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TVA Outsourcing Federal Jobs? And Local Farming During Coronavirus.
Plus: a conversation Wednesday about working conditions at Amazon
Hi everyone! Somehow we’ve made it to May? I hope you’re all still hanging in there.
I have two stories to share today, and an invitation.
The first is about a crazy situation playing out at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest government-owned power provider which serves 10 million people across seven southern states. The TVA was created in 1933 during the Great Depression, and part of its mandate is to provide economic development to the Tennessee Valley region.
Yet despite this, and despite the 30 million U.S workers filing for unemployment over the last several weeks, TVA management has announced plans to outsource hundreds of federal IT jobs to overseas companies. What’s particularly galling about this is that TVA management has admitted the layoffs and outsourcing are not driven by a desire to save money, nor is it because of any problem in the quality of performance their current workers have demonstrated. For decades TVA has had a highly successful in-house technology team, and TVA management simply decided they could “increase opportunity for innovation and expertise” if they outsource work to some bigger global firms. They don’t have any specific improvements or changes in mind, they just assume they’d be somehow better off doing this.
I spoke with Gay Henson, a TVA worker of 35 years and the current president of Engineering Association (EA)/Local 1937 who has been leading the fight to stop the layoffs. And importantly, she’s making the point that their staff “absolutely can do the work, can do it well, and we’ve all been trained in it.” The potential outsourcing of federal jobs also flies in the face of the “America First” rhetoric that underpins Trump’s presidency and reelection campaign. You can read the full Intercept story here.
Last week I published a story about how small farmers (and farmer’s markets) are faring during the pandemic. The fear many small farmers have is that all the COVID19 stimulus money will flow exclusively to large corporate farms — since that’s typically what’s happened over the last few decades when the federal government distributed agriculture subsidies. Some people though are saying, as we’re grappling with the consequences of our global supply chain and the looming climate crisis, now is exactly when we should be investing in local and regional farming, and finally break up our monopolized food system.
I talked to J.D Scholten, a congressional candidate in Iowa, who argued the pandemic exposes how “dangerously dependent” we are on imports.
“In the 4th District of Iowa, the second-most agricultural producing district in the nation, we have only two farm-to-table restaurants; we have small towns losing their grocery stores because Dollar General is coming in and undercutting them, but they don’t sell fresh produce and meats, and we have farmers not making a dime,” he said. “So who are we doing this [production] all for?” You can read that Intercept story here.
Tomorrow night if you are interested at 7 PM ET you’re welcome to come to a virtual conversation I’ll be moderating about working conditions at Amazon. It’s being hosted by Jewish Currents and I’ll be talking with Alex Press, a journalist who has done reporting on Amazon workers during coronavirus, and Dania Rajendra, a leader of a national coalition that’s been focused on all kinds of Amazon organizing. Just yesterday it was reported that an Amazon VP resigned over the fact that warehouse workers who protested recently were fired. I think it’ll be a great and timely discussion. If interested you can sign up here.
Thanks as always for reading and subscribing, and I hope you all stay healthy!