New York TV viewers recently saw an ad where suit-wearing executive types hoisted the Jolly Roger. It's part of a media blitz by local government workers to fend off the trend toward privatizing long-time public services, contracting them out to business. The execs in the spot are called "privateers," and the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCme) union is using similar ads in New Hampshire, Arizona, Florida, and Massachusetts.
The $1 million New York radio and TV campaign highlights examples where privatization allegedly went awry. One radio ad, for instance, claims that a privatized Schenectady (N.Y.) sewage-treatment plant hasn't solved odor problems and is passing on red ink to consumers. A spokesperson for the contractor, Houston-based Professional Services Group, wouldn't comment. These spots are aimed in particular at plans by Gotham's mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, to take residential garbage pickup and school custodian jobs private. The campaign, says union spokesman Stephen Madarasz, is "preventative medicine."