TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004
Ms. LANDRIEU. Madam President, I am pleased to join my colleagues from Maryland to oppose this rule change. Let me say quickly, because I know the time is short, we have tried this in Louisiana at Fort Polk, in Leesville, to be exact-1,500 Federal jobs, people not overly paid, but well paid with good health benefits, and others.
Needless to say, the base plays a vital role in the economy of central Louisiana and is by far the single largest employer in the area. The secondary employment impact on the State is even more significant with Fort Polk accounting for millions of dollars in payroll annually.
The workers at Fort Polk are patriots. They work hard, they stay longer, they get the job done. I heard that not from the unions, not from the workers, not from some local politician-I heard that from the military commanders at Fort Polk who just did not want to see their workforce contracted out.
They already had experience with contractors at Fort Polk, and, frankly, they didn't like it. Base operations were bogged down by the refusal of contractors to take the little steps that improve quality of life, improve the aesthetics at the base, and go that extra mile when troops were deploying or coming home.
It is not that the contractors were not willing to take the work, it is that they wanted to charge the Government more to do it. Despite these objections, the workforce at Fort Polk was subject to the A-76 process. It has been an embarrassment and totally unworthy of the way this Government should treat it workers.
To boil the controversy down to its bare essentials, contractors bidding on the Fort Polk work were made aware of what the DoD civilian bid would be. Now the OMB wants to take this process even further.
Now the OMB says contractors don't have to prove they would save any money. They only have to show they would provide some "financial benefit." Now the OMB says that workers can't include in their bids proposed reorganizations to make themselves more efficient. Now outside contractors will not have to figure in any health care benefits to their workers into these packages.
Good jobs are simply too hard to come by in Louisiana for me to allow this to go forward without a fight.
We know what A-76 really means in Louisiana. It means that workers that are paid a reasonable wage, including real health benefits and a pension, will be replaced. They will be replaced, frequently by the same people, but this time, they won't have health benefits or pensions. The difference will be the profit that corporations will pocket.
Our Armed Forces deserve better than to be supported by civilians who are underpaid, understaffed, and overstretched so that contractors can pocket a few extra dollars per hour. That is not a savings to the American people. It is pennywise and pound foolish.
With this experience, I simply cannot endorse broadening a system that I consider already broken.