Local 71 Opinion: Pioneer Homes Services

Our Local 71 Business Manager, Jordan Adams, was recently published. Read his opinion piece here:


Our Alaskan Elders Deserve the Best Affordable Quality Care Available, Let’s Honor Them Together

Alaska enjoys a deep-rooted history of honoring our elders. The state administration is proposing rate hikes for Pioneer Homes residents, making them a profit center would be disrespectful.   At the same time—it wants to obliviously outsource jobs at the Pioneer Homes without an appropriate study to find potential hidden costs. Local 71 is proud to represent the deeply committed, hard-working people who provide food and custodial services to the residents of our Alaska Pioneer Homes.  I am regularly reminded that these working people are highly valued by the residents, their families, the health care staff, and those serving on the Advisory Committees and Foundation Boards. We support our Pioneers together.  But turning our elders into a profit center—that’s just not Alaskan.

That’s because the working people of Local 71 care about the quality of the services they provide and subscribe to the EDEN Home philosophy of care, which is committed to “eliminating loneliness, uselessness, and boredom; and valuing community, empowerment, passion and integrity,” which enhances the overall health and wellbeing of Alaska’s Pioneer Home Residents according to the medical community.  The respect and compassion our Local 71 members bring to these great Alaskans is unsurpassed and is widely recognized by our Pioneer Home residents, their families, Advisory Committees, Foundation Boards, vendors, and communities at large.  Our members average over 10 years serving our elders, and many have served in their positions for over 20 years. Outsourcing their jobs would punish these public servants for their perfect record. That would be a mistake.

A recent low-bid proposal to provide these services doesn’t show the whole picture.  By failing to account for the actual costs of outsourcing, the State simply hasn’t done its homework.  The current state employees are predictable, and all costs are shown up front.  The new proposal removes transparency. Change orders, which are expected, may surpass current costs the way the deal has been written, and they likely will. High turnover in the outsourced jobs is expected to raise costs even further. Employee turnover for the proposed contractor has been more than double that of current Pioneer home employees. Employee Benefit News (EBN) reports that it costs employers 33% of a worker's annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves. That’s for just one employee. The math on a workforce with high turnover, such as the proposing company has already demonstrated, is significantly higher. That means unnecessary increased costs to the state at the expense of our elders, who deserve better. The new proposal would also open the door for worker strikes, job walk-offs and costly grievance options; all of which are disallowed through the current agreement. Associated items still unaccounted for include:

  1. PERS costs of retirement eligible employees leaving state service under new contract.
  2. State costs from leave cash-out of those moving to new contract;
  3. Any increased utilization of public services by workers whose new benefits are lacking;
  4. State oversight transition costs for layoffs, changeover to new contractor, and training;
  5. The impact on Pioneer Homes residents;
  6. Rate hikes for services once the competition (current contract services provider) has been eliminated creating a monopoly. 

The merits of the State’s outsourcing proposal must be fully evaluated prior to award. That means looking beyond a simple dollar number on a proposal. This decision was made without a thorough evaluation of resident service and the hidden costs of outsourcing.  The State should do its homework before outsourcing our elders’ care.  Our elders deserve better.  We should not turn our elders into a profit center.

Please join me in supporting the long-term wellbeing of our older Alaskans.  Share this information with those you know. Let them know that the excellent care and quality of life that Local 71 members bring to these homes should be protected.  In these times of troublesome budgets, there will be much discussion looking to save money “anywhere we can.”  Seemingly low bidding our elder services must be seen for the reality it brings – increased costs, lower service, and disrespect. This is not what our elders signed up for.

Help protect these great Alaskan Pioneers by showing your support of current quality services opposition to seemingly low bid contracting of Hospitality Services in our Pioneer Homes today!

We owe at least this much to those who helped shape our great state, and I would welcome that dialogue with our state administrators.

Jordan Adams

*Jordan Adams is the Business Manager for Alaska Public Employees Local 71 representing members employed in Labor, Trades, and Crafts with the State of Alaska.Jordan Adams IMG_8670.jpg