Oregon state senators heard the case for accountability in outsourcing from one of its victims.
Stephanie Hicks, a former school bus driver in Central Point Chapter 47 whose job was outsourced to a for-profit company, was the plaintiff in a successful case brought by OSEA against the school district. While the Oregon Court of Appeals ultimately ruled that Central Point School District acted unlawfully, the case took several years to decide and cost both sides thousands of dollars, and drivers like Hicks suffered in the interim.
As amended, Senate Bill (SB) 294 would allow contracted-out employees of school districts and education service districts and their labor representatives to challenge the outsourcing decision via the arbitration process. Had this been in place when CPSD outsourced in 2011, the process likely would have been much shorter.
At a Senate Workforce Committee meeting on April 5, Hicks provided a window into how outsourcing harmed her family. She was an experienced driver who earned about $15 per hour, plus full medical benefits for herself and her family, as a driver for CPSD. After the outsourcing decision, she lost both her livelihood and the opportunity to work with the children she loved so much.
“I never envisioned a career in which I would not be working directly with students or somehow involved in student transportation,” Hicks said. “Losing the job that I loved so dearly and dedicated my life to was heartbreaking.”
While working a new job that paid significantly less, Hicks had to withdraw all of her Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) savings, forced to undermine her family’s retirement security just to survive.
“It is my sincere hope that no one has to go through the financial struggles I faced during that time,” Hicks said. “I firmly believe that if the process for challenging a cost analysis was fast-tracked and my challenge was resolved sooner, my struggle could have been lessened.”
OSEA Government Relations Specialist Tyler Shipman said the bill was the natural next step after OSEA helped pass a 2009 law requiring districts to conduct a cost analysis before outsourcing work totaling more than $250,000. He said SB 294 would fill remaining gaps in state law.
Furthermore, he said that the long court process effectively preserved outsourcing in Central Point, as the district had long ago sold its bus fleet, making restoration of district-run student transportation in the district extremely difficult.
“There was no significant way to remedy the financial damage that had been suffered by Hicks,” Shipman said.