Sacramento transit drops G4S

Protest signs read: G4S profits from Israel's illegal detention and torture of Palestinians

G4S has come under pressure from human rights activists across the globe. (Aimee Valinski/Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Activists in Sacramento are welcoming the decision by the California capital’s transportation board to drop its security contract with G4S, after a campaign highlighting the company’s role in rights abuses in Palestine and the US.

G4S, the world’s largest security corporation, has helped operate Israeli prisons where Palestinians are tortured and has managed juvenile prisons, detention and deportation facilities in the US and UK.

The firm has also been implicated in labor and human rights abuses from Africa to the offshore facilities where Australia detains refugees and asylum seekers.

Over 20 months, activists with SacRideHuman – a coalition of dozens of labor, faith-based, human rights and Palestine advocacy groups – campaigned for Sacramento Regional Transit’s board to redirect funds previously spent on the three-year G4S contract to in-house, unionized jobs.

Sacramento Regional Transit announced that it is already training 30 new public employees to take over the privatized jobs from the end of this month, when the G4S contract expires. The transit agency said that bringing the jobs in-house would save $200,000 annually.

Campaigners also pushed the city to restrict multinational corporations from receiving preference over local companies.

“This is a powerful illustration of the power and depth of impact possible with campaigns led by cross-movement coalitions,” said Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian ecumenical Palestine solidarity group that was part of the coalition.

Maggie Coulter, an activist with SacRideHuman, told The Electronic Intifada that successful campaigns take time to build and require connections with others who share an interest in human, civil and labor rights.

“Had we not teamed up with other activists, churches, other organizations and labor folks, I am sure that G4S would have gotten the [renewed] contract,” Coulter said.

“The bottom line is that our efforts made a difference.”

Dropped contracts

G4S has lost millions of dollars in contracts worldwide directly related to a sustained boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Last year, G4S announced that it was dropping a slate of controversial businesses, including its Israel subsidiary and juvenile detention services in the US.

The Financial Times described the move as an attempt by G4S to distance itself from “reputationally damaging work.”

Campaigners have vowed to maintain pressure on the company as long as it remains complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights.

G4S still has a stake in Policity, an Israeli police training center. The firm also provides services to Shikun & Binui, an infrastructure and real estate group operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In February, a leading research institute in Ecuador dropped its contract with G4S, joining a major restaurant chain in Colombia and several UN agencies in Lebanon and Jordan which have ditched the company.

“G4S violates human and labor rights the world over,” Rochelle Watson, a national organizer with Friends of Sabeel North America, told The Electronic Intifada.

“This win in Sacramento exemplifies how building a movement together across struggles is what’s needed to free our communities of corporations with atrocious labor practices profiting off the failed systems of mass incarceration and occupation,” Watson said.

Campaigners in Sacramento are continuing to press city officials to “take the next step and stop contracting with any companies that profit from human rights abuses,” labor rights activist Estevan Hernandez said.

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Good news. It would be enough to hear that G4S is facing the well targeted activism of BDS but even better to have that combined with the news that lost contract is not going to another private company and that the security work is not being outsourced at all; the Sacramento Transport Board is turning back to old model of employing people.

Hope that they do realise the savings mentioned but even if they do not, it is still a good move. Have never thought that day to day security services should be outsourced to for profit companies with the consequent blurring of corporate responsibility to clients and workers.

A nice little tie-up of labor rights and justice for Palestinians.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).