 million in savings. Fact is, in 1997, then-state Auditor Joe DeNucci sent a letter to the MBTA criticizing these two contract proposals for having “major defects” in their estimates and “unreasonable” assumptions on savings.
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage MBTA employees, the Pioneer Institute lies when they say the Taxpayer Protection Act (or Pacheco Law) discourages and prevents the T from outsourcing work to private companies. Fact is, since the law’s passage, work provided by private contractors was okayed nearly 80% of the time. The Pacheco Law has never been about preventing private bids, but it is about protecting taxpayers. And the fact that the Pioneer Institute criticized a law designed to protect taxpayers is laughable.
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage MBTA employees, the Charlie Baker/Pioneer campaign claimed T workers abused sick time and missed an average of 57 days per year. According to the Governor, that’s unacceptable and the buck stops with him. Apparently so does the truth, our privatization-friendly governor failed to mention that of the 57 days cited in his report as “sick days”, he also included vacation days and other types of scheduled, permitted and allowable time off. So, while Charlie was busy scolding and ridiculing T workers for being sick even though they were on a legally permitted and earned vacation, your paper, the Boston Globe, called him out for getting it wrong. So, Joan, do us a favor, read your own paper and help us understand why you failed to do the same.
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage MBTA employees, our privatization-friendly governor fails to tell the truth when he says the T knowingly chose to NOT spend money at its disposal, approximately $2.2 billion in federal funds, that could’ve been used to fix the T during the historic blizzard of 2015. Fact is, a large portion of that money, in fact hundreds of millions, had already been earmarked for and obligated to several projects including the sizeable Green Line extension. If it could’ve been used, it would have been. But, you can’t spend the money that – for all intents and purposes – has already been spent.
- FACT: In an effort to demonize and disparage the MBTA employees, the Pioneer Institute and our governor said privatization saves money and returns a better service than the government could provide. In Fact, according to Allen Frances, a professor at Duke University, privatization has been a colossal flop. It is often rife with the corruption of political sweetheart deals, such as what happened in the Weld administration. The profit motive consistently trumps public interest, and shareholders and executives benefit at public expense, while public services deteriorate. And now they have their sights set on the T.
These are some of the very FACTS Joan said labor was not providing.
Joan also seemed to miss her own paper’s coverage and many others, like Commonwealth Magazine, which wrote articles discrediting the cherry-picked data put forth by the Pioneer Institute. Again, more of those FACTS she said did not exist or labor needed to provide.
Lastly, a group of riders and T workers published a page that summed up all the common MYTHS & FACTS surrounding the MBTA (with some sources provided): http://fixthet.org/myths-vs-facts/. Heh look, more FACTS all in one place with sources.
So it begs the question, with all of this information publically accessible and easy to tap into with something as simple as a Google search, or dare we say, a search of the Boston Globe’s archives, is Joan Vennochi a lazy reporter or simply and sadly a pawn for privatization?