Guard Union - Political Power
Editorial: Budget ax falls, but not on state prisons
California lawmakers made major spending cuts to help fill budget holes for the current year and for 2009-10. But one area of the budget was conspicuously spared: the prison system.
In the final budget deal lawmakers sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the prison system budget had zero cuts for the current year. And for 2009-10, lawmakers simply gave up on their agenda to enact a reform package that would help lower the state's prison population.
In their July conference committee budget, the Assembly and Senate had included a number of reforms: adjusting the threshold for property crimes for inflation, giving credit for good behavior, changing parole for nonviolent crimes and, instead of automatic resentencing, giving judges discretion on parole revocations. These changes would have saved the state more than $400 million.
However, in the final deal, lawmakers adjusted prices for equipment and eliminated a proposed increase in prison guard overtime. They also reduced by 10 percent the budget of the federal prison health receiver, who is charged with bringing California's prison medical system up to constitutional standards.
In short, the prison system budget contained no reform whatsoever. Republicans in the Legislature killed it.
When the budget reached him, Schwarzenegger vetoed an unspecified $400 million.
As he pins down details, we'd like Schwarzenegger to recall his 2004 statement: "Our prison population now is more than 167,000 people and still growing year after year. If we imprisoned people at 1994 rates, we'd have 145,000 prisoners. That is a doable goal. Our sentencing rules have doubled the number of aging prisoners in just 10 years. We've now got more than 16,000 prisoners over the age of 50. We're going to turn the tide of increased prison population. We're going to show that California can reduce crime and downsize our prison system."
The prison system remains a prime area for cuts worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Shared Sacrifice: Unlock prisons' hold on budget
Of all the factors driving California's budget crisis, none is harder to deal with than the out-of-control costs of the state's prisons. To understand why, a bit of history is in order.
The prison problems are complicated, but one organization lies at the heart of all the complexities. That is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
Given the CCPOA's current influence in California politics, it's hard to believe that it was once an organization of 2,500 members with little clout. That changed in the 1980s, when the union combined parole officers with prison guards. With larger numbers and dues, CCPOA began to press for longer prison terms and more prisons (with more guards) – and for higher salaries and more say in prison management.
And realizing it needed a sympathetic face to win public support, CCPOA was instrumental in creating a crime victims' movement. As the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice describes it, "The CCPOA brought money; crime victims brought a pretty face."
As the union's membership grew, so did its campaign coffers. To advance its agenda, CCPOA wielded campaign contributions and threats of electoral defeat. It flexed its muscle at every level, from the governor to the Legislature to district attorneys, and among politicians of both parties.
The union's single greatest victory, however, was its 2001-2006 contract, greased by more than $3 million in campaign contributions. That contract increased prison guard salaries out of proportion to other state employees and decreased management's day-to-day control of prisons.
Here are the measures of CCPOA's success:
• The state has built 22 new prisons since 1984 (compared with 12 prisons between 1852 and 1984).
• Voters passed the "three strikes" initiative; governors and legislators have added hundreds of sentence "enhancements" throughout the penal code. As a result, California now imprisons a much greater proportion of the state's population – 453 per 100,000 residents in 2007, compared with 102 per 100,000 in 1980.
• Today, most prison guards earn more than $70,000 in base pay, not including overtime or benefits.
• CCPOA members take advantage of sick leave and overtime rules – sick leave, incredibly, counts as time worked in calculating overtime – to get an average of $16,000 a year in overtime pay. Last year, this cost the state $471 million in overtime costs (up from $53 million a decade ago), a big contributor to the state's deficit.
• The corrections budget has gone from 4.3 percent of the state's general fund in 1985-86 to 11.2 percent today. It has steadily displaced spending on higher education.
That brings us to the current crisis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made proposals that would reduce costs by cutting the prison population by 15,000 and the parole population by 65,000 by June 2010. The CCPOA has resisted these ideas.
The CCPOA also has been unwilling to do major rethinking of the 2001-2006 contract. The state and the CCPOA reached impasse on a new contract last September. The union has refused formal negotiations since then.
In addition, the CCPOA is suing to stop the governor's latest proposal for two unpaid furlough days a month.
Given the union's raw power and its apparent intransigence, compromise may seem impossible. The union's leaders and its members, though, surely must recognize this reality, even if they cannot admit it in public: The situation is unsustainable. One way or another, the state must get its prison costs under control – not just in this crisis but in the long term as well.
And in the long run, the union surely stands to lose if it insists on making this a winner-take-all game. Avoiding that will require finding solutions that are both creative and flexible. Here's one possibility, a win-win solution for the union that would save the state a lot of money:
Compress the prison work week into fewer, longer shifts – switching from the traditional eight-hour workday to a 12-hour day. Prison systems in other states already have gone this route. These states have seen reduced absenteeism and drastic reductions in use of sick leave and overtime, bringing substantial savings. And prison workers like it better, improving morale.
In practical terms, this would mean going to a two-week, 84-hour schedule. One week would be 36 hours (three days on, four days off); the other would be 48 hours (four days on, three days off). Guards would receive overtime pay only if they worked more than 84 hours in a pay period. Sick days no longer would count as days worked.
This change could be made now, and would be a multimillion-dollar down
payment for beginning real talks on how to reduce prison populations and
prison system costs. Similar solutions can be found in other parts of the
prisons' operations, if CCPOA members recognize that the days of lavish
contracts and unfettered political power are past. The current crisis is
the time to chart a way forward to get California's prison costs under
California Correctional Peace Officers Association
President: Mike Jimenez
Web site: www.ccpoa.org
Campaign contributions for 2005-2008: $20,531,340.96
The plight of the poor and disabled.
Union run amok
In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed a series of ballot initiatives
that put him at odds with teachers, firefighters and nurses. He emerged
from that battle broken, bloodied and wholly defeated. We did not stand
with him in that fight. Three years later, the governor finds himself up
against state workers again, this time the prison guards, and we’re ready
to charge into battle right by his side.
The prison guards’ union, the California Correctional Peace Officers
Association (CCPOA), is the undisputed powerhouse of Sacramento politics.
Its reign of terror began with the ascendance of Don Novey in the early
1980s. As president of the union, Novey turned the CCPOA into political
machine that had the ability to make or break politicians. Not only did
the union have the money to influence elections up and down the state,
but it also had the smarts to align itself with crime victims’ groups amid
an era when “soft on crime” amounted to a political epitaph.
Before Davis was recalled, he gave state prison guards another big raise and unprecedented authority over certain aspects of prison management. Skip ahead six years, and the CCPOA has been operating under a state imposed contract since 2006. Schwarzenegger never needed the union’s money and so hasn’t bowed to its clout. Last week’s reelection of Mike Jimenez as union president—he took over for a retiring Novey in 2002—amounted to a vote of confidence in Jimenez’s leadership and a gust of wind in the sails of a possible effort to recall the governor. Recall backers hope to capitalize on the public’s irritation at Schwarzenegger’s perceived inability to pass a state budget.
In 2005, we found Schwarzenegger’s attempts to demonize state workers distasteful, and we didn’t much appreciate his recent stab at cutting many employees down to minimum wage (several workers at the Hillcrest branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles last week were wearing union T-shirts and grumbling openly and defiantly about the governor). But the CCPOA is something altogether different.
We don’t begrudge the prison guards’ efforts to fight for decent pay, benefits and working conditions. We know their jobs are difficult; we certainly wouldn’t want them. But the CCPOA’s wanton abuse the campaign-finance system is second to none. Through its ability to manipulate the system and fill lawmakers’ hearts with terror, the union has gone beyond fighting for its members: It has adversely impacted far-reaching public policy. By stoking an irrational fear of crime among the electorate, it has contributed to a head-spinning expansion of the prison-industrial complex in California.
More draconian sentencing laws lead to prisons bursting at the seams, and the need for more prison construction. Meanwhile, thanks to the dysfunctional manner in which state prisons are run, more and more people who might otherwise be rehabilitated through a smarter correctional system are turned in hardened criminals who can’t escape the revolving door. We were sold the “three strikes” law in 1994 as a way of keeping habitually violent criminals behind bars and away from us and our children, but a 2005 study by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office showed that more than half of people incarcerated under the law were nonviolent felons. That has contributed to a bloated system in which prisons are at more than double their capacity, which exacerbates the dysfunction, results in substandard healthcare and makes rehabilitation damn near impossible, leaving taxpayers holding a rather expensive bag.
Recall is an important tool, necessary in cases of corrupt or grossly incompetent public service. Schwarzenegger is a lot of things, but he’s far from being a candidate for recall. We hope the CCPOA wastes millions on a recall effort and draws attention to its behavior. Maybe then the rank and file will oust its leadership in favor of people who are satisfied to stick with such bread-and-butter issues as benefits and working conditions.
California prison guards' resolve is tested by Schwarzenegger
[Click above heading and listen to Jiminez]
Their union's combative stance has gained them perks and clout in the past, but some members wonder if it's time for a new approach -- even as they've launched a recall drive against the governor.
By Michael Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS -- A few steps from the slot machines and blackjack tables here, Mike Jimenez asked for a final show of support from the men and women who had just placed their bets on him to fight on as leader of California's once feared, still proud prison guards union.
After a series of union defeats and a contentious campaign, the combative Jimenez, 47, was easily reelected as president last week and promised he would succeed in a drive to recall Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the group's most formidable adversary.
Schwarzenegger's response to prison guard union's plan to put recall
measure on ballot.
"Hell yes!" some yelled.
The decision to stay on a course of confrontation displayed the quandary facing the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. The union's 30,000 guards and parole officers have been accustomed to attacking their enemies and winning, using millions in dues-funded campaign contributions, but their approach and resolve have been tested by Schwarzenegger.
The union had gained the most rapid pay increases of any state workers in recent years, with annual salaries up to $73,000 plus overtime that routinely vaults them into six figures. After more than two years without a contract, the guards have watched helplessly as the governor has taken away treasured work rules they had won. Last year, Schwarzenegger rescinded their rights to call in sick without question and to veto many operational decisions inside prisons, which he has characterized as piggish and abusive. After the union launched the recall two weeks ago, the Republican governor, saying he would not "get intimidated by those guys," sent his political team out to cast the move as a special-interest power play.
In his formal response filed with the state last week, Schwarzenegger quoted U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), a former state senator, as saying that the officers "telegraph loud and clear: 'If you cross us, we'll take you out.' "
"The bosses want the same sweetheart deal Gov. [Gray] Davis gave them after $3 million in campaign contributions," wrote Schwarzenegger, who does not take money from the guards. "It's offensive that one special interest is using a recall to get more money."
The recall effort, which has drawn criticism from newspaper editorial boards across California, is likely to be an uphill battle despite the governor's declining approval ratings; most recalls fail.
To go forward, the union must file a petition with Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Once she approves it, more than 1 million signatures will have to be gathered within 160 days, a task consultants say could cost up to $3 million. Some guards wondered at last week's convention whether that's the best use of their dues.
Jimenez assured them it would not cost quite so much and said others might contribute.
"I need you to trust me a little bit," he said.
The implications of the struggle are significant. The union represents the single biggest presence, besides 170,000 inmates, in the state's overcrowded prisons, which are under close watch by the federal courts. Guards still decide most of their own work assignments and who gets overtime, and they consult on operational decisions.
A year ago, even the governor's top aides were maintaining that the union's cooperation was crucial to getting the system under control. That sort of talk has ended. As the relationship has deteriorated, some members have questioned Jimenez, whose penchant for swearing, long and unruly hair -- recently trimmed -- and appetite for battle have made him a singular presence in Sacramento since he took over the union in 2002.
Before the union's contract expired in 2006, the group printed toilet paper with the governor's picture and drove mobile billboards deriding him in circles around the Capitol. One billboard depicted the former bodybuilder looking overweight in a Speedo-type swimsuit, with a reference to the "fat" in government. Another cast him as a devil with horns.
Meanwhile, the union has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to state lawmakers but has fallen short of persuading them to approve a new contract or a raise. The resulting frustration has some longing for the days of Don Novey, who led the union for 22 years and was widely seen as a masterful political operator. On his watch, the union grew from a small, irrelevant band of guards to a large, moneyed force that teamed with victims' groups to fuel the state's prison-building boom.
Novey, 61, stayed out of the fray at the convention, walking around the Las Vegas Hilton in his trademark fedora one day and workout clothes the next. But his legacy was in the air.
"We're heading in the wrong direction, and I want to go back to the way it was," said correctional officer Dan Rafferty, 48. One of 27 union members who had challenged Jimenez for the leadership post, Rafferty said he preferred to do things "in a businesslike fashion."
Another challenger, R.C. Garcia, 47, accused Jimenez of "running [the union] into the dirt. The personal attacks on the governor, none of that stuff is helping us," Garcia said. "We're spending a bunch of money on some crazy stuff, you know, like this recall effort."
But many of the officers, whose motto is "toughest beat in the state," blame others for their problems. The media portray them as "knuckle draggers," several said. When members began shouting obscenities in a candidate forum at the convention, reporters were told to leave lest a fistfight -- not unheard of -- break out, though none did.
Mostly, however, the guards are furious with Schwarzenegger, who did not include them among the law enforcement officers exempted from an executive order he issued to cut state workers' pay to $6.55 an hour to deal with the budget crisis.
Alicia Patterson, 41, a sergeant at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran, said people think her job is cushy. But she still works weekends after 14 years, and the pay, roughly $80,000 a year, doesn't go far.
"It kind of seems like Arnold has it out for us," she said. "I don't think the public realizes all that we do at work, and all that we're exposed to."
Nearby in the casino, Sgt. Ian Pickett, 30, said he'd have "better odds negotiating with that slot machine" than with the governor.
"I extend an invitation to Arnold Schwarzenegger to walk the Calipatria Level 4 Yard," Pickett said, referring to Calipatria State Prison.
In his victory speech last week, Jimenez tried to fuel passion for the recall fight by tapping members' desire to get ahead in a dangerous job and their feeling that the movie star governor doesn't appreciate what they do.
"He doesn't understand what it is to live from one paycheck to another. He doesn't understand what it is to need to make a car payment or a house payment or pay your baby-sitter," Jimenez said. "The children of his children, that aren't even a gleam in his children's eye yet, are taken care of for their entire life. Ours are not, and that's what we're here fighting for."
The State Worker: Prison guards ready to fight -- each other
It's an easy stereotype: Unionized state workers mindlessly march in lock step with leaders, endlessly clawing for more power, pay and perks.
But every large group has dissent. Take the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which today votes for the union's state president at its Las Vegas convention. The incumbent, Mike Jimenez, is running against about a dozen opponents.
"That's because those people think they can do a better job running the organization," said Tom Marich, who retired from the corrections department in 2001 after 33 years working in prisons and as a union executive.
Jimenez, in Las Vegas for the convention, couldn't be reached for comment.
CCPOA built its reputation as one of the richest and best-organized state employee unions, with 31,000 members. Many work in backwater prisons with some of the state's most violent criminals.
They earn top dollar. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that California's correctional officers last year earned an average $62,230, more than counterparts in any other state. The national average: $39,970 per year.
Despite that, a series of recent events has sown discord. Jimenez has drawn fire for everything from his long hair to his inability or unwillingness to cut a labor deal. Officers are working under a state-imposed contract.
Some, such as Calipatria prison officer Ian Pickett, blame the governor and the Legislature. "I'd like to extend an invitation," he said in a recent e-mail to the State Worker. "Come work with us for just one day … (then) let me know if you would do my job for a penny less than we ask for – and deserve."
Marich, in Las Vegas this week as a member of CCPOA's retiree board of directors, said that members "split the blame 50-50" between state officials and union leaders.
Jimenez also hurt his standing this summer after a story surfaced that he gave a union job to a paroled carjacker. On ccpoa.blogspot.com, a blog that focuses on union issues, union members howled: "Just another one of the reasons Mike Jimenez has got to go … " "Mike, make sure you turn in our Escalade before you leave … " "Why are my dues going to pay for a parolee?"
Jimenez at the time said that he was trying "to do the right thing," by helping the young man. State investigators looked into the matter and took no action.
Then the union last week said it wants to oust Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A recall could cost the union $1 million or more, money a union spokesman said it's willing to front to run out "the worst governor we've ever had."
Some observers, however, believe Jimenez made the move to whip up support ahead of today's election.
"He had people here chanting, 'Recall! Recall!'" Marich said. "Personally – and a lot of people agree with me – it's a waste of 2 or 3 million bucks."
Daniel Weintraub: Recall drive could be a disaster for guards
When a ragtag band of conservative Republican activists first served notice on then-Gov. Gray Davis that they intended to recall him from office in the spring of 2003, the Democratic chief executive didn't take them seriously. But a few months later, with the help of money from a millionaire Southern California congressman, the recall effort had qualified for the ballot. By November, Davis was gone.
Now Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a similar but even more credible threat. And he is not taking it lightly. Nor should he. But if the group that is out to get Schwarzenegger follows through on the threat, chances are that it will be badly embarrassed.
California's prison guards union – the California Correctional Peace Officers Association – is taking the first steps to qualify a Schwarzenegger recall for the ballot. And the CCPOA has the money to make it happen. It might take $2 million or more to gather the 1 million-plus signatures on petitions to qualify a recall, but the union's political action committee has at least $4 million on hand, and more where that came from.
The guards also have the motivation: They opposed Schwarzenegger from the start, and he has neither sought their political contributions nor curried favor with them. His administration and the union have been at impasse over a contract that expired in July 2006.
Schwarzenegger offered the union a retroactive 5 percent pay raise, but money is not the only issue. The bigger fight is over control of the prisons themselves.
The union over the years has won wide latitude to dictate how the prisons are run. Job assignments, hours and overtime are all decided largely by union rules. Contract concessions make it difficult for prison managers to fight what appears to be widespread abuse of sick leave. The union pushed hard for those provisions and does not want to give them up.
Schwarzenegger this week seemed to welcome the challenge, in part because it allows him to show resolve on an issue – the state's finances – where he has sometimes been a pushover. He has failed to erase the persistent deficits that helped propel him into office in the first place.
"I will not be intimidated by anybody that is demanding more money than the state can afford and that demands deals more than the state is wanting to give," Schwarzenegger told reporters Monday.
If the guards do qualify a recall for the ballot, it would trigger a special election, probably early in 2009. By then, Schwarzenegger would have less than two full years left to serve in his second term. And while the governor is not as popular as he once was, it seems unlikely that the guards' recall attempt would have many big-name supporters, even from the opposition party.
California's most popular politician, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, dislikes recalls generally and has worked closely with Schwarzenegger on a number of issues. Other Democrats, from former Senate leader John Burton to former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, as well as the current legislative leaders, would no doubt be uncomfortable with the recall and would probably either oppose it or remain neutral.
What about the state's major interest groups? The California Teachers Association has had its fights with Schwarzenegger, but lately it seems to have a civil if strained working relationship. The same is true for most of the Indian gaming tribes. Local law enforcement loves him because he has helped wall off their budgets from raids by the state. The business community is not thrilled with some of Schwarzenegger's environmental policies but would certainly prefer to have him in office rather than out.
The correctional officers get some respect from the electorate because of the nature of their jobs. They do dangerous work, and they deserve to be compensated well and treated fairly.
But most people also have a sense that the prison-industrial complex has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. In the last five years, the prison budget has ballooned from about $6 billion to more than $10 billion per year. California now spends more on prisons than we spend on the University of California and California State University systems combined. People know this, and they resent it.
In surveys asking voters which state services should be cut, the prison agency almost always gets the least love. In May, the Public Policy Institute of California asked voters which of the major state programs they would most want to protect from budget cutting. Sixty-one percent said kindergarten through 12th-grade education, 17 percent said health and human services, and 12 percent named higher education. Just 7 percent of those polled said they thought the state prisons budget should be protected.
A recall sponsored by the guards union would look like a self-serving grab for power and money. With only 7 percent of the voters saying they think the prison budget should be safe from cuts, that's not much of a base on which the officers can build support. Their gambit looks like a long shot at best, and at worst, a disaster for the union and its members.
Public sector unions threaten California’s fiscal structure
The incestuous relationship between public sector unions and one of our two major political parties in time will destroy the fiscal structure of California.
I live in a neighborhood surrounded by public sector employees. A prison warden, a couple prison guards (one working, the other retired), many retired and working public school teachers. Even my wife is a retired (CalPERs) classified employee, so I have some first hand knowledge of the lucrative nature of public sector employment and retirement.
There are “retired” judges (receiving approximately 75 percent of their working salary in retirement) that continue working full time on the bench after retiring. Thus they receive almost double time pay (75 percent in retirement plus 100 percent for continuing “part time”) to fill vacancies on the bench that the state legislature simply won’t fill with new positions.
It is like the lawyers in the legislature want to continue to provide the former lawyers now serving as judges excessive opportunities to enrich themselves at the public trough.
Editorial: Time for Legislature to say 'no' to guards union
Sooner or later, the California Legislature will have to retake control of state prisons and stop the massive drain on the state budget that the correctional system has become. There will never be a better time than now.
In a report that should infuriate taxpayers – and shame legislators and governors past and present – the Legislative Analyst's Office has outlined the disastrous effects of the current prison guards contract, which lawmakers approved. The contract not only provides lavish pay and benefits to guards, but it cedes management control of the prisons to the union.
Given the state's budget crisis, the analyst recommends that legislators reject Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed 5 percent pay increase for prison guards. Certainly there is no need to raise pay to recruit or retain correctional officers. As the LAO's report, "Correctional Officer Pay, Benefits, and Labor Relations," makes abundantly clear, "The job of state correctional officer may now be the most sought after in the California economy."
The state currently gets 130,000 applications a year from people wanting a job as a prison guard. That is equivalent to one of every 140 people in the state's civilian labor force.
It's clear why the job is coveted. Only a high school diploma or its equivalent is required. Beginning guards earn a base salary of $45,288 a year, plus health and pension benefits. At top scale, guards earn $73,728 a year plus benefits.
The average correctional officer takes home another $16,000 a year in overtime pay. Under the terms of the contract, overtime is assigned by seniority, so the most senior and the most highly paid officers receive the most overtime. In 2006, 1,423 correctional officers received more than $50,000 in overtime pay; 36 received more than $100,000 in overtime pay.
Despite administration efforts to contain overtime, the LAO notes that the state paid $471 million in overtime in the 2006-07 budget year, a 17 percent increase over 2005-06.
Pay is only part of the problem with the contract. It also severely limits the ability of prison management to assign personnel or to discipline or even track employees who abuse sick leave.
Finally, the LAO report describes a cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive grievance and arbitration process that can leave prison administrators tied in knots for months. Besides recommending that the Legislature reject any pay or benefit increase for prison guards, the analyst says lawmakers need to take steps to help the administration retake control of prison administration.
Following through on the LAO's recommendations will be essential if the Legislature is to begin to address the state's budget and prison crises. The long-stalled guards contract presents a big test for current legislative leaders and their successors.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association is one of the most powerful unions in the state. The union has long bankrolled campaigns for its legislative allies and funded the challengers of its legislative enemies, regardless of party affiliation.
In their zeal to please their guard's union benefactors, legislators signed off on bad labor deals that have nearly bankrupted the state. It's long past time for them to put the public's interest first. The LAO points the way.
Ontario, CA, 10/8/2007
Governor's right on prison move
OUR VIEW: Schwarzenegger must restore balance of power between management and guards' union.
In contract negotiations, it's always harder to get back what you foolishly gave away.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has found that to be the case in his administration's struggle to regain management control over the prison system that his predecessor, Gray Davis, ceded in the 2001 contract with the prison guards union.
But credit Schwarzenegger for trying; he's facing a tough adversary in the 31,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association. And he can't count on help from the Legislature, which is more concerned with appeasing a union that has spent $10 million on elections since 2000.
Last month, after 16 months of futile negotiations, Schwarzenegger took the gutsy move of imposing the state's "last, best and final" contract offer on the union. He was entitled to do so after mediation failed. Last week the union filed suit to prevent it. We hope the governor prevails.
The guards will get three annual 5 percent pay increases - totaling
nearly 20 percent once other factors are included. That generous raise
will cost the state an estimated $735 million over three years. Still,
the union is grousing because the state has eliminated the clause linking
the guards' pay to the pay scale of the Highway Patrol - a concession that
With the state wrenching back control, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James Tilton will be able to stop some of the union's meddling in daily prison operations:
The union will no longer be able to file hundreds of petty complaints that eat up wardens' time. From now on, only grievances related to health and safety issues will be accepted; there will be no automatic arbitration.
Seniority will no longer dictate who fills 70 percent of job openings. Managers will decide who's qualified for critical positions.
Managers will be able to monitor claims for sick time, which mushroomed after the 2001 contract limited the right of wardens to question claims.
Guards will no longer be able to count sick time toward overtime pay - another source of abuse.
Tilton and his managers need these prerogatives to force reforms and wring waste out of the system. Three years ago, a blue-ribbon commission led by former Gov. George Deukmejian emphasized the need to reduce the influence of the union. Last year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson admonished both Davis and Schwarzenegger for giving in to the union and failing to fix the prison mess. Now Henderson is one of three judges who need to be persuaded why they shouldn't take charge of overcrowded prisons and release thousands of inmates.
Schwarzenegger is signaling that he gets the message. Legislative leaders
should back him up.
Disagree? We'd like to hear from you. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Editorial: Schwarzenegger must instill proper balance of power in
In contract negotiations, it's always harder to get back what you foolishly gave away.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has found that to be the case in his administration's struggle to regain management control over the prison system that his predecessor, Gray Davis, ceded in the 2001 contract with the prison guards union. But credit Schwarzenegger for trying; he's facing a tough adversary in the 31,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association. And he can't count on help from the Legislature, which is more concerned with appeasing a union that has spent $10 million on elections since 2000.
Last month, after 16 months of futile negotiations, Schwarzenegger took the gutsy move of imposing the state's "last, best and final" contract offer on the union. He was entitled to do so after mediation failed. On Tuesday the union filed suit to prevent it. We hope the governor prevails.
The guards will get three annual 5 percent pay increases - totaling nearly 20 percent once other factors are included. That generous raise will cost the state an estimated $735 million over three years. Still, the union is grousing because the state has eliminated the clause linking the guards' pay to the pay scale of the Highway Patrol - a concession that Davis should never have made. (A Highway Patrol officer will now make $744 more per month, compared with $666 more per month before.)
But the bigger issue is power. With the state wrenching back control, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James Tilton will be able to stop some of the union's meddling in daily prison operations:
• The union will no longer be able to file hundreds of petty complaints that eat up wardens' time. From now on, only grievances related to health and safety issues will be accepted; there will be no automatic arbitration.
• Seniority will no longer dictate who fills 70 percent of job openings. Managers will decide who's qualified for critical positions.
• Managers will be able to monitor claims for sick time, which mushroomed after the 2001 contract limited the right of wardens to question claims.
• Guards will no longer be able to count sick time toward overtime pay - another source of abuse.
• Administrators will be better able to make decisions without interference. An example: Officials wanted to have inmates transported to a surgical center five days a week. But the prison guard local decided it wanted to transport only one day a week and killed the move.
Tilton and his managers need these prerogatives to force reforms and wring waste out of the system. Three years ago, a blue-ribbon commission led by former Gov. George Deukmejian emphasized the need to reduce the influence of the union. Last year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson admonished both Davis and Schwarzenegger for giving in to the union and failing to fix the prison mess. Now Henderson is one of three judges who need to be persuaded why they shouldn't take charge of overcrowded prisons and release thousands of inmates.
Schwarzenegger is signaling that he gets the message. Legislative leaders should back him up.
Arbitrator says prison guards shouldn't get pay raise
An arbitrator has ruled that the state's correctional officers are not entitled to a pay raise based on an increase the California Highway Patrol union negotiated for its members last year.
In his Sept. 1 ruling, arbitrator Norman Brand found that the state did not violate its since-expired contract with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association it when rebuffed the union's claim that its members were entitled to a raise linked to the increase awarded to the CHP.
The CCPOA filed a grievance last September saying its members should have gotten the raise based on the union's old contract. The expired agreement established a methodology that paid the CCPOA members $666 a month less than CHP officers.
"The (memorandum of understanding) has expired," Brand wrote. "There is no language in the expired MOU that requires any further salary increases. Thus, none are required, unless and until the parties negotiate new increases."
Last year, another arbitrator awarded CCPOA members a 3.125 percent raise based on health care and other benefits awarded to the CHP employees. The arbitrator said the CCPOA members were entitled to the raise because the CHP benefits were conveyed before the correctional officers' old contract had expired.
Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley hailed the most recent arbitration decision.
"We're relieved," she said Wednesday. "There's some finality to this question and we hope we can move forward from here. Our employees have waited long enough."
CCPOA spokesman Ryan Sherman said the union will appeal the decision to Superior Court.
"The contract is still in place for everything else," Sherman said. "We're still being required to live under its terms, even though the (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) isn't."
The CCPOA's contract covering its 31,000 members expired in July 2006. The state has offered a three-year deal with annual 5 percent raises, plus benefits increases that would improve the total compensation package by 20 percent over the life of the agreement.
Union leaders have rejected the deal, saying that givebacks on non-monetary
items are too much for their members to swallow.
Guards union at a low ebb
To say the least, times have been tough lately for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
The union has gone more than a year without a contract, failed to stop a major prison construction bill, lost 35-1 in a bid to torpedo a key gubernatorial appointee and endorsed a guy for governor who lost by 1.2 million votes.
In a political world of ebb and flow, CCPOA President Mike Jimenez concedes that his 31,000-member union has drifted off into "one of those eddies right now," and that Capitol insiders might think the union's influence is on the wane.
But Jimenez added that it would be a mistake to read too much into the recent events. All the union really wants, he says, is to make sure its voice is heard.
"I don't desire a relationship that has authority, control, power or any undue influence over any person in government," he said. "If our argument or position doesn't carry itself on the merits or on its weight, maybe we've taken the wrong position."
The union's growth during the 1980s prison-building boom turned it into a major political player in the 1990s, when $1.5 million of its campaign cash helped former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson win and retain office.
Then the union switched sides and gave $3 million over two elections to get Democratic candidate Gray Davis elected governor in 1998 and keep him there in 2002.
The union's influence waned with the 2003 recall and the election of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Its endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides fell flat last year, but the union still stayed relevant through the 2005-06 election cycle, spending $6.2 million over the two-year period and helping defeat Schwarzenegger's special election agenda in 2005.
Last year, the union also contributed money to 114 legislative candidates (75 Democrats and 39 Republicans) and 13 statewide office seekers (nine Democrats and four Republicans).
"Make no doubt about it," said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, herself a recipient of CCPOA campaign money. "They have never left the scene."
Schwarzenegger has taken some of the union's most vitriolic hits over the past two years, including being the subject of a mobile billboard campaign that depicted the governor as nothing less than the devil. But Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn refrained from kicking back at the union.
"Regardless of how the CCPOA is perceived in political circles, we see them as critical to our success in reforming the state's prison system," Mendelsohn said.
Perhaps the biggest setback to the union in recent months was its failure to block Assembly Bill 900, the prison construction plan. The union mounted a major effort to stop it in the Capitol halls, with teams of lobbyists saying the expansion, without an effective hiring plan to fill 2,700 officer vacancies, would put staff in danger. Still, the plan cleared the Legislature, flying through the Assembly on a 70-1 vote.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, with whom the union had a strong working relationship, led the legislative charge for the bill.
"Sometimes you have to say no to people you're very close to to get something done," said Núñez spokesman Steve Maviglio. "It makes for tough times in the relationship. But everybody's still talking."
The union got routed again in the state Senate, 35-1, on the vote confirming David Gilb to direct the Department of Personnel Administration. Jimenez, at a committee hearing, ripped into Gilb, charging him with dishonesty in contract negotiations.
Schwarzenegger's rout of Angelides snapped the union's gubernatorial endorsement winning streak at five straight. The union sat out the 2003 recall, but before that had backed winners in every governor's race going back to Republican George Deukmejian's re-election in 1986.
In the issue most dear to its membership, union negotiators have failed to win a new contract. The state has offered an 18 percent raise over four years, but CCPOA leaders say that when all the side agreements are added up, it would leave their members further behind than the monthly $666 spread that currently separates them from the Highway Patrol deal. They're also opposed to management control changes sought by the state.
Jimenez said that the union has moved beyond AB 900, and that it never really lobbied the full Senate to reject Gilb, and that the Angelides campaign was "a nonstarter" it had to endorse, given its opposition to Schwarzenegger going back to a 2004 contract renegotiation and then the 2005 special election.
The 12-month contract fight, he said, is just getting under way, pointing out that the union once went 33 months without a contract. "We're still warming up," he said.
Since replacing the retired Don Novey five years ago as CCPOA president, the 46-year-old Jimenez has presented a different look as the face of the union. Literally. Last year, he stopped cutting his hair and beard and said he'd let it grow until he got a contract for the membership. He has since cut off his ponytail but has kept the full beard.
Under Jimenez, the CCPOA has played host to conferences featuring many of the anti-prison activists who in the past have excoriated the union, agreeing with them on the need for a sentencing commission to regulate inmate inflow into the overcrowded prison system. The union even signed on in a friend-of-the-court brief with the Prison Law Office in its recent motion to cap the state prison population.
In a speech April 28 at the California Democratic Party Convention, Jimenez expropriated some of the activists' rhetoric, saying AB 900 amounted to a decision "to increase the prison-industrial complex."
Jimenez said it was one of his son's recent brushes with the law that made him think harder about prison alternatives.
"Here's a kid I love more than life itself," he said. "I'd do anything for him. But he felt unloved, unwanted, unneeded. So how does a kid whose parents are addicted to drugs, or he doesn't know his parents, how do they feel about life? It hit me real strange when I began contemplating that."
Jimenez's speech and his reaching out to activists and inmates' rights groups present a sharp contrast to the leadership of his predecessor and mentor.
Novey, 60, still has an office at CCPOA headquarters in West Sacramento and the union still pays him for political advice. Novey, who recently underwent surgery, said he's been out of touch with the union during his recovery. He said he doesn't know how politically effective the union is these days, and he declined to comment substantively on its tactics.
He also declined to comment on Jimenez's leadership.
"It's a tough job," Novey said.
Nobody in town, however, is discounting the influence the union can still wield. Especially, they said, when it has $15 million in its political bank account.
Phil Giarrizzo, a Democratic direct mail specialist and political adviser to the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, said the CCPOA "is still a force to be reckoned with." He said the union's setback on AB 900 will not linger. "As it gets closer to next year, they will still be in their position as one of the most powerful political forces in California," Giarrizzo said.
Editorial: End CCPOA, CHP link
No action by any recent governor has hurt the state's finances more than the irresponsible contract former Gov. Gray Davis negotiated in 2002 with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The Legislature compounded his mistake by ratifying this deal with the powerful prison guards union.
Among its many egregious provisions, the labor pact tied guard pay and benefits -- health care, uniform allowance, education incentives, etc. -- to those already approved for the state's traditional elite law enforcement agency, the California Highway Patrol. Under the terms of the deal, the state's 31,000 prison guards are guaranteed to receive just $666 a month less in total compensation than the state's 6,000 CHP officers.
Now five years after that deal was inked, the CHP has filed an "unfair practices" charge with the Public Employee Relations Board, complaining that its own negotiating position has been hurt. Every time the union that represents the CHP wins a pay and benefit hike for its members at the bargaining table, 31,000 prison guards get the same percentage increase. The linkage between the unions makes every CHP pay increase five times more expensive for state taxpayers. Based on that CHP link, prison guards received a 3.1 percent pay raise and health care enhancements in January 2006 that cost the state an extra $290 million.
There are many more expensive and even dangerous provision in the contract Davis negotiated, particularly those that cede management control of prisons to the union. As they move toward reforming the state's prison system and resolving the overcrowding crisis, it is imperative that the governor and lawmakers overhaul the CCPOA contract. Ending the costly linkage between CHP officers and prison guards is just one provision that needs fixing, but it's a good place to start.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
This just might be the year in which Californians see relatively substantial progress toward prison reform in the state as a number of intensifying forces converge:
•The state has been notified that if something is not done to alleviate prison overcrowding, federal judges may step in and impose a cap on prison population by June.
•The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the prison guards union and a principal force behind the "three strikes" law and long an advocate of harsh sentencing, has done something of an about-face and come out for modest sentencing reform, including establishing a sentencing commission.
•Although Gov. Schwarzenegger's "emergency" session on prison reform last summer didn't produce much in the way of substantive action, he says he is committed to prison reform this year.
•And state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero of Los Angeles continues to push what has become her signature issue.
Some of those circumstances are political or artificial, but the conditions in prisons that are moving them forward are real enough. California now houses about 173,000 prisoners in facilities designed for about 80,000. Between 16,000 and 19,000 inmates are assigned to cots in hallways and gyms – which means spaces designed for rehabilitation and vocational programs are not available for those purposes.
James Tilton, appointed secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in September, says the overcrowding amounts to a powder keg of the sort that in other states has led to prison riots.
California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, at 70 percent, which means prison becomes a revolving door for a certain sector of the population. The parole system loses track of about 20 percent of those supposedly under its control. According to former Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roger Warren, scholar in residence at the state's Judicial Council, "about half of those sentenced to prison every year are nonviolent offenders previously sentenced to prison but never for a violent crime."
If federal judges take control of the prison system in June, taxpayers may not be pleased. Judges, according to a report released in January by the state's Little Hoover Commission, "now control inmate medical care and oversee mental health, use-of-force, disabilities-act compliance, dental care, parolee due-process rights and most aspects of the juvenile justice system." Their usual methodology is to mandate higher spending. Federal receiver Robert Sillen announced Feb. 23 that he was unilaterally raising the salaries of prison doctors from $163,360 to $180,000-$200,000 a year to attract more qualified physicians. He previously said that he would "back up the truck to raid the state treasury" if that is what it takes to bring prison medical care up to snuff.
Having aspects of the prison system under federal receivership (the result of various successful lawsuits) has created a parallel management structure between the courts and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that has led to confusion and plummeting morale. Two previous secretaries of the Corrections Department resigned abruptly in 2006 before Tilton was appointed. Mike Jimenez, who took over as president of the prison guards union four years ago, told the Register Editorial Board last week that morale among his members is so low that 4,000 authorized positions are unfilled – despite the union's success at increasing annual salaries (from $14,440 in 1980 to $54,000 in 2002) and benefits and becoming one of the most politically formidable forces in the state.
Origins of today's situation
All this is largely the product of decisions made some 30 years ago to get tough on crime by imposing longer determinate sentences. As the Little Hoover Commission report put it, however, "Despite the rhetoric, 30 years of 'tough on crime' politics has not made the state safer. Quite the opposite: today thousands of hardened, violent criminals are released without regard to the danger they present to an unsuspecting public."
The roots go back to 1976 when the Legislature, upset with inconsistent sentencing by judges under what is known as an indeterminate sentencing regime, set up a determinate-sentencing system, with relatively narrow guidelines for punishment for crimes and little discretion for judges. Like most reforms, however, it had unanticipated consequences.
For one thing, California also kept its parole system, with theoretically supervised parole of up to three years for every felon released. Under indeterminate sentencing parole had offered an incentive for prisoners to get out early if they behaved decently and did things like participate in vocational training or drug counseling. Under the current system every prisoner knows he or she will be on parole after release, and early release is based more on overcrowding issues than prisoner behavior. And because every released prisoner is on parole, the potentially dangerous former inmates who could use some supervision after release often don't get extra attention – or, in practice, any effective attention at all.
In addition, dozens of new sentencing laws have been passed since 1976, creating a confusing patchwork of sentencing laws rather than the consistency the lawmakers desired. In hearings before the Little Hoover Commission, Judge J. Richard Couzens of Placer County outlined a hypothetical case in which a judge could have given a defendant anywhere from supervised probation to a 25-to-life "third strike" sentence and be in compliance with existing laws.
Sentencing commission proposed
Sentencing commissions are sometimes equated with shorter sentences, but commissions in North Carolina and Virginia imposed longer sentences for serious and violent crimes, with shorter sentences or alternatives like community-based programs for less-serious nonviolent crimes. The best sentencing commissions constantly accumulate and analyze data on the real-world consequences of sentencing policies so as to update policies based on evidence.
Other proposed reforms
She has also introduced a proposal (SB851) for new in-prison rehabilitative programs based on a program for mentally ill homeless people begun in 2000 that she believes has been largely successful and holds lessons for prison management.
The Senate has passed SB40, a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Cunningham decision in January that declared unconstitutional one aspect of California's sentencing system – add-ons by a judge based on information a jury had not heard or decided upon. So far the Assembly has not scheduled hearings.
The Little Hoover Commission has presented a detailed set of proposals for dealing with current overcrowding in prisons, including selective early furlough and getting other agencies with different kinds of expertise besides the Corrections Department involved.
Gov. Schwarzenegger last December offered a new $11 billion prison reform package that included some of the elements that didn't pass during his emergency session last summer and included 16,000 new beds on existing sites, 5,000 to 7,000 secure re-entry beds, 10,000 medical and mental-health beds and 45,000 local jail beds. There is talk of expanding Orange County's James A. Musick Facility near Irvine. But we can't just build our way out of this crisis, especially by June.
When the Register Editorial Board met with Mike Jimenez and Chuck Alexander, president and executive VP, respectively, of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, I was surprised to find them backing several reform measures, including measures that would reduce the prison population. "We don't need more prisoners to bolster our union," Jimenez said. "We're already 4,000 authorized positions short, and as long as California's population keeps growing some of them will end up in prison."
The Little Hoover Commission suggested that if the governor and Legislature don't have the political will to enact reforms, they should turn the job over to "an independent entity modeled after the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission." That commission, back in the 1990s, studied the question of which excess military bases should be closed and came back to Congress to be voted up or down, with no opportunity to offer amendments (as Congress members are wont to do in response to local pressures). It was a fairly drastic step, but it worked.
A more fundamental look
The most obvious example in our current society is drug laws, which make the mere possession of certain substances illegal. This legal prohibition creates black markets with huge potential profits that encourage those most adept at concealment, intimidation and violence to supply drugs to those who want them. In the process they create all kinds of real crimes, from mugging to robbery to burglary, that would almost certainly not occur in the absence of prohibitory drug laws.
Until we relearn Aquinas' ancient wisdom, however, legislators have plenty of reason to get serious – finally – about the kinds of incremental reforms the governor, Sen. Romero, Irvine Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore and others have proposed. We'll be watching.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 714-796-7821
Posted on Tue, Jan. 09, 2007
Prison guards union to blame
California would have plenty of space to put its prisoners (Editorial, Jan. 5) were it not for the prison guards union, whose massive campaign contributions speak very loudly in Sacramento. Privately run prisons have succeeded in other states. But the guards at those prisons don't pay dues to the union, and prisons that are run better with lower costs weaken the union's negotiating position. We should not be surprised, as the editorial notes, that senior aides to the governor "intervened to placate the prison guards union in an election year.''
As long as the prison guards union controls both sides of the negotiating table, prison crowding won't have a solution. Chalk up another case of government employee unions being the problem.
Overtime Gives Prison Guards Fat Salary
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- About 6,000 California corrections officers earned more than $100,000 in the last fiscal year thanks to overtime work in the strained prison system, and one brought in more than a quarter of a million.
Overtime added $220 million to the $453 million base pay for those prison workers, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. More than 900 of them earned $50,000 or more in overtime alone.
Overtime costs have soared since the officers' current labor contract
took effect five years ago, rising 24 percent in the third quarter of this
year compared to the same point last year, the newspaper reported.
"I can't have a control booth vacant," Alexander said. "We have to fill
Schwarzenegger has vowed to reform the nation's largest prison system, which incarcerates almost 174,000 people in 33 prisons that were designed to hold 100,000. He has announced a plan to ease crowding by building prisons, rehabilitating prisoners to cut down on repeat offenders and reviewing sentencing laws that lock up many nonviolent criminals.
No probe of guards, governor
A federal judge ruled Thursday that an "expansive investigation" is "not warranted" to determine whether the Schwarzenegger administration and the prison officers union worked to undermine prison reform in the state.
The order by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco rebuffed a recommendation from Special Master John Hagar that he be allowed to conduct hearings into possible collaboration between the administration and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
In his 19-page ruling, Henderson suggested that Hagar was off base in a report issued over the summer alleging that the administration was thwarting prison reform at the behest of the union. Hagar, working under an appointment from Henderson, had sought the hearings to question gubernatorial chief of staff Susan Kennedy and other administration officials over why two prison directors -- disliked by the union -- quit their jobs earlier this year.
Rather than exerting undue influence over the administration as charged by Hagar, Henderson said, the union's relationship with the Governor's Office "at this time" is "sharply adversarial."
Henderson noted that the CCPOA endorsed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, in the recent gubernatorial election. Moreover, Henderson said, the union "attacked the governor in election advertisements" and also recently sued him over the administration's plan for out-of-state inmate transfers.
Gubernatorial spokesman Adam Mendelsohn said the administration was pleased with the judge's decision.
"The administration is focused on reforming California's ailing prison system and we are encouraged that this is another step toward focusing on the issues at hand," Mendelsohn said.
Henderson did allow Hagar to go ahead with a hearing in which he can ask former corrections Secretaries Rod Hickman and Jeanne Woodford why they quit.
Letters to the Editor
Dissolve guards union
The state prison guards union should be put out of business. There are only two ways to keep politicians out of their pocket of control.
One: Take all prisons out of the control of the California Department of Corrections. Create a special commission to oversee all functions of the prison system, including the parole board. Make all CDC employees individually and jointly legally responsible for their personal actions when abusing any laws.
Two: Limit all CDC employees to a $1 annual donation to any union campaign fund.
No overtime or sick leave can be used for anything other than personal use of the individual to whom the time has been credited. (No cash allowance will be paid by the state to anyone other than directly to the employee.)
Then and only then will the politicians get down to doing what is right within their prison legislative powers.
The large prison guards’ union must be stopped from accumulating huge campaign funds and buying off legislators with campaign donations.
When Gov. Schwarzenegger, with his personal millions, can be bought by the prison guards union, then who will be next to crawl into the group’s pocket? No one is safe when any union can rule our politicians.
NORA WEBER, BAKERSFIELD
Prison guards' power targeted
State labor negotiators have loaded their opening contract offer to the correctional officers' union with proposals designed to reassert managers' control over the California prison system.
In an offer dated July 30, the state is seeking to restrict officers' use of sick leave, and the rank and file's ability to leverage seniority to determine work shift assignments.
Most significantly, however, Department of Personnel Administration negotiators are trying to delete a contract provision that allows the union to challenge virtually any operational change undertaken by prison management -- a prerogative the state contends has inhibited correctional reform in California.
The contract's "entire agreement" clause, as it is called, lets the California Correctional Peace Officers Association negotiate any policy or operational change after the completion of the labor agreement that would "affect the working conditions of a significant number of employees."
Outcomes of the negotiations can then be subject to arbitration, according to the CCPOA contract that expired last month.
DPA spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said the "entire agreement" clause has subjected labor relations within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to "continuous bargaining" over issues ranging from inmate health care to the creation of emergency housing units.
"In this case, the 'entire agreement' clause is what has allowed this contract to be a continually evolving document and has allowed the union to interfere in basic operational decisions of the department," Jolley said. "The proposal to change it would allow management to implement the operational changes and to advance its reforms and the reforms of the court mandates."
CCPOA spokesman Lance Corcoran said the prison agency routinely changes operational procedures with no objection from the union. Corcoran said the union reserves its use of the clause to cases in which department managers impose job changes that run counter to the underlying contract provisions that directly affect the working conditions of its members.
"Management, which in many cases has been dissociated from the real world with respect to how prisons operate, often overlooks subtle problems and sometimes glaring problems in the implementation of new procedures," Corcoran said. "The process of negotiations has allowed us to bring those to light and have them corrected so we end up with workable and defined expectations."
The issue of who controls California prisons has become more pronounced in recent years. One report, released by the Corrections Independent Review Panel in June 2004, concluded that management concessions in the recently expired contract "undermined the ability of corrections management to direct and control the activities of the department."
Steve Fama, an attorney with the San Rafael-based Prison Law Office, said the "entire agreement" clause has resulted in months-long delays in putting in place medical improvements and other new policies in the state's 33 prisons, with labor and management often winding up at loggerheads on how the changes will be carried out.
"Management is certainly delayed and often hamstrung by these requirements," said Fama, whose law group has filed lawsuits that have forced changes in the prison system's use of force, disciplinary and medical care policies, among others.
Besides altering the "entire agreement" clause, the state's July 30 offer seeks to cut down on use of sick leave by preventing officers from counting it as time worked for purposes of overtime and by prohibiting some staff members from calling in sick at the last minute.
Another proposal would allow corrections managers to exclude more rank-and-file officers from the department's "post and bid" process for establishing work assignments. The current system sets aside 70 percent of job assignments for officers to pick and choose on their own based on seniority, with management reserving 30 percent control over who works where. The state's proposal would maintain the 70-30 breakdown, but eliminate from the process certain newly designated assignments in security, transportation and medical care.
The initial state offer contained no specific salary proposal, saying only that the new contract would be tied to other law enforcement agencies' pay scales under a mutually agreeable formula that is still to be negotiated.
A top-scale rank-and-file correctional officer in California currently
is paid an annual base salary of $71,496, which includes pension coverage,
according to the DPA. Health benefits and physical fitness, education and
seniority incentives can add $16,000 to the overall officer compensation
About the writer:
Article Launched: 7/22/2006 11:58 PM
As union's influence grows, so does its share of blame
By Mason Stockstill, Staff Writer
The California prison guards union is often described as politically
"They're a very persuasive special interest in the capital," said Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, in an interview with Mother Jones magazine. "They're accustomed to getting what they want and have historically gotten everything they wanted."
With about 30,000 dues-paying members, the CCPOA can make or break a candidate's election hopes.
But as the union's strength has increased, it's also become a popular target, blamed by many for California's myriad prison failures.
Legislators have blasted the officers' contract, saying it gives the union influence over prison management. For example, officers can bid for choice assignments based on seniority, taking operational decisions out of prison administrators' hands.
Also, investigators looking into prison abuse have accused union officials of interference.
"The CCPOA has a mission of its own, and it has a fairly narrow scope," said former Inspector General Steve White at a legislative hearing in 2004. "The CCPOA has managed ... to move the department off of its larger comprehensive role and refocus the department on the CCPOA's ground."
Martin Aroian is the face of the union at the California Institution for Men.
Elected chapter president in 2004, the no-nonsense veteran is quick with a sound bite to describe his disgust with department leadership in Sacramento, like the department's former secretary.
"In a 2004 memo, Jeanne Woodford referred to inmates as ‘clients,' ”Aroian said earlier this year. "Jeanne Woodford is an idiot. The inmates aren't the clients. ... The inmates are the workload, and the sooner (department leaders) get that figured out, the better."
Aroian's role goes beyond criticizing management. Earlier this year, he pressured officials in Sacramento to increase CIM's allotment of academy graduates and allow more transfers to the understaffed prison.
He rejects suggestions that the union has too much influence within the department, or that the contract gives officers more privileges than are necessary.
For example, the contract mandates officers be informed when they are under investigation before the review is completed. Critics argue the practice could jeopardize those investigations.
"That's an example of how little understanding those critics have of our contract," Aroian said. "The only thing we want to know is what's the complaint, who's involved ... so that we know what the nature of the complaint is."
The union was not always a Sacramento power player.
In his 1981 memoir, former corrections Director Richard McGee said CCPOA's political strength was "minuscule" compared to police and teachers' unions.
That changed in the 1980s and 1990s, when the state opened 20 new prisons. The union's membership boomed, and so did its influence in state politics.
CCPOA has supported 92 of California's 119 current state legislators, either through contributions or indirect expenditures. It also gave more than $1.1 million to then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2002 – the year the current contract for officers was approved.
But there's evidence the union's influence may be waning.
As a candidate for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged not to take its contributions, and legislators like Sen. Gloria Romero have clashed with union leaders.
The CCPOA isn't beaten yet, though. Its money was key in the battle by state employee unions to defeat Schwarzenegger's slate of ballot initiatives in last year's special election.
"I think they will always be a significant player," said Romero, who described the union's influence as positive overall. "I think we would expect that, given that it is a very large workforce. If you are an employee of this system, you're going to be involved. I don't think it's a negative thing."
Watchdog slams prisons over guards' union work
(07-21) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- Poor oversight by California's corrections department has allowed leaders of the guards union to spend work time on union business without approval, a problem that could allow some guards to retire with bigger taxpayer-funded paydays than they would otherwise receive, according to a report released Thursday by a prison watchdog agency.
The report described incompetent record-keeping that may have cost the state millions of dollars and allowed some union representatives to simply stop showing up for work to instead do union chores without any authorization. It also said overtime budgets were routinely exceeded by permitting more union members to attend the group's annual conference in places like Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe than it had planned for.
One lawmaker described the findings as concrete evidence of the politically powerful union's dominance within the prison system.
"It's a complete abuse of the taxpayer," said state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough.
In the report, Inspector General Matthew Cate criticized corrections officials for violating state fiscal-responsibility laws.
The report was mentioned last week in a court hearing in which a federal investigator accused top aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of allowing the union too much influence into corrections operations.
The report is another black eye for an $8 billion agency that has become a major political liability for the governor. Corrections officials said they had already begun to tighten up accounting procedures.
A spokesman for Cate, who conducts audits and investigations of the state's penal system and reports directly to Schwarzenegger, said reviewing the department's records on union business "was like auditing spaghetti, with our apologies to spaghetti."
"This is a problem that became deeply embedded in the culture of the system," said Brett Morgan, spokesman for Cate and chief deputy inspector general.
At issue is the system the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation uses to allow union officials assigned to specific prisons to take time off from their jobs to handle union business. While 19 different unions have members in the prison system, a majority are represented by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
Rank-and-file union members donate vacation time to the union, which is then used to pay the state back to pay another employee to take the unfilled spot.
Leave is typically taken by union chapter presidents -- there is one at each prison -- and a handful of union executives who work full time in Sacramento attending legislative hearings, working on prison policy and steering a massive organization that represents more than 30,000 state employees.
According to Cate's findings, the department has provided little oversight on how union officials have used leave time. Among the report's findings:
-- Records from the state controller's office indicate that labor unions representing corrections employees used 30,373 more hours than were available between 2000 and 2005, costing the state $1.1 million;
-- Some high-ranking officials left their prison jobs to conduct union business full time or part time without any record of authorization from the department;
-- And some union executives who work in Sacramento full time have not been required to submit regular time cards, which has allowed them to build up vacation and holiday pay that will likely be paid to them when they retire. The report noted that one employee who has not worked at the prison he is assigned to in more than six years has reported no sick leave or vacation time during the entire period and has accumulated credit for working every holiday. The employee, who is not named in the report, is entitled to $116,000 upon retirement.
A spokeswoman for the corrections department said the administration agreed with the report's findings. Elaine Jennings said the department has been working on improving its accounting systems for several months. The department and union are also involved in a lawsuit over the union's use of leave time, and Jennings said the state was attempting to force the union to pay back money through the lawsuit, which is pending in court.
Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the union, said the employee cited in the report for accumulating more than $100,000 of vacation and sick time had been fired by the department, filed a grievance, won his case and then had been reinstated, with the state forced to provide him back pay and the corresponding vacation and sick pay.
The union's use of leave time and the department's lack of oversight came up last week during a court hearing convened by a federal special master overseeing part of the state's corrections system.
Special Master John Hagar suggested the president of the union, Mike Jimenez, and another executive had been accumulating vacation time for several years.
Hagar suggested that the union had opposed the promotion of a corrections labor negotiator, Tim Virga, because Virga had written memos about the issue and that top aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may have allowed the union to influence the decision not to promote Virga.
In an interview Thursday, Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, said she was not familiar with the problems relating to the union's use of leave time.
E-mail Mark Martin at markmartin@sfchronicle .
Posted on Sun, Jul. 02, 2006
'Prison yard bully' poses election year puzzle for Schwarzenegger
SACRAMENTO - The most important California prison reform decision in decades may have been Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's refusal to accept campaign contributions from the powerful prison guards' union.
The move freed Schwarzenegger to make "dramatic" reforms within the vastly troubled corrections system, including combating a "code of silence" among guards that hid inmate abuse and neglect, a federal court-appointed watchdog said.
But improvements are now in jeopardy as Schwarzenegger, facing re-election, tries to curry favor with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said John Hagar, a prisons overseer appointed by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson. The San Francisco-based judge has seized control of the state's inmate health care system while demanding aggressive investigations of abusive guards.
"Integrity and remedial plan efforts must begin at the top, and then percolate down," Hagar wrote in a recent report to Judge Henderson. "Beginning January 2006, however, it appears that the requisite leadership has been absent from the Gov.'s Office."
The governor called lawmakers into special session last week to consider a reform package that is all good news for the union.
Schwarzenegger wants to build at least two new prisons along with community correctional centers, all staffed with union guards. The administration pledged to hire 4,000 more union guards and parole officers, half of them during the fiscal year that began Saturday.
The governor now is negotiating a new contract with the 30,000-member union, the largest of eight state union pacts that expire this year.
Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed a five-year contract that cost the state $2 billion in raises and sharp increases in overtime, sick leave, fitness pay and pension costs. Davis did so while accepting $2.6 million from the union between 1998 and 2002, campaign contributions criticized by Schwarzenegger as he defeated Davis in the 2003 recall election.
The union gave up raises the first two years during the state's budget crisis, and delayed another raise at Schwarzenegger's request in return for concessions including an extra $5 million in annual health care benefits.
But guards - several hundred of whom earn more than $100,000 a year in salary and overtime - received a 5.2 percent raise as their contract expired Saturday, on top of 5 percent raises in July 2005, January 2005, and July 2004, and a 6.8 percent raise in July 2003. Their raises are tied to the pay formula for California Highway Patrol officers.
The first bargaining session for a new contract collapsed within minutes earlier this month. A second try is set for Monday.
Hagar, the court's watchdog, fears union President Mike Jimenez may bypass state negotiators completely "to get whatever he wanted directly from the governor."
That fear is greater since Schwarzenegger appointed Davis' former cabinet secretary, Susan Kennedy, as his chief of staff Jan. 1, which Hagar said marked a return to Davis' "practice of allowing the CCPOA to overrule the most critical decisions of the (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) secretary."
Hagar blamed secret meetings between Kennedy and CCPOA leaders for the departures of Corrections Secretaries Roderick Hickman and Jeanne Woodford in quick succession this spring.
Administration officials said there was no effort to bypass Hickman, and that Kennedy is reaching out to all groups at odds with the administration.
"It makes no difference how much money they have," Schwarzenegger said last week. "It makes no difference what they think; what their plans are. What is important to me is I do the things that are right for the people of California.
"We cannot have prison reform without working with the prison unions. Now, they're not calling any shots; I call the shots."
It is politically wise for Schwarzenegger to work things out with the guards' union, said Republican strategist Dan Schnur.
"More important than turning them into friends is to keep them from being angry enemies," Schnur said. "An endorsement from them would be icing on the cake."
First, conservatives generally view guards as law enforcement officers who happen to belong to a union, not as members of traditional labor unions popular with Democrats. Second, prison reform doesn't resonate with voters who prefer tougher sentences, though Schnur said Democratic nominee Phil Angelides would be hard pressed to label Schwarzenegger as soft on crime.
The union is collecting an extra $33 each month from every member for 17 months leading up to the November election, on top of the $5 million to $8 million it usually gives politicians.
"Do the math," said CCPOA Executive Vice President Chuck Alexander. Despite the expected $15 million war chest, "we have not done anything in the governor's race, nor have we decided whether we will do anything in the governor's race."
The union already has purchased $5 million worth of television time in October, but likely won't decide until September who, if anyone, to endorse, said CCPOA political consultant Ray McNally.
Alexander praised Kennedy, Cabinet Secretary Fred Aguiar and acting Corrections Secretary James Tilton for their willingness to meet personally with union leaders.
The mutual sweet talk contrasts with previous efforts by the union and governor to vilify each other.
The union distributed an unflattering photograph of a flabby Schwarzenegger in a skimpy swimsuit, though Hagar said that paled to the implied threat to a prison captain at Calipatria State Prison who reported employee misconduct.
The CCPOA hung a rat trap along with a note about catching rats, or tattletales, on its bulletin board at the prison's administration building.
Hagar said the union's tactics make it "identical to the biggest bully in the prison yard."
Now Schwarzenegger must decide how to deal with a union that knows how to play hardball.
California Prison Guards' Power Called 'Disturbing'
A federal investigator says
the governor has backpedaled on reform by giving too much power to the
June 22, 2006
SACRAMENTO — After launching "one of the most productive periods of prison reform" in California history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has retreated from the cause and given the guards union a "disturbing" level of clout over prison policy and operations, a federal court investigator charged Wednesday.
Special Master John Hagar accused Schwarzenegger of backpedaling and warned that California was returning to an era when union leaders were allowed to "overrule the most critical decisions" of prison administrators.
Hagar, whose findings were spelled out in a 34-page report, linked the turnaround to the governor's January appointment of Susan Kennedy, a one-time aide to former Gov. Gray Davis, as his chief of staff.
Within four months of her hiring, Hagar said, two of Schwarzenegger's handpicked Corrections Department chiefs had resigned amid concerns that union officials were being given too much say over appointments and other management moves.
After their departures, Hagar said, prison leaders were "confused, understaffed, dispirited, and most important, uncertain who is really in charge" — the head of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or the president of the union, known as the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.
Hagar's draft report is ultimately intended for U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who presides over two ongoing cases involving California's severely overcrowded and widely maligned prison system. First, however, Hagar will hold a July hearing so the union and state can raise objections.
Hagar said he would ask the judge for authority to further investigate the recent resignations of the corrections secretaries and other "disturbing developments," which he said could wipe out two years of "productive" prison reform. As part of that inquiry, Hagar said he would hold public hearings, at which Kennedy and a second top aide to the governor — Cabinet Secretary Fred Aguiar — would be called to testify.
At the union's West Sacramento headquarters, Executive Vice President Chuck Alexander called the report a collection of "unfounded, inaccurate accusations" and lambasted Hagar for "not vetting these issues before putting pen to paper."
Alexander also disputed Hagar's assertion that the union holds great sway with the governor: "Do we now have somebody who is willing to listen to our issues? Yes. Do we have the influence he claims? Let me tell you, if we had that, there would be a lot more people gone and a system that works much better than the one we've got."
In a prepared statement, the governor's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said "open lines of communication" with all groups, including labor unions, were essential to prison reform. She said Schwarzenegger believes "it is irresponsible and ineffective to solve our prison crisis without communicating with every party involved."
Wednesday's report is the latest chapter in a civil rights case that led Henderson to place Pelican Bay State Prison under his supervision and name Hagar his investigator. In 1995, Hagar ruled that brutality by officers at the prison on the North Coast was violating inmates' rights.
In recent years, Hagar and the judge have expanded their focus to include the Corrections Department's internal disciplinary system. In previous reports, Hagar has said undue union influence was thwarting efforts by corrections leaders to punish wrongdoing by prison guards across the state.
With 31,000 members, the union is one of the most powerful players in California politics, having contributed millions to candidates and initiative fights in recent years.
At the start of his term, Schwarzenegger distanced himself from the union. Its leaders said the chilly relations — compared to the friendlier connections of the Davis administration — meant they were excluded from many decisions that affected their rank and file.
They targeted much of their anger at Roderick Hickman, whom Schwarzenegger appointed Corrections Department secretary after his 2003 election. A one-time guard and prison warden, Hickman was initially viewed with suspicion by those who thought he would be too close to the union that represented him for 20 years.
Instead, he launched an effort to wipe out the "code of silence" that he and others said deterred prison officers from reporting misconduct by colleagues.
Under pressure from Henderson, he also rebuilt the employee disciplinary system and toughened penalties for wrongdoing — moves that Hagar praised Wednesday. (Hickman quit in February and was replaced by Jeanne Woodford, who left the administration in April.)
Schwarzenegger seemed to fully back the direction. In his 2005 State of the State speech, he said the union held too much sway over management of the prison system.
But recently, the frosty relations began to thaw. Aides to the governor — who is seeking reelection — say extending an olive branch is something they also are doing with other groups with which Schwarzenegger has previously clashed.
The aides said that although Kennedy and Aguiar have met with the prison officers union — including lunching with its president — it has been mostly to discuss prison overcrowding and construction.
They denied a charge by Hagar that Kennedy and Aguiar had met with the union about a candidate recommended for a job by then-Corrections Secretary Woodford. The candidate was not given the post, and Hagar blamed it on union interference.
Woodford quit soon after, and those familiar with her thinking said she was frustrated that her nominees had been rejected.
In another sign of improved relations between Schwarzenegger's office and the prison guards union, the governor had a meeting with union President Mike Jimenez as recently as Tuesday. Schwarzenegger and Jimenez spoke for half an hour about prison overcrowding, prison construction and a proposal to relocate female inmates, according to Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's communications director.
The scathing federal report comes on the eve of the administration's negotiations with the guards union over a new labor contract. Hagar said the state is in a poor position to negotiate the new pact because of a "quiet purge" that the governor's office has initiated in the state Department of Personnel Administration, which handles negotiations with employee unions.
In April or May, Hagar said, the department's director and deputy director were "told to resign," leaving the state without "experienced labor administrators" to undertake negotiations.
Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the department, said the departures were not coerced. She said that the two had long planned their retirements and that the administration has since hired a private negotiator to lead the union talks.
Times staff writer Peter Nicholas contributed to this report.
Scripps Howard New Service
Talks with California prison guards break down over cameras
By ANDY FURILLO
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Contract talks between the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Department of Personnel Administration got off to a rocky start last week when the union tried to videotape the proceedings, prompting state negotiators to walk out.
CCPOA Vice President Chuck Alexander said Tuesday the union wanted to tape the talks because "we're tired of being blamed for all the woes" of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in the wake of the about-to-expire 2002 labor agreement. The state's chief negotiator said in a letter to the union that he felt the videotaping was "unacceptable and not conducive to good faith negotiations."
No new bargaining sessions have been scheduled. The CCPOA's contract, which covers an estimated 30,000 rank-and-file prison workers, is set to expire July 1.
Talks between the two sides were expected to be rancorous, with the state coming out aggressively in its April "sunshine" notices seeking to reassert its managerial authority over the state's youth and adult prison system on issues ranging from staffing assignments to the use of overtime to the system's disciplinary process.
Neither side has yet to bring up the topic of money, which also is bound to attract wide scrutiny this year following the 2002 agreement that, according to a 2004 Department of Finance study, was projected to cost taxpayers $2 billion over its lifespan.
Exactly how difficult the bargaining will be was signaled just 17 minutes into last Friday's opening bargaining session, when the state's negotiators picked up and left the talks that were held at the CCPOA's headquarters in West Sacramento. They said they were miffed over what it described as the "unilateral action" of the union setting up the videotape recording equipment, according to the letter.
"We're not going to take this too seriously," Department of Personnel Administration spokesman Lynelle Jolley said of the early breakdown in talks with the CCPOA. "We know that to have bargaining sessions, we need to get down to business and leave the gimmicks back at the office."
Alexander, however, cracked that state negotiators "don't believe in that kind of transparency, apparently." And with or without cameras, he vowed that the CCPOA will remain aggressive and "ready to fight" as the talks unfold.
"We've had more backlogged grievances than we've ever had before," Alexander said. "Overcrowding is worse than we've ever had before. We have more staff vacancies than we've ever had before. And we have absolutely the worst labor relations my 19 years on the department has ever seen.
"We've been completely demonized by the department as being the bane and cause of all the problems," Alexander. "So to avoid those issues in the future, we were going to videotape."
Politics will provide a backdrop to the discussions, with the union having played a leading role in defeating Schwarzenegger's special election agenda last year and sitting on a mountain of campaign cash that is expected this year to exceed $10 million. It has not endorsed a candidate for governor yet this year, after having spent millions in the past on behalf of Democratic winner Gray Davis and Republican victor Pete Wilson.
Also at last Friday's brief session, the union asked the state to sign a document stating that it had "full authority" to negotiate a new contract, in light of federal court orders that have placed a receiver over the prison health care system and also govern internal discipline as well as some labor contract provisions.
State negotiators refused to sign the document.
"If they don't have the authority," Alexander said, "they need to invite the court in (to the negotiations) so they do have the full authority."
Jolley declined to comment on what impact the court cases might have on labor talks. Rachel Kagan, the spokeswoman for Robert Sillen, the receiver appointed to oversee health care in the prisons, said it is premature to comment on how the contract might affect health care.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Kagan said. "If there's an impediment in the contract to health care reform, that will be addressed in time. But we have no desire of inserting ourselves in contract negotiations as they go in their normal course."
The CCPOA represents 1,400 medical technical assistants. Its rank-and-file
officers also are key players in the system's health care, accompanying
prisoners to and from doctor visits and often acting as sick inmates' first
point of contact.
(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, http://www.shns.com .)
Posted on Wed, Nov. 30, 2005
Judge rejects prison guards' use of leave time for union business
SACRAMENTO - A Superior Court judge has ruled against the union representing state prison guards in a dispute over a long-standing practice of using leave time donated by its members to conduct union activities.
Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed a lawsuit last summer to enforce provisions of their labor agreement with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. That contract caps how much time guards can donate to the union.
Union leaders said the suit is just another effort by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cripple the politically powerful union, which helped defeating the governor's ballot agenda in this month's special election.
"The only reason they are making this an issue is to shut us up because we are critical of them," said Chuck Alexander, spokesman for the prison guards union. "This is just more bully tactics."
He said the union will appeal Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang's ruling, which was announced to the parties on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the state said politics had nothing to do with the dispute.
There may not be direct costs to state taxpayers when guards donate vacation or other time that the state owes them, but there are indirect costs, said Dave Gilb, chief labor negotiator for the Department of Personnel Administration, which has been representing the state corrections department in the case.
He said shifts must be covered by someone else when a guard takes time off to conduct union activities.
"It's not directly an issue of hard dollars," Gilb said. "But this leave has to be factored into all the other leaves and its impact on manpower."
Both sides agree that the prison guards have used donated time to help offset union costs for many years, dating back at least two administrations before Schwarzenegger took office in 2003.
The time is used for representation at employee discipline hearings, community service programs and political purposes such as protests as the Capitol, among other activities.
The department has argued that the guards' contract limits the number of hours that can be donated to 10,000 over the five-year life of the agreement. By May, the union had used more than 120,000 hours, the administration claimed.
In June, an arbitrator sided with the union, saying the contract had no limit because of a side agreement between the union and the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis, which negotiated the contract.
Chang, however, ruled that the arbitrator had overstepped her authority. She sided with the administration, saying the contract itself was the only relevant document.
If Chang's ruling is upheld, it's not clear what kind of remedy the prison guards union may face.
The union has an annual budget of $25 million, which does not include the leave-time expenses. If all the leave were valued at the guard's top pay of $34 per hour, the 120,000 hours of time would be worth about $4 million.
Does labor have as much clout as governor says?
Sacramento -- At an April 13 meeting of a state Assembly budget subcommittee, two executives with California's prison guards union enjoyed an unusual vantage point as the committee discussed the state's corrections department.
Instead of sitting in the audience or at a table where bureaucrats or interest groups typically sit to testify, the members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association were positioned on the raised dais -- spots normally reserved for lawmakers.
Department of Corrections administrators found themselves looking up at the union representatives, who sat alongside the assemblyman running the meeting.
In the push and pull among Capitol interests for a spot at the table when decisions are made, sometimes it seems like labor unions have the best seat in the house. Union clout isn't always subtle.
Labor lobbyists bully lawmakers. And unions representing narrow interests can derail legislation that has nearly universal support.
That clout is at the heart of the political brawl that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stoked this year that will come to a head on Nov. 8. That's when voters will decide, among other things, Proposition 75, which would make it more difficult for unions to make political contributions; and Proposition 76, which would give the governor the power to override the school funding formula that the teachers union fiercely protects.
Supporters of the propositions argue that labor has a vise-like grip on Sacramento that must be reduced.
"They own Sacramento. They have veto power," complained Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge (Los Angeles County), who unsuccessfully tried to change the way state workers receive pensions this year.
But many independent political analysts, labor experts and Democrats insist that Schwarzenegger and others have overblown labor's power and that his agenda singles out one of several interests -- such as corporations or anti-tax groups -- that influence policy discussions.
"He's taken a windy day and turned it into a hurricane," said Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who studies labor issues. "Labor is influential in Sacramento. On certain bills and issues, they are very influential. But they are one of many groups that can dominate."
Union leaders scoff at the claim that they run the statehouse.
"I wish we had the kind of power the governor claims we do," said J.J. Jelincic, president of the California State Employees Association, which represents about 140,000 state workers.
Labor does have an impressive track record in the Capitol, and some of the victories come with a direct cost to taxpayers.
Public employee unions got a major boost in 1999, when pensions were enriched for most state workers. The increase at the state level led to richer pensions for many local government workers, too, and the state's public pension system estimated the increase will add $3.2 billion to pension costs over a 10-year period.
A 2001 contract for California's 30,000 prison guards gave generous raises and will add $1.6 billion to the state budget by 2007, according to the nonpartisan legislative analyst.
Both the pension increase and the guards' contract were overwhelmingly approved by Republican and Democratic lawmakers and signed by former Gov. Gray Davis.
This year, unions representing relatively small groups of workers stopped legislation many other interest groups supported.
Concerns voiced by the electrical workers union regarding wages derailed Schwarzenegger's proposal to increase the use of solar power in the state, an issue that is overwhelmingly favored in public opinion polls and that had bipartisan support in the state Senate before dying in the Assembly.
Richman complains that a measure he carried that would have allowed hospitals and doctor's offices to quickly sign up uninsured children for state-run health insurance using the Internet was opposed by a union representing many county workers because it might have reduced the need for employees. The union contends it was worried about the privacy rights of the uninsured.
The bill was approved by one Assembly committee but then stalled in another and never came to the floor for a vote.
And a union representing 13,000 publicly employed engineers managed to stall an effort backed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to build a new carpool lane on Interstate 405 by contracting out the engineering and construction work. Villaraigosa wanted to outsource the work to speed up the project in order to capture federal money available for the expansion of one of the most congested freeways in the United States.
The union, Professional Engineers in California Government, has fought for years to prevent contracting out for engineering work on highway projects. It is a big spender on political campaigns, and it has almost always won its battles.
"It's a very good example of one interest group that has far too much power on one subject," said Richard Katz, a former Democratic assemblyman who is now on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board in Los Angeles, and who worked on the 405 legislation.
That is labor's true clout -- power over specific issues that directly affect their members.
The Assembly committee chairman that allowed prison guard union officials to sit on the dais with him is Rudy Bermúdez, D-Norwalk (Los Angeles County), who is a former parole agent and remains an active member of the union. Bermúdez is chairman of two committees with oversight of prisons.
In an interview, Bermúdez said he treats everyone -- the union, corrections administrators and other groups -- the same. He said he allowed the union's executives to sit on the dais with him because there weren't enough chairs around the table where interest groups typically sit.
Most political observers say that while unions unquestionably have clout, to focus exclusively on them is wrong.
"Union issues by and large are payroll issues, which are very visible in the state budget and in turn make it easier to demonize," said Tim Hodson, a former legislative staffer and now executive director of the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University. "But it's a very one-sided argument to attack labor as if there is no such thing as corporate contributions."
In fact, business groups -- ranging from car dealers to agriculture to insurance -- also enjoy many legislative successes every year.
Each year, the California Chamber of Commerce, which acts in part as a political arm for business, compiles a list of legislation it opposes. The compilation, described as "job killer" bills by the chamber, carries considerable weight in Sacramento.
The chamber typically gets its way.
In this year's session, for example, the chamber opposed 45 bills. Of the 45, only one made it through the Legislature and was signed by Schwarzenegger. Four others were signed after the bills were amended and the chamber dropped its opposition.
Among the bills that were stalled this year was one that home builders opposed, which would have required local governments to consider flooding issues in area development plans. Another would have prohibited corporations from settling lawsuits that include agreements to remain silent on things that could be considered a public danger, like environmental hazards or motor vehicle defects.
And while Schwarzenegger has criticized labor for spending lavishly on political campaigns and buying clout in Sacramento, business interests outspend unions considerably in California politics.
Last year, for example, business groups -- ranging from agriculture to energy companies -- spent a combined $46.6 million on candidates for statewide offices and the Legislature, according to the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics.
Labor spent about $12.5 million, according to the institute, which tracks political spending in all 50 states. In 2002, business contributed $117 million, compared to labor's $36 million.
"Labor has only as much influence as the Chamber of Commerce," noted Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough.
This year, the special election has tipped the spending scales. Unions have raised about $80 million -- much of it from its members' dues -- to battle Schwarzenegger at the ballot box. The governor, mostly tapping business interests, has raised about $38 million.
Labor's influence may attract more attention because of its tactics. Lobbyists can be pushy, even to the most tenured lawmakers.
In a dramatic speech on the Senate floor last month, Speier, who is running for lieutenant governor next year, revealed that one of her staffers had been threatened by a labor lobbyist pushing for health care legislation. The lobbyist told the staffer that the Service Employees International Union would "take her (Speier) out" in next year's election if she didn't vote for the bill. The union later apologized.
And when Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, was quoted earlier this year saying the Legislature should look at revising Proposition 98, which sets the school-funding formula, the state teacher's association blanketed his district with mailers suggesting he was anti-education.
Perata, a former high school teacher, wasn't proposing specific legislation or suggesting less money for schools.
But the union felt it had to send a message, said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association.
"What we are saying is we think he should have talked to us first (about changing education funding)," Kerr said.
The attack on Perata underscores an overall issue about life in the Capitol that Schwarzenegger is only partially addressing, several political experts and observers said.
"It said to a lot of people that as an institution, the Legislature is weak, and as a political force, groups like the CTA are strong," said Hodson, the former legislative staffer. The message from the teachers union was clear, Hodson said: Don't talk about Prop. 98.
Term limits have shifted power in the Legislature to lobbyists and special interests that stay in Sacramento for years, while lawmakers come and go. Such groups as teachers union or the chamber have far more clout than any individual lawmaker, particularly in the Assembly, where members are aware that upsetting one moneyed interest group can cost them a chance at a state Senate seat or a statewide office.
Katz, who was involved in the bill to expand Interstate 405, noted that several Democrats in the Assembly who will be vying for the same Senate seats in the coming years may have been reluctant to upset the engineers union, which spent more than $2 million on races in 2004 and can be a major player in those kind of races.
"People are always looking at their next job, and that in turn leads to deference to special interests that spend money," said Assemblyman Richman.
Richman also argues that gerrymandered political districts, which have created lopsided majorities of one party or another, have exacerbated the power of interest groups.
"I don't blame the unions, and I don't want to single out Democrats," he said. "There are systemic issues that affect both sides and prevent lawmakers from basing their decisions on what is the right thing to do."
Labor is more in the spotlight, suggested Shaiken, the Berkeley professor, because Democrats who tend to be more supportive of labor interests have been in power in the Legislature for nearly a decade.
"That is the reason we're talking about labor instead of Christian groups
or other conservative interests," he said.
E-mail Mark Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a breakdown of the top 10 industries or interest
groups and the
Contract pits guards vs. governor
The shared cigars, the invites to the movie set, the drinks at Schatzi's
- that stuff is all long gone now between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and
the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
In a monthlong campaign under way in prisons and parole offices all over the state, the CCPOA's approximately 31,000 members are voting on whether each should kick in an extra $33 a month to wage a political battle against the Schwarzenegger administration. Current dues are $70 a month.
"Everything we've achieved is threatened," intones the narrator in a video the CCPOA has posted on its Web site. "It's time to fight again."
The union says it's mad because the Schwarzenegger administration reneged on a key portion of last year's contract renegotiation in which the CCPOA gave back $108 million in salary to the state.
"Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis - every one of those governors, when they made a commitment, they stood by it," said retired CCPOA President Don Novey, now a consultant to the union. "Every one of them."
"I don't understand this guy," Novey said of Schwarzenegger.
Gubernatorial spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the CCPOA's discontent stems from Schwarzenegger's campaign against "special interests" in Sacramento and the union's resistance to the governor's efforts to overhaul the state's much-maligned correctional system.
"These people are bullies," Thompson said.
CCPOA members have until June 20 to decide on the $33 assessment. If it receives majority approval, it will generate about $18 million in new cash for the union to spend through the November 2006 election, on top of the millions it would otherwise have on hand for political activity.
Although the CCPOA says the money would be spread around, for legislative and local races as well as statewide offices, there is no disguising the animosity that drips from union officials' words in their comments about the governor, nor is there much doubt that a good chunk of the cash would go toward trying to take him down.
"What's happening here is not that the governor and the prison guards have agreed to disagree," said Democratic political consultant Darry Sragow. "The dynamic here is that they plain don't trust him. This isn't ideological, it's personal."
It also could well be financial. The union's five-year contract, which gave its members a 34 percent pay raise over five years and will wind up costing state taxpayers an additional $2 billion over the course of its lifetime, according to the Department of Finance, expires July 2, 2006.
"At the heart of the matter, it's about money, benefits and power," said Kevin Spillane, a Republican political consultant. "The contract is at the core of everything the union tries to accomplish."
Public safety is also a component in the equation. Union officials say parole changes enacted by the Republican governor have made it tougher to reincarcerate offenders.
Thompson said the overall thrust of Schwarzenegger's corrections policy is "one that keeps public safety at the forefront but at the same time affords basic protection of the prisoner."
It hasn't always been about bullies and broken promises with the CCPOA and Schwarzenegger. As recently as 2002, before Schwarzenegger was governor, the union backed his after-school program initiative, Proposition 49, and he reciprocated by playing host to union President Mike Jimenez and other union leaders on the set of "Terminator 3."
Cigar smoke filled the air between the new stogie-chomping friends, Jimenez said, and the union guys even downed a few pops with the action hero at Schatzi on Main, Schwarzenegger's restaurant in Santa Monica.
Even though the CCPOA had contributed millions of dollars to former Gov. Davis in his 2002 and 1998 campaigns, the union lay low during the 2003 recall and went into the new administration on relatively good terms with the popular new governor.
With the union's rank and file under fire on assorted fronts, Schwarzenegger's newly appointed Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Rod Hickman testified at the Legislature early last year and then posted a memo on the Department of Corrections' Web site suggesting the widespread existence of a "code of silence" among prison officers, in which they would refuse to cooperate in investigations into each other or otherwise fail to report wrongdoing.
The CCPOA has long maintained that no more than a handful of prison officers engage in such practices.
Furious with Hickman over the code-of-silence controversy, the union's anger exploded later in 2004 after it renegotiated its controversial contract with the state. In exchange for the $108 million, the union claims that it was promised - among other items - a new job assignment process for correctional supervisors in which 70 percent of them would get to pick their assignments based on seniority.
Union officials claim the administration reneged on the agreement. The state maintains it never went along with a specific percentage. The matter is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by the CCPOA.
Since then, "it's been all-out war" between the union and the administration, Novey said.
It is a war that Spillane said was both predictable and unavoidable, with the union's current contract - approved by Davis and the Legislature - representing the exact sort of arrangement Schwarzenegger wants to break up.
"CCPOA has been one of the most powerful, successful unions in state government," Spillane said. "They get what they want, and they've been getting it for a long time. There was no way for Schwarzenegger to implement his reforms without coming into conflict with them. So the conflict was inevitable. Otherwise, he would have ended up as their lap dog."
Finding itself on the outs with Schwarzenegger, the union and its more politically conservative membership is now a key player in an alliance with more liberal-leaning public employee labor groups such as teachers and nurses.
"My experience has been that they have not always joined in the larger coalitions," said Gale Kaufman, the political consultant who is managing the campaign for the Alliance for a Better California. "Having them as an extremely active partner has really helped broaden the coalition. Their insights and perspectives have helped quite a bit."
Their money also figures to assist the coalition in the special election Schwarzenegger plans to call for the fall. Even if an expensive ballot fight doesn't materialize, much - maybe even most - of the millions will still be available to fight the governor if he runs for re-election next year.
"We hope to educate the public and the Legislature on the policies that
this administration has supported on public safety, and hopefully to assist
the career of politicians who support and share the views of the members
of CCPOA," Jimenez said.
About the writer:
No criminal charges for 2 ex-prison officials
Setting It Straight: Because of an editing error, a page A1 story Thursday about state corrections officials and Pelican Bay State Prison incorrectly located the prison in Humboldt County. It is in Del Norte County.
Even though he found that "misconduct plainly occurred," a federal judge refused Wednesday to hold the former Department of Corrections chief criminally liable for shutting down a perjury probe of three correctional officers last year.
Along with closing the book on the former corrections director, Ed Alameida, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco also declined to criminally cite the department's former assistant director in charge of internal affairs, Thomas Moore.
But the judge did schedule a hearing for Moore to show why he shouldn't be hit with civil sanctions for prematurely closing out the perjury investigation.
Henderson's 26-page ruling also granted sweeping new statewide powers to a special master he appointed in 1995 to monitor use of force, discipline and mental health care at Pelican Bay State Prison in Humboldt County.
As of Wednesday, the special master, John Hagar, will be allowed to oversee internal investigations and discipline on all use of force and "code of silence" abuses as they occur throughout the Department of Corrections.
In his ruling, the judge excluded the California Correctional Peace Officers Association from participating in use of force reviews at Pelican Bay.
Henderson also gave the special master the authority to investigate the prison officers' union contract with the state, to ensure that it doesn't undermine any remedial plans the judge ordered to fix Pelican Bay. The judge did approve, however, the union's application to intervene in the Pelican Bay litigation on the labor contract issues.
Steve Fama, an attorney for the Prison Law Office in San Rafael, which filed the Pelican Bay lawsuit in 1990, hailed Henderson's ruling as "another major milestone" in a case that has ushered in major reforms at the North Coast prison - changes now set to ripple through all 32 adult penal institutions in the state.
"With the investigations that were shut down by the former director and former assistant director, the special master's review showed that the problems are with the central office, and as such, reforming the central office necessarily involves changing the way things are done at all of the prisons," Fama said.
Henderson's ruling lauded the state for the actions it has taken to reform the system since Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as governor last year. It hailed the appointment of Rod Hickman as secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency and the selection of Jeanne Woodford as Alameida's replacement in charge of the adult prison system.
It favorably cited the state for strengthening the Office of the Inspector General and putting in a new review system to monitor internal affairs investigations as they unfold. The judge also commended correctional authorities for improving their internal disciplinary systems on their own.
"I think the ruling affirms that we're working effectively with the court, that we're making progress, and we're doing the right things," said Kevin Carruth, undersecretary for the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency.
While the ruling removed the noose of criminal sanctions from Alameida and Moore, it criticized the two former high-ranking officials for failing to root out wrongdoing within the department when their underlings first brought them reports that the three officers had perjured themselves in a 2002 federal trial.
The officers' testimony took place in a case where two fellow correctional officers were ultimately convicted of setting up child molesters for beatings at the hands of other inmates. When the perjury cases came to Alameida, Henderson ruled, the since-retired director "had neither the will nor the intent to effectively investigate and potentially discipline" the officers.
Instead, Henderson ruled, Alameida "chose to shut down the investigations in order to appease the CCPOA," an official of which had called the then-director a few days before a March 2003 meeting where the perjury probe was discussed.
Both Alameida and Moore "engaged in gross abuses of the public trust," Henderson ruled.
Although "misconduct plainly occurred," none of the Pelican Bay remedial orders had ever been specifically directed at Alameida and Moore, he wrote. "Accordingly, the court concludes that (criminal contempt proceedings) should not issue in this instance."
The special master recommended in a June 25 report that the court consider criminal contempt citations against Alameida and Moore. He also proposed that Henderson consider referring a perjury case against Moore to federal prosecutors. The judge declined to make that referral.
Neither Alameida nor Moore was available for comment Wednesday. David Bancroft, the San Francisco lawyer representing Alameida, said he was pleased that the judge found, "as we have maintained all along, that there was no evidence that Ed Alameida purposely violated any court order."
Bancroft also disputed the judge's finding that the union pressured Alameida to drop the perjury probe. "That was not the case," Bancroft contended.
Moore's attorney did not return a phone call Wednesday.
Meanwhile, CCPOA Vice President Lance Corcoran said the union "is pleased that we will be able to defend our contract" through the "intervenor" status it gained with Henderson.
Corcoran, however, said there "obviously is some concern" about the
ability of the Prison Law Office to "dictate policy," through the courts,
on its labor agreements, although he acknowledged that the final call will
be made by the judge.
About the writer:
Probe of Guard Pact Is Ordered
November 18, 2004
SACRAMENTO — A federal judge Wednesday ordered an investigation into the state's labor contract with California's correctional officers, asking whether it gives their union too much control over prison management.
Underscoring his continuing concern about the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., the judge asked a court-appointed special master to examine whether the contract hinders the state's ability to conduct fair, thorough investigations of guard misconduct.
The judge also condemned a 2003 decision by then-Department of Corrections Director Edward Alameida to drop an investigation of guards to appease the union. He chided Alameida for misconduct but declined to order sanctions due to his deteriorating health and retirement.
In another move detailed in a 26-page order, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson took immediate action at Pelican Bay State Prison, ordering union officials removed from a prison committee that reviews the use of force by officers. Union officials have served on the panel for the last five years.
It is "inappropriate," the judge said, for the union to have a role in such meetings, where wardens "candidly discuss potential discipline" of officers.
Prison reformers called the judge's sweeping order a milestone in the drive to improve the state's employee disciplinary system, which has been widely criticized as weak and inconsistent. The order also was hailed by legislators who believe that interference from the guards' union has impeded prison reform.
"The judge knows that the influence of the union is what ails the Department of Corrections," said Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough). "It's good news that the court is stepping in."
Union Executive Vice President Lance Corcoran disputed her assessment, saying that contrary to what critics say, "we are not trying and never have been trying to run the Department of Corrections."
"Individuals with great influence with the court are painting an inaccurate picture of CCPOA," he said.
Corcoran said he was encouraged by another portion of Henderson's order that gives the union the right to ask questions, receive documents and otherwise "defend our contract" as it is investigated by the court.
"Judge Henderson is known as a judge who believes in due process, and we are hopeful … that he would not let the nature of our work influence the fact that we remain simply a labor union," Corcoran said.
Henderson, who sits on the bench in San Francisco, issued his order as part of a case that began at the Pelican Bay prison in Crescent City, on the coast near Oregon, and has evolved into a broader legal fight.
The judge announced that he would not pursue civil contempt charges against Alameida, despite concluding that he had improperly quashed a perjury investigation of several Pelican Bay officers after a union official had called him about the case.
Henderson said Alameida had engaged in "gross abuses of the public trust" by choosing "to shut down the investigations in order to appease the CCPOA."
The judge also singled out Alameida's deputy director in charge of internal investigations, Thomas Moore, who still works for the department. Henderson said Moore would face civil sanctions — a fine, probably — unless he could explain why he sent a letter that misled the court and sought to cover up Alameida's actions.
Neither Alameida nor Moore could be reached for comment Wednesday. A department spokesman said the judge's order speaks for itself.
Henderson's order is the latest chapter in a civil rights case that led the judge to place Pelican Bay under his supervision and name John Hagar as his special master. In 1995, Henderson ruled that brutality by guards at the maximum-security prison was violating inmates' rights.
In recent months, Hagar and the judge have expanded their focus to include the department's internal disciplinary system. In a report earlier this year, Hagar said the union's influence at the highest ranks of corrections leadership was thwarting efforts to punish wrongdoing by guards.
In July, Henderson echoed those concerns and threatened in a letter to Schwarzenegger administration officials to place the state's 32 prisons under a federal receiver.
The judge said he was particularly disturbed by the labor pact renegotiated this summer between the state and union, which deferred raises for officers but granted the union new powers, protections and benefits worth millions of dollars. In Wednesday's order, he gave Hagar power to investigate whether the contract perverts the state's employee disciplinary system.
One contract provision that is particularly controversial requires investigators to turn over information about a disciplinary probe — including the accuser's name — before internal affairs interviews are conducted. Investigators say that practice deters inmates and whistle-blowers from reporting misconduct for fear of retaliation.
But union officials say that officers need to know the identity of their accusers for safety reasons. "Working in a corrections environment, you need to know if there's an inmate who has a problem with you," Corcoran said.One lawyer in the Pelican Bay case, Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office, called Henderson's order a "major milestone on the path toward fixing the long-entrenched problems with investigations and discipline."
Henderson makes no mention in his order of his earlier threat to place the troubled correctional system under a receiver.
Rather, he praises top prison officials for showing "a genuine commitment" to reform in recent months.
Sunday, September 5, 2004Prison guards keep winning
Last modified Sunday, September 5, 2004 12:14 AM PDT
Among other important issues facing lawmakers when the next session begins is what to do about an increasingly maverick state prison system.
The Department of Corrections has had a rugged year - inmate beatings by guards captured on video tape; a convict bleeding to death after screaming for hours; testimony by whistle blowers, wearing bullet-proof vests, about corruption within the system.
Yet when the Legislature adjourned a few days ago, virtually nothing had been done about the problems. Among the many no-brainer bills voted down was one that would have stopped the state from building more prisons until something is done to reduce the recidivism rate.
The situation became so dire that in July a federal judge in San Francisco threatened a takeover of the prison system unless something was done to correct the deficiencies. But nothing has been done.
There are a couple of solid reasons for the inaction. First, politicians are loathe to slap the hand that feeds them. The prison guards union is a heavy contributor to many lawmakers' re-election campaigns, and thus wields considerable power in Sacramento. Second, no one seems to know exactly how to correct the problems.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has made a decent start, naming a new team for the Department of Corrections. He also has addressed the recidivism issue by promising to help better educate and train inmates for life outside of prison. The governor must keep this promise. Prisons should not be a growth industry.
Sept 5, 2004
Editorial: Just say no
As more details emerge on the governor's deal with the prison guards union, it's clear that it's no deal at all. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traded away the state's rights for a bowl of soup.
To achieve meager savings this year, while deferring huge costs to the future, Schwarzenegger gave away a host of new management prerogatives to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. (To see just what the governor gave away, see the accompanying list.)
Now the Legislature has to vote on this new "addendum" to the 2001-2006 contract. This deal is so bad, the Legislature should just vote it down.
The worst new provision gives CCPOA control over prison education programs. To stop the cycle of idleness and violence in prison and recidivism after release, the state finally is edging toward a model of assessing prisoners the day they arrive and preparing them for the end of their sentences with education, drug-treatment and job-skill programs. The success or failure of these programs should be evaluated by independent researchers using accepted research methodologies.
Expansion should be a management decision. Turning this function over to the union, which has consistently opposed programming for inmates, is the last thing the state should be doing. It's a way to kill the shift toward a new model of prison population management.
Equally bad is the provision requiring the release of videotapes to the union. This is a way to enforce the code of silence that permeates the prison system. If inmates and guards know that the CCPOA has access to all tapes, and thus can identify everyone at incidents, no one will ever speak up if they see wrongdoing. John Hagar, special master for the U.S. District Court, inveighed against release of videotapes to CCPOA for this very reason. Schwarzenegger's deal with the union ignores Hagar's warnings.
Foisting guard refresher training onto community colleges gives guards double pay for training (adding a new cost of $1.2 million for 2004-2005 alone) and places a huge new burden on community colleges to create, staff and find physical space to train the 31,000-member guards union, just as they are absorbing students shut out of University of California and California State University systems. Did anyone consult with the California Community College system before including this item?
That the state would give up psychological screening and new background investigations for transfer appointments -- just as special master Hagar noted how important it is to verify background, mental health and possible affiliation with criminal gangs - utterly defies belief. "Without adequate background checks," wrote Hagar, "both institutional and public safety are threatened."
The Legislature should reject the blatant effort to curtail legislative budget authority by making a vote of this year's Legislature binding on subsequent legislatures. The Ralph Dills Act requires the Legislature to make an appropriation each year in the annual Budget Act. Any provision that requires the Legislature to appropriate funds for more than one year is illegal.
This "deal" is worse than the contract the state already has. Lawmakers should join Sen. Jackie Speier's campaign to vote "no" when the addendum comes up this week.
Better yet, they should force the state and the union back to the bargaining table to do a real renegotiation - and hire top-notch negotiators for the job.
To accomplish that, they should vote "no" on the addendum and then vote to decline funds in the Budget Act for the prison guard contract. That's the legal step required to trigger renegotiation. And ultimately, that is the only way to get a better deal for the state and its taxpayers.
Contract Addendum Giveaways
* The addendum puts CCPOA jointly in charge, as part of a joint labor-management committee, of "establishing, developing and implementing a plan to assess the impact of inmate success and/or recidivism rates" for the Prison University Project at San Quentin to determine whether such programs should be expanded to other institutions.
* It requires the Department of Corrections to release copies of videotaped incidents with wards or inmates for CCPOA "public relations efforts."
* It requires California community colleges to conduct and offer college credit for guard annual refresher training. It also requires the Department of Corrections to give an educational incentive bonus to guards, on top of pay for annual refresher training.
* It states that guards transferred to another position or department "shall not be required" to undergo psychological screening or background investigation.
* It bars layoffs unless a "change in law" drops prison population by more than 6 percent of current inmate population.
* It gives an extra day off with pay each week to union chapter presidents to take care of union business.
* It gives up to $5,000 to each staff "impacted" by closure of three youth facilities, even if they are transferred to jobs at other facilities, with the "manner of distribution" to be determined by the union in consultation with the department.
* It requires the Legislature to agree to a "continuous appropriation" of funds through the end of the contract, July 2, 2006 - or "none of the salary concessions contained in this agreement will become effective."
Deal Gives Guards Millions in Benefits
July 13, 2004
SACRAMENTO — Even as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger extracted pay concessions from the influential union that represents California's prison guards, he granted them new powers, protections and benefits worth millions, their revised labor pact and related documents show.
In return for agreeing to delay its full raise, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. won virtual guarantees against layoffs for two years, a healthcare stipend for guards at rural prisons that will cost more than $5 million a year, more control for supervisors over their own work assignments and a shorter week for local union chiefs.
Schwarzenegger had vowed to win back as much as $300 million from the union in pay and benefits to help the cash-strapped state. But the guards, whose contract would have given them a 10.9% increase this year, accepted only a deferral of the raise, saving the state $108 million spread over this fiscal year and next.
The agreement between Schwarzenegger and the union, expected to go to a vote in the Legislature as early as this week, gives members a 5% raise starting this month, another 5% on Jan. 1, and another hike of 5% or more next July. Union supporters likened the deal to trading a dime for three nickels.
The deal, announced two weeks ago, also restricts the Legislature's authority to block raises for the union for two years. Some lawmakers had threatened to refuse money for the 10.9% raise. The pay increase would have cost the state $200 million.
The amended contract also promises that prison officials will release videotapes of incidents behind prison walls "for the purposes of CCPOA public relations efforts." The union has sought such tapes for use in ads showing how difficult officers' jobs can be.
The deal also says that the union's local chapter presidents may take a day off each week to assist "in maintaining harmonious labor/management relations and grievance issues." The cost: $632,000 a year.
If lawmakers approve the deal, officers who work at prisons in rural parts of the state not served by health maintenance organizations will receive $125 a month extra to cover their added healthcare costs. The state will determine which prisons are affected.
The Legislature will not vote on a side deal that permits roughly 3,000 sergeants, lieutenants and other supervisors, according to seniority, to dictate to top prison managers which shifts they will work. Veteran rank and file correctional officers already have that power.
The arrangement is detailed in a memo signed by Schwarzenegger's top prison advisor July 1 — the same day a panel handpicked by the governor said such practices should be stopped.
"Once again, CCPOA shows they have outmaneuvered the state in negotiating," said Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), the union's harshest critic in the Legislature.
One of the new deal's most significant provisions guarantees that there will be no layoffs of union members unless the prison population of 163,000 falls 6%, which would be a drop of about 10,000 prisoners. Such a decline appears unlikely, though several thousand inmates could be freed if voters approve an initiative on the November ballot to modify the state's three-strikes sentencing law. Schwarzenegger is opposing the initiative.
The agreement would amend the contract struck by Gov. Gray Davis and the guards union in 2002. It promised a pay hike of as much as 37% over its five-year life, boosting veteran officers' annual pay to $73,000 a year. Although part of the raise would be deferred, the governor's new deal appears ultimately to give officers most if not all of the 37% hike.
Schwarzenegger could have vetoed the guards' raises from the state budget. But the union had a binding contract and made clear that it would sue if the state unilaterally tried to withhold any portion of its raise. The union has won major lawsuits against the state in the past.
And although lawmakers could have refused to fund the raises, the union, which spends about $2 million per election on legislative races, has considerable clout in the Legislature.
Lance Corcoran, the union's executive vice president, brushed aside criticism, saying, "It is unfortunate that some legislators believe that there should have been simply concessions, but that is not reality. The state got a significant amount of money — $108 million. I know of no other unit that has given up $108 million."
Some lawmakers lauded the union for forgoing some of its raise. "These are real dollars from real people's pockets," said Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk), a guards union member.
Noting that the officers' contract remains in effect until June 30, 2006, Schwarzenegger's press secretary Margita Thompson said the administration needed to give the union some incentive to defer the raise and save the state money.
"They had to have some sort of enticement to come to the table," Thompson said. "We got as good an agreement as we could."
No other state union stood to receive a 10.9% raise this year. The guards' raise was based on a formula in the 2002 contract that links their raises to those granted to California Highway Patrol officers. CHP raises, in turn, are based on increases for police and sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland. The Schwarzenegger deal leaves that formula intact.
One incentive was the supervisors' new control over their assignments. Roderick Hickman, Schwarzenegger's secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, outlined the policy as the prison reform panel, led by former Gov. George Deukmejian, issued a report saying the practice should be abolished.
"It is crucial that management have the ability to post its best employees in the most critical situations," the report said. "The union should have no say in this matter."
J.P. Tremblay, chief spokesman for the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, said Hickman's memo should not be read as "an endorsement" of the practice. Rather, Hickman was "trying to be fair" by giving supervisors the same rights as officers.
Guards union corrupts prisons, report finds
Sacramento -- California's politically powerful prison guards union shuns whistleblowers, rewards rogue officers and is a forceful impediment to efforts to reform the state's corrections department, according to a federal report released Thursday that also condemns former prison administrators.
In a 127-page report that could lead to criminal charges against two former high-ranking corrections officials, a federally appointed special master concludes the state has been unable to police its prisons, allowing guards accused of wrongdoing to dodge justice. The special master, John Hagar, also calls for changes to a controversial labor pact between the union and the state that he says makes internal affairs probes "almost impossible.''
The report offers new insights into a prison system that has been reeling from scandal. It also adds to the library of dramatic tales about lives destroyed that has spilled into public view.
Edward Alameida, the former director of corrections, was diagnosed with clinical depression after refusing to leave his house in January when a preliminary version of the report recommended that he face criminal contempt charges.
A whistle-blower at Pelican Bay State Prison who reported a guard's assault on an inmate was labeled a "rat" by a union executive and eventually left the department because of medical problems incurred by his ordeal, according to the report.
The report is part of a federal judge's oversight of conditions at Pelican Bay, the notorious lockup on the Oregon border. U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in 1995 that conditions at the prison violated inmates' civil rights, and the court has been monitoring reforms there since.
John Hagar, a special master appointed by Henderson to work with prison officials, wrote the report released Thursday. He has spent the last year focusing on internal affairs investigations at the prison.
Hagar praised plans for investigating wrongdoing that have been devised by new prison administrators appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The plans involve more oversight by an independent prison watchdog agency that reports directly to the governor.
But Hagar noted that federal oversight will be needed for at least two more years to ensure that new reform efforts work better than past attempts. And he concluded that Henderson should determine whether Alameida and Thomas Moore, who headed internal affairs for corrections, should face criminal contempt charges for mishandling a perjury investigation against three Pelican Bay guards -- and then trying to cover it up.
The most heated criticism, however, is reserved for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The union has enjoyed two decades of ascending political power as its membership has grown and as it forged alliances with governors and dozens of lawmakers.
Hagar portrays the union as a corrupting influence on the prison system. He juxtaposes the union's treatment of two Pelican Bay officers as an example.
William Schembri told the truth about a fellow guard who assaulted an inmate, and for that he was labeled a "rat," was shunned by members of the state's politically powerful prison guards union and developed stress-related stomach problems, according to Hagar.
Officer David Lewis, who also worked at Pelican Bay, shot and killed an inmate and later was fired for using racial slurs directed at prisoners, and he was honored at a union convention where he gave a speech.
Hagar says the union's lucrative contract with the state provides several barriers to fixing internal affairs in corrections. He notes that provisions of the contract require the department to provide quick notice to a guard anytime an inmate files a complaint about the guard, for example, which allows a guard to retaliate against his or her accuser. Another provision allows the union too much leeway to sit in on interviews and protect guards accused of crimes, he charges.
A union official, however, said Hagar showed "an amazing lack of balance'' and adamantly defended the union's right to protect members accused of crimes.
"If defending due process and the constitutional rights of our officers is wrong, then we stand unapologetically guilty,'' said Lance Corcoran, executive vice president.
Corcoran said the union, which is in talks now with Schwarzenegger over raises due to members in July, was not interested in renegotiating the aspects of the contract that Hagar objected to.
But Hagar said the contract "places inmate victims in immediate jeopardy whenever they report the abuse of force. It also serves to prevent timely and cost effective investigations, and provides the CCPOA with the ideal instrument to enforce the code of silence,'' Hagar writes.
Reaction to the report, which state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said was "a more riveting read than 'The Da Vinci Code,' " was varied.
Speier, who along with Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has held numerous hearings on prison problems, said the report "is a scathing indictment of both the CDC (California Department of Corrections) and the
Hagar's report is expected to go to Judge Henderson this summer, and Henderson will decide whether to pursue criminal charges and whether to allow Hagar to further investigate the prison guards' contract to determine if its provisions should be overturned.
Corcoran and other union officials have repeatedly scoffed at the notion that they have too much control over state prison operations.
But a sworn statement submitted to Hagar by Alameida offers new evidence of just how cozy the union was with the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis, who received more than $3 million in contributions from the prison guards.
Alameida describes two meetings he was called to with high-ranking Davis administration officials and union executives when he was told to consider union proposals for budget cuts that spared union members and slashed manager positions.
A Davis spokesman said the former governor was preparing for a trip to Taiwan and was unavailable for comment.
E-mail Mark Martin at email@example.com .
Posted on Tue, Jun. 22, 2004
Corrections officer D. Carlo walks through a crowded
hallway at San Quentin Prison near San Rafael.
BOB PEPPING / CONTRA COSTA TIMES
MEMBERS RESISTING STATE'S CALL FOR BUDGET CONCESSIONS
By Mark Gladstone
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO - For more than a decade, California's prison guards have had it their way.
Hefty salary increases that outpaced most state workers have made them among the highest-paid prison guards in the country. Favorable overtime rules last year brought the paychecks of 362 officers over $100,000. The guards' union, a generous campaign donor, has been allowed a strong hand in running prisons.
But the union's currency, literally and figuratively, has suddenly been devalued. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's wealthy, increasingly popular leader, neither wants nor needs the group's contributions. The very strength of the prison guards' union has become a weakness.
Just two years ago, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association negotiated a lucrative five-year labor deal that the Legislature approved with only one negative vote. With the state still gripped in a budget crisis, the contract is now expected to cost more than $2 billion -- four times higher than originally estimated.
``Frankly, it all boils down to money. They have lots and lots of money and they spread it around,'' said lobbyist and former Democratic state Sen. Daniel Boatwright, who represented Contra Costa County. But, Boatwright added, the union over-reached on the contract.
``There's an old saying: `Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered.' And I think right now they are viewed by a lot of legislators and people in the state as the hogs.''
The union's benefits were made possible by sympathetic legislators and governors of both parties -- politicians the guards helped elect. In the pocketbook politics of the Capitol, the guards' union has been one of the most successful players.
In the past four years alone, the union spent $12.6 million on campaigns, making it the top-spending law enforcement lobby in the state capital.
The biggest beneficiary of union donations was former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who negotiated the contract. The deal has become a symbol of the kind of special interest excess that contributed to the former governor's recall.
A series of events starting with Davis' ouster last year helped change the union's fortunes: legislative oversight hearings questioned whether the guards have too much power; a federal court monitor's draft report concluded the union obstructed investigations; and Schwarzenegger reopened contract negotiations to get $300 million from the union.
Now, some of the very lawmakers who once gladly accepted donations from the guard union are siding with the governor's call to reject an estimated 11 percent pay raise due July 1.
They argue that the state can't afford another $200 million-plus in salaries for rank-and-file officers overseeing 163,000 inmates in the nation's largest prison system. The base pay for a 10-year veteran runs around $59,000-- nearly twice as much as that of guards in Texas, and 30 percent more than officers in New York.
``In light of the fiscal crisis we're facing now in the state budget, this is the time to take corrective action,'' said state Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, one of the biggest past beneficiaries of guard union contributions.
Torlakson was among 17 Democratic senators who last month broke with the union by urging a freeze on guard pay. He said that when he voted for the contract in 2002 he wasn't informed about all the provisions, including the size of the pay raise.
The raise tucked into the contract was effectively open-ended, because it was tied to a California Highway Patrol salary formula that hinges on salaries to be given five local police departments, including Oakland and San Francisco. CCPOA has long sought parity with the CHP, not just in salary but in respect from the public as professionals performing a tough job.
Feeling pressure from Democratic lawmakers who were once allies, as well as the Republican Schwarzenegger administration, the guards are resisting demands to give up their raises.
Lance Corcoran, the union's executive vice president, scoffed at the notion that his organization had overplayed its hand. ``We support candidates in a very large state where it's very expensive to get elected,'' Corcoran said. ``It's not cheap.''
The union's rise to power under the resolute leadership of longtime President Don Novey is the story of how a well-funded special interest can get its way with the state's political leadership. Think of the union as a successful sports franchise like the Oakland A's that knows how to translate its money into winning results.
Membership began to take off in the early 1980s, after collective bargaining for state workers began and Novey, a second-generation guard, assumed the leadership. Reflecting the massive growth in prisons, the union membership has grown from 2,500 in 1978 to about 31,000.
In many states, guards are not unionized. Even when they are organized elsewhere, seldom do they exercise the political muscle of CCPOA.
Novey saw that he could build alliances for guards across party lines: He appealed to Republicans who sought to crack down on crime. And he won over Democrats who wanted to both improve working conditions for unionized workers and shed their soft-on-crime image by teaming with a law enforcement group.
Novey, who declined to be interviewed for this story, retired two years ago but remains a key strategist with an office at the union's West Sacramento headquarters. The union he built has spent $12.6 million on campaign-related activities between January 2000 and late February 2004, according to a Mercury News analysis of reports filed with the secretary of state by eight CCPOA-affiliated political committees.
That's three times more than the combined amount spent during the same time period by two other law enforcement heavyweights -- Peace Officers Research Association of California, a federation of 650 law enforcement groups representing 55,000 officers, and the California Association of Highway Patrolmen.
The prison guard union's campaign funds largely come from about $20 million a year it collects in dues. On average, members shell out $60 a month for union membership.
CCPOA has given cash and in-kind contributions disproportionately to Democrats running for the Legislature and statewide offices. But the group's independent expenditures -- which aren't funneled to candidates -- were distributed more evenly to benefit candidates from both parties.
``We are not beholden to any party's ideology,'' Corcoran said. ``Republicans obviously are very good for law enforcement. Democrats are very good for labor. And we recognize the value of both.''
They even spent $197,000 of independent expenditures to help one Libertarian Senate candidate in a failed 2002 effort to siphon off votes from the winner of the contest, Republican Jeff Denham of Modesto.
Senate Leader John Burton, D-San Francisco, has received $359,000 in direct guard donations, more than any other lawmaker. Burton, who carried the pay raise bill, said prison guards don't get special treatment. In all his years in the Legislature, Burton said, he remembers only one labor deal lawmakers rejected.
Burton said he votes on the merits of an issue: ``It's irrelevant how much clout people have.''
Sen. Torlakson is second on the list of legislators. He received $200,000 in contributions in the final weeks of a hotly contested 2000 race in which he ousted incumbent Sen. Richard Rainey, R-Walnut Creek.
In this year's Silicon Valley Democratic primary for state Senate, the union spent nearly $168,000 on an independent campaign on behalf of Elaine Alquist. The loser, Assemblyman Manny Diaz, D-San Jose, said union-sponsored mailers contributed to his defeat.
Likewise, the guard union spent $158,000 in an independent effort for Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, in his winning Democratic Senate primary.
The donations make the CCPOA a player in prison debates, letting its voice be heard in the Capitol. That has helped the union win friends who not only backed salary boosts, but also blocked unfriendly restrictions.
In the summer of 1998, for instance, senators conducted an unprecedented series of hearings into guard abuse of inmates at Corcoran State Prison. The next year, Sen. Adam Schiff, D-Glendale, advanced legislation giving the attorney general authority to prosecute such cases if local authorities were unwilling.
The measure squeaked out of the Senate, but Schiff still thought the Assembly would approve it -- until he ran into the union and Novey lobbying lawmakers against the measure.
``That's when I got a true sense of the power of the union,'' said Schiff, who is now a congressman. ``I don't think it was the argument that swayed my colleagues but there was just not a willingness to be on the opposite side of the issue from CCPOA.''
Much of the guards' success stems from close ties to the last two governors. In 1990, the guards gave Republican Gov. Pete Wilson a crucial boost, spending $760,000 mostly on ads attacking his Democratic opponent, Dianne Feinstein. When Wilson was termed out in 1998, the union backed Democrat Gray Davis, whom they viewed as the likely successor.
The guards continued to contribute to Davis, who, once in office, frantically raised money for his re-election. During the four years analyzed by the Mercury News, he received nearly $1.3 million from the union -- more than any other politician.
During Davis' first run for governor in 1998, the state Republican Party protested with an anti-guard union commercial in Central Valley television markets. The ad said: ``Don't be fooled by the prison guard union boss' phony ads for Gray Davis. They are spending $2 million because Davis will bow to their demands at taxpayer expense.''
That, critics say, is exactly what he did. Davis declined to be interviewed.
Since the Oct. 7 recall, the union hasn't just lost leverage. It has become radioactive, coming under new scrutiny from lawmakers and the courts.
In January, a federal court special master assailed the guards' union for blocking investigations into inmate abuse -- a charge denied by the union. The final report is expected soon.
In February, Roderick Q. Hickman, Schwarzenegger's corrections secretary, distributed a memo to his troops in which he said the department would no longer tolerate a code of silence that operates to conceal wrongdoing. It was a rare admission for a high-ranking official, especially a former union member.
The legislative hearings also focused on union influence over the management of prisons and California Youth Authority facilities, with critics saying that union members were allowed to co-manage them -- an assertion denied by the union.
``Some of the provisions of the contract have interfered with the ability of the department and its directors to manage the contract,'' said Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, citing rising overtime and sick leave costs.
The shiny purple booklet spelling out the 300-plus-page contract lies at the center of the clash of wills between the guards on one side and Schwarzenegger and lawmakers on the other.
Under the deal, the union's pay for overtime, fitness pay and sick time has skyrocketed. Other provisions are expected to add millions more to the taxpayers' bill in coming years.
For instance, starting in 2006, guards with 20 years on the job will be able to retire with 3 percent pay for each year of service. That will result in a $31 million hit on the state treasury and unknown costs in the future.
Lawmakers have singled out the guard contract for criticism, with Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, calling it a ``blank check,'' even though she acknowledges having voted for it in 2002.
Given the state's budget woes, Schwarzenegger needs to cut a deal with the union to save money. In his May budget revision, he sought $300 million in concessions from the guards, but he declined to spell out the details. Informal talks are under way, and the union has said that last year it offered to give up $100 million.
At a recent rally to defend the contract, Novey recounted the union's struggles to get recognized and how it has cooperated in previous budget crises. He also made his feelings clear to a reporter about the Schwarzenegger administration, saying ``I don't think they know what they're doing.''
The showdown with Schwarzenegger is a major test for Mike Jiminez, Novey's successor as union president. While Novey had reached an iconic stature among the rank and file and lawmakers, Jiminez is not as polished in the ways of the Capitol. Can he cut a deal he can sell to his members?
Schwarzenegger's strategy remains unclear. He has shown his stick -- the $300 million demand -- but he has not revealed what he'll give the union in return. Whether Schwarzenegger is just trying to extract a one-time cash infusion from the union or whether he wants to curb their power in a broader way is also unclear.
At a news conference last week, Schwarzenegger praised Jiminez as a tough negotiator and denied that he is seeking to single out the union for a salary cut.
``Everyone has to come to the table. We're not picking just on them,'' the governor said. Without providing details, Schwarzenegger predicted the union will compromise, saying ``we'll get it done.''
Mercury News Data Base Editor Griff Palmer contributed to this report. Contact Mark Gladstone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 325-4314
May 20, 2004
SACRAMENTO — Don Novey, the fedora-wearing mastermind behind the 20-year rise of California's prison guards union, has a special way of recognizing some lawmakers on their birthdays.
When John Burton turned 70 in 2002, Novey wrote the Senate leader's age, followed by three zeros, on a campaign check.
Earlier that year, the San Francisco Democrat rushed through the Legislature a contract giving the prison guards richer retirement and health benefits, easier access to sick leave and overtime and what could be a 37% pay increase over its five-year life.
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) received $59,000 on her 59th birthday. She has provided a loyal vote for the union.
Through its campaign committees, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. has spent $4.8 million directly and indirectly on current and incoming lawmakers since 1994, state records show. It has given money to 100 of the 120 sitting legislators, Republican and Democrat alike. Twenty-five of them have accepted $50,000 or more.
The union has helped Burton and Democrats by giving him $918,231 in direct and indirect contributions since 1994, almost all of it during his tenure as Senate leader.
"We support candidates who are willing to listen to our issues," said Lance Corcoran, the union's executive vice president. "We believe … it is a worthwhile endeavor to help those who listen to us win elective office."
The prison officers' organization is not the largest state employee union, and some interest groups spend more on politics. But no player has wielded more influence in the Capitol during the last decade. It has mixed fat campaign checks, bare-knuckle electioneering, smart alliances and shrewd marketing to shape state law.
Nowhere has the group's pull been more apparent than in the Legislature. The threat of the union's campaign wrath has persuaded some not to tangle with it. Others come to rely on the union's largess. A few, like Burton — the most powerful lawmaker in town — become friends.
Thirty-eight veteran lawmakers have voted for every union-sponsored bill to come before them that has become law, according to a review of nearly 40 measures dating to 1994. Twenty-five others either have abstained on occasion or cast no more than a single no vote on those bills. Only one veteran legislator, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), has voted no more often than he has supported guards' bills.
Despite its decadelong winning streak, however, these are unsettled times for the union. Seventeen Democratic senators — not including Burton — vowed Tuesday that they would not approve a scheduled 11.3% pay raise for the guards at a cost to taxpayers of $200 million. And they demanded that the union renegotiate its contract, fashioned by Gov. Gray Davis and ratified by the Legislature. Fourteen of the senators voted for the contract; three abstained.
For the first time since the guards spent $1 million to help elect Gov. Pete Wilson in 1990, they are dealing with a governor who, at least from appearances, is not an ally.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has repeatedly said he would refuse campaign money from public employee unions, and he has called on union members to accept $300 million in concessions to help close the state's budget gap.
Federal authorities are looking into charges of inmate abuse and other wrongdoing by prison officers and officials. And although Novey still runs its political action committee, he has ceded the union's presidency to Mike Jimenez. Jimenez, who like Novey declined to be interviewed for this article, lacks the relationships with lawmakers that Novey has cultivated.
Meanwhile, the union's leaders and lobbyists have been engaged in quiet talks about accepting some concessions. But the issue is far from resolved.
Union official Corcoran said Tuesday's move, led by state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), would set talks back, largely because the union felt it was being bullied by legislators.
"In the prison system, if you give in to a bully, you're a punk," Corcoran said. The guards union "has never been a punk. I can't say it any more clearly than that."
"They will retaliate," said former state Sen. Tom Hayden, who often battled the union during his tenure in Sacramento. "But they may have too elevated a sense of themselves."
The union has been down before. In the 1990s, lawmakers investigated shootings and inmate abuse at Corcoran State Prison in the San Joaquin Valley. In Wilson's final year in office — 1998 — he and legislators approved a contract granting officers an 11% raise, more than that for any other state employee union.
The union's legislative success began with its political bank accounts, fed by a portion of the $22 million in annual dues paid by its 31,000 members. It has spent at least $14 million overall on state campaigns in the last decade, although an exact figure is difficult to ascertain.
The organization controls at least seven state and federal political action committees, and leverages its money by striking alliances with other donors. The union is particularly close to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, which owns a bustling casino in Temecula and was the largest spender on state politics in 2003, at $6.6 million.
In 1988, when Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro was a teenager and the union was not yet a major political force, his father, Leslie, was a California Youth Authority officer. When a delinquent fled from a jail bus at County-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, Officer Macarro gave chase. A car struck him, and he died. The union used its widows and orphans fund to help the family cover its bills.
A decade later, as the tribe's gambling profits ballooned, Novey and Macarro created the Native American and Peace Officers Political Action Committee. Since then, the committee has spent $2.37 million on political races.
The union does not win each contest it enters. But even candidates who survive union attacks have little desire to tangle with the group a second time, and every legislator can cite careers the union has ended.
"They will hugely fund an opponent and take you out," said a Democratic assemblyman who would not speak publicly, even though the union had not challenged him.
Whether or not he knew it at the time, Phil Wyman's legislative career ended in 2001 when he testified before a Senate committee against a bill by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) to limit private prisons.
Union leaders say they oppose private lockups because they believe that incarceration is fundamentally a government function. Private prison advocates contend that union officials view private lockups as a threat to their jobs. But Romero's bill would have extended restrictions on private prison companies imposed by a previous bill.
Wyman's high desert district included a private prison in California City that employs 500 people, and the Republican assemblyman viewed the issue as one of jobs. But to the union, Wyman had stepped over the line, and Novey confronted him after the hearing.
California City Mayor Larry Adams, who had come to Sacramento to support Wyman, recalled that Novey told the assemblyman: "We'll see that you don't get reelected."
Wyman declined to discuss the incident or its aftermath. But in 2001, after a redistricting, he lost a primary election fight against Republican Sharon Runner, who was campaigning to succeed her husband, then-Assemblyman George Runner.
The union paid for $209,000 in mailers, featuring broadsides against Wyman, that arrived at voters' homes just before the election. Runner won easily.
"It makes you wince," George Runner said. "Wow. They really didn't like Phil."
The union has taken a major role in electing four sitting Assembly members, including Sharon Runner and Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk), a former state parole officer and member of the guards union. It backed four other candidates who are considered sure to win seats in November.
"When you come in big, sure, it has an impact," union official Corcoran
said. "It certainly makes it difficult for the other side."
No lawmaker is closer to the union than Burton. He must leave office this year because of term limits but has spent four decades in and out of the Legislature and Congress, and has shown the skill and power to derail any bill. Whether he can prevail on the labor contract remains to be seen.
Burton and Novey, a former Folsom prison guard who took over as union president in 1980, are avid readers who swap books, one-up each other about sports trivia and are political junkies who talk with authority about electoral esoterica.
Novey "is one of the more interesting guys in the Capitol," Burton said.
Their bond has served them well. Through the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs, Burton appointed Novey to one of the upper house's few plum posts that pays a salary, the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Members receive $114,180 a year. The board meets once a month.
During the six years that he has been Senate president pro tem, Burton has shepherded through the Legislature six guards-sponsored bills that became law, more than any other legislator. Since 1998, he has carried bills implementing three of the union's labor contracts. He has voted against a union-sponsored bill that became law just once since 1994, and has abstained only once since becoming Senate leader.
In a recent interview, Burton said that even though he carried the bill ratifying the guards' labor contract in 2002, he was not aware of the details and cost. Though he might not have negotiated such a rich deal himself, Burton said, he is a lifelong union advocate. "It is difficult to fault a union for getting whatever contract it can get," he said.
The guards union represents "working men and women who have kind of a [difficult] job," Burton said. That they may have "a small percentage of bad people doesn't influence my thinking as far as wages, working conditions and benefits" are concerned.
Kuehl is another union favorite, although — unlike Burton — she was one of the 17 senators to call for the labor contract to be renegotiated.
"Sheila Kuehl is a dynamo," union official Corcoran said. "She is a solid legislator, one of the most intelligent people I've ever met."
Kuehl is a Harvard-educated attorney whose office wall plaques include ones given her by the American Civil Liberties Union. She opposes the death penalty, supports abortion rights and has been a leader in pushing for gay rights.
In 1999, as she prepared to run for her Senate seat against Assemblyman Wally Knox, a labor lawyer who had chaired the Assembly labor committee, Kuehl successfully carried a guards-sponsored bill to restrict private prisons.
In 2000, she trounced Knox in the primary, tantamount to victory in her heavily Democratic district on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was also the year Novey gave Kuehl one of his coveted birthday checks. Altogether, the union has given her $95,000.
"I don't care if they are prison guards or janitors," Kuehl said. "I believe people ought to be able to organize to improve their working conditions."
The union's successes have crossed party lines. The group also embraces some conservative lawmakers, such as Sen. Jim Battin (R-La Quinta).
Through various committees, the union has donated at least $165,000 to Battin. The union and the Pechanga-guard PAC spent more than $210,000 to help elect one of Battin's aides, Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City).
Battin votes against state budgets and tax hikes. But he has voted for all but one union-sponsored bill since joining the Legislature after the 1994 election.
In an indication of the union's influence across party lines: Republican legislators generally oppose bills benefiting unions but have voted for the last four guards contracts by a combined 165 to 7, with 18 not voting. That works out to an 87% approval rate for the contracts.
Democrats have virtually the same record, supporting the contracts 249
to 3, with 32 abstentions, or 88% in favor.
Money is not the only way to reach politicians. As part of its marketing effort, the union has expanded its influence by nurturing the crime victims movement. The union was an early donor to the 1994 ballot initiative that created the state's three-strikes sentencing law. It also funds Crime Victims United and the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau.
"It wouldn't be here without" the guards union, Hariet Salarno, the mother of a murdered child, said of Crime Victims United, which she directs. "Victims have no money. They're broke. Their lives are destroyed."
With union help, thousands of survivors rally each April in Sacramento's
Capitol Park. Legislators give speeches, as does the union president. Crime
Victims United uses the opportunity to hold a fund-raising dinner, attended
by leaders of the guards union. Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver,
were among the guests at this year's dinner.
California has 21 state employee unions. If they get scheduled raises July 1, members in 19 of those unions will have received pay increases of 13% to 18.5% since 1998, a state Department of Personnel Administration analysis shows.
The guards' cumulative raise, including a scheduled 11.3% jump in July, would be 31.1%. Only one other group, California Highway Patrol officers, comes close at 29.8%, the analysis shows.
The power of the correctional officers union has grown as the ranks of guards — and inmates — have expanded. Two decades ago, there were 12 prisons, 34,700 inmates and 6,000 guards. Now, there are 32 prisons, 160,000 prisoners and 31,000 union members.
By 2006, when the current contract expires, veteran correctional officers would earn more than $73,000 unless Schwarzenegger and the Legislature extracted some concessions.
"We are not politically powerful; we're politically successful," said
Corcoran, the union vice president. " 'Power' implies abuse. I prefer 'successful.'
State Senators Take On Guards
May 19, 2004
SACRAMENTO — State Senate Democrats, ending years of unwavering support for California's politically potent prison guards' union, vowed Tuesday to block a promised 11.3% raise for the state's 31,000 correctional officers.
Since late fall, the Schwarzenegger administration has been pressing the union, without much success, to return a portion of the raise scheduled for July 1 to ease the state's budget woes.
But Tuesday, a majority of Senate Democrats said they have enough votes to nix the raise and were prepared to force the union to make concessions.
The senators' willingness to take on the union signals a remarkable turn of fortunes for the California Correctional Peace Officers' Assn., which has grown over the past two decades into one of the most influential forces in state politics.
With state funds increasingly scarce, many Democrats are now unwilling to champion the cause of the union — especially at a time when the sprawling prison system is under attack for mismanagement, a "code of silence" among some guards and alleged abuse of inmates.
"The Department of Corrections is an out-of-control spending machine," said Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), an outspoken critic of the state prison system. She was joined by 16 other Senate Democrats in signing a letter stating their intention not to approve the raise.
"It's time to return to the bargaining table," Speier said.
The move, announced at a Capitol news conference, infuriated union leaders. Delaying the promised pay hike, they warned, would be a blow to members.
"I believe public safety is jeopardized when you've got a work force that is demoralized by the Legislature … basically telling them they are not worth what they are paid," said Executive Vice President Lance Corcoran.
He warned his union could not control how prison guards would react to a broken promise: "It's going to be a long, hot summer."
Such remarks angered the senators.
"As public officials, we can't operate under threats," said Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena). "The money involved is frankly out of line, given the fiscal state of California."
The five-year contract was approved in 2002, but because the state cannot commit to increase spending for more than one year at a time, two-thirds of the Legislature must approve every new raise. The union would not get the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate with these 17 Democrats in opposition.
"It's one more good piece of evidence the political landscape has changed dramatically in California," said Robert Waste, a professor of public policy at Cal State Sacramento. "They were a third rail. It was oppose them and you die."
Schwarzenegger and other Republicans want to force contract renegotiations with all the state's employee unions, but Democrats have not endorsed such a far-reaching approach.
Guards were at the bottom of the heap in terms of respect and pay among law enforcement officers two decades ago, earning $21,000 a year in 1982. But under the leadership of the union's legendary former president, Don Novey, the officers' clout, stature and benefits steadily increased.
The guards' ascent peaked when then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a five-year contract in 2002 granting them raises of up to 37% over the life of the agreement. Under the deal, a veteran correctional officer stands to make $73,000 annually by 2006. Among other perks, it permits guards to retire at age 50 with 90% of their pay.
Backed by one of the group's most loyal allies, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), the contract received only one no vote in the Legislature: Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks).
Now the state faces an annual bill of $250 million to cover the part of the contract scheduled to take effect July 1 alone. And many of the lawmakers who supported the deal say it was a big mistake.
"When in government and politics we find ourselves off course, we take corrective action," said Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), who voted for the contract in 2002.
The Schwarzenegger administration was pleased Tuesday. "We very much appreciate the legislative support," said Press Secretary Margita Thompson.
Lawmakers and administration officials are hoping the governor can strike a deal with the union before July 1 to avert a showdown. But if that does not happen, the senators say they are prepared to venture into uncharted legal territory by stopping the promised raise from taking effect. It would be the first time for such an action since the state began collective bargaining in the mid-1970s.
"It has never happened before," said Todd Clark, an expert on public employee relations at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. He said that if the raise is blocked, the union must go back to the negotiating table. If no progress is made there, the union can file a complaint with the state's Public Employment Relations Board.
"We take very seriously and not lightly collective bargaining," said Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego). "We are asking everyone to do things differently and make sacrifices."
Over the last decade, the union has spent more than $14 million on state election campaigns, supporting Democrats and Republicans alike. Union leaders also have spread fear among legislators by working successfully to defeat those who opposed their agenda.
With the election last year of Schwarzenegger, however, things began to change for the union. The governor has refused its campaign contributions, and he pushed through some prison reforms unpopular with some union leaders.
An assortment of scandals that have rippled through the adult and juvenile prison systems added to the union's misfortunes. Given such a climate, analysts say legislators may view it as an ideal time to admit the contract's raises were too generous and take a stand against the association.
"I think this is a case where you've got guards accused of misconduct in the prisons and people feeling uncomfortable rewarding them with a big raise," said Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University. "Everybody has egg on their faces, so they're naturally turning on those who are already taking the heat."
Burton, a staunch supporter of the union, said it was unfair for it to be "singled out because of some problems in the prisons."
"If it's about money, then let's make it about money and look at all the contracts, not just the CCPOA's," he said.
Republicans in the Senate agree with that approach.
"Democrats are aiming at this one, but I think you have to look at all of the contracts," said Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman of Tustin. "They all have the same problems, they all have the same excesses."
The senators who signed the letter said that is not the case. They note that prison guards are getting a much bigger increase than other groups.
One name missing from the letter is Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who is chairwoman of an oversight committee on prisons.
"I'm not interested in union busting. I'm not interested in threatening," Romero said. "I think there are stronger ways we can go to preserve collective bargaining and get the savings we want."
Corcoran warned that the ultimatum from the 17 senators could have unintended consequences.
"Every state employee ought to be concerned at this point," he said. He added that the message state lawmakers are sending is, "If we change our mind, no problem, we just take out the funding and you guys are forced back to the table."
"We are going to do everything we can," he said, "whether it is legal
action or job action, to protect our interest."
Pull the trigger
State Senate committee can reopen costly prison guards contract today.
(Updated Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 6:24 AM)
The decision whether to reopen the 2001-2006 prison guard contract rests with three people: state Sens. Joseph Dunn, Dick Ackerman and Denise Moreno Ducheny.
Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 4 takes up the issue at 1:30 p.m. today in Room 3191 of the state Capitol. Given the state's dire financial situation and radical change in cost estimates for the contract, this should be an easy vote.
Here's how it should go. Legislators vote to decline funds for the contract. That requires the parties to return to the bargaining table to renegotiate the contract in good faith. There is reason to hope that the three legislators will do the right thing. As of Tuesday afternoon, 17 of 25 Senate Democrats signed a letter supporting renegotiation. All 15 Republican senators have indicated general support.
We'd like to see Dunn apply the same logic to the prison guard contract that he did to the Enron energy debacle. When the company promised $9 billion a year in energy cost savings that never materialized, Dunn said, "With California facing a more than $15 billion budget deficit this year, the hollowness of this prediction is not wasted on anyone." Legislators were promised the prison guard contract would cost $567 million, a hollow prediction. The cost is now expected to be $2 billion -- 31/2 times what legislators were told.
Ackerman, as newly elected Senate Republican leader, has promised to fight "reckless overspending that has led to record deficits."
For five years in a row, the California Department of Corrections has failed to come in on budget, forcing legislators to fund hundreds of millions a year in cost overruns. Poor management is an issue. But the greatest problem is costly provisions of the prison guard contract -- for which the state made no cost estimates.
Ducheny has been a tireless advocate for college affordability, financial aid and outreach programs for disadvantaged students. She also has been an advocate for class-size reduction in public schools. These priorities are threatened by the state's financial crisis. To preserve essential state services, Ducheny should be willing to look at all parts of the budget for possible savings.
Legislators have a difficult balancing act ahead. As the Legislative Analyst's Office has said, "The state's long-term fiscal outlook relative to the January budget plan has worsened."
The governor's plan to control Corrections spending hinges on renegotiation of the prison guard contract with savings of $300 million. If Dunn, Ackerman and Ducheny fail to trigger renegotiation with today's vote, legislators will have to come up with that $300 million elsewhere in the budget. That's not chump change in these hard times.
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