Privatization Plan Seeks to Exchange Guards and Incarcerated Persons for BC Kitchen Workers

The privatization of BC Central Kitchen and the expansion of the Broome County Jail are linked social justice issues. The jail is expanding, in part, to accommodate new kitchen facilities so that incarcerated workers, supervised by 3 new jail guards, can cook meals instead of Central Kitchen employees. Part of the “savings” Broome County estimates is no more than trading payroll costs of Central Kitchen workers for the cost of incarcerating persons, building secure kitchen facilities at the jail, and employing three additional guards. This is the left hand giving money to the right hand, which hands it over to a for-profit corporation.

Under this proposal, Central Kitchen workers will lose their jobs because incarcerated persons earn much less money, (a few cents an hour) compared to the legal minimum of $8.75 for non-incarcerated workers. Furthermore, this situation creates a perverse incentive for the contractor and the county to keep people locked up. How will meals get cooked without jailed workers? On top of all that, the county is paying for a $6 million (plus interest) jail expansion, including new kitchen facilities, the incarceration of those kitchen workers (upwards of $70 daily), and the salaries, benefits, overtime, and retirement for 3 guards to watch people cook! Although the county estimates outsourcing will save $1.6 million, the extra guards alone will add at least $200,000 to the annual budget.   Factor in the extra people in jail and construction cost, the “savings” drop even lower. The county is trading the employment of food service workers for jail guards, untold number of incarcerated persons working under oppressive and super-exploitative conditions, and taking on extra costs, all so a company can make a dime at the expense of BC residents. F

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