In from the cold: Prison officers’ union gears up

California Correctional Peace Officers Association
Image via Wikipedia

By Jennifer Chaussee

California’s prison guards’ union hasn’t been happy since 2006, when it was still savoring the fruits of a lucrative pact it had successfully negotiated earlier with the state.
In the years since, the Schwarzenegger administration and the 28,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association have been bitter foes.
But with Gov.-elect Jerry Brown headed back to office, all the CCPOA wants for Christmas is a contract. And it may happen.

“CCPOA and the members worked hard to help elect Jerry Brown. Now that the campaign is over we can begin talking with Gov.-elect Brown and his team about what it will take to better our working conditions,” the CCPOA wrote in a letter to its members.  The union spent at least $1.8 million backing Brown or opposing his rival, GOP contender Meg Whitman.


Will Brown deliver?
“We’re very hopeful,” said Lance Corcoran, chief of Governmental Affairs for the CCPOA.
“We’re hoping that under the Brown administration we’ve got people that can honor their word. But it didn’t matter if we’d elected Santa Claus. The reality is that there has to be some tightening of the belt and we recognize that,” he added.
The CCPOA enjoyed a cushy contract back in 2006 that it negotiated years earlier with former Gov. Gray Davis. Correctional officers’ salaries were linked to those of Highway Patrol officers, that meaning prison guards, among others represented by the CCPOA, received the same salary increases as the CHP. Benefits, overtime, and uniform allowances also went up.
But when Gov. Schwarzenegger took office in November 2003, things changed.
In the summer of 2007 the CCPOA’s contract was in the midst of  renegotiations and Schwarzenegger sought to cut the ties between CCPOA and CHP salaries, and offered pay increases at a lower rate than the previous contract.

Negotiations quickly turned ugly.
After the CCPOA refused the governor’s offer, the state called in a mediator. Then, arbitrator Norman Brand was brought in to the negotiations and ruled that the state was no longer obligated to raise CCPOA salaries at the rate of CHP salaries. Brand also ruled that since the CCPOA’s contract had ended, the state no longer had to pay any additional salary increases to correctional officers.
CCPOA backed away from the bargaining table empty handed and they’ve been without a contract ever since.
Corcoran said there’s been bad blood between correctional officers and the state ever since negotiations went sour.

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