Monday, June 28, 2010

Becky Wagner vs. SEIU

Council at-large candidate Becky Wagner just sent out a mass email blaming her non-endorsement by SEIU Local 500 on her support for privatization. This comes in the context of her past opposition to the county's living wage law. Taken together, these two positions suggest a willingness to contract out county services to workers paid as low as the minimum wage. MCGEO, which is just as opposed to privatization as is SEIU, contributed $3,000 to Wagner's campaign last November. What will they think?

Following is Wagner's mass email.

The price of telling the truth is one I'm willing to pay

I am a little surprised at how easy it would be to tell everyone just what they want to hear. As I sit through interviews with various unions and interest groups, it is clear that telling the truth often means an endorsement may not follow.

I received the call last week that I did not get SEIU Local 500’s endorsement. They are endorsing other at-large candidates. There is some irony in not being endorsed by this service workers’ union. Throughout my professional career I've been a consistent supporter of workers and their rights. My dad was a fireman and an engineer for the railroad (yes, a union man) and my mom worked as a library aide. Neither of them had the privilege of a college education, which is why they worked constantly to assure that all six of their children went to college.

I knew my interview would not go well when the first question, framed as “the only question that matters,” was about my response to the question of privatization. I told the truth about the privatization question. My nonprofit organization, Interfaith Works, competes for and wins contracts and provides services to the most vulnerable in the County. We have a 5% overhead.

As a nonprofit provider of social services, I would be dishonest to say I oppose the privatizing of public services when in fact we hold competitively bid contracts to provide social services on behalf of the county. In some cases, direct service nonprofits are better suited to serve the community as we are more flexible, identify trends more quickly and often have a closer understanding of community need, specifically regarding ethnic, minority and low income communities.

The interview committee didn't love that answer.

We are facing perilous fiscal challenges that are going to require new and bold thinking about how we do our work and perform our services. Someone has to tell the truth about this rather than say anything to be re-elected, or elected. Remember the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz saying, “Courage, Dorothy!”

I have the courage to tell the truth, regardless of the cost.


Becky Wagner
Democratic candidate for Montgomery County Council, At Large