Prison Guards Shouldn't Get Raise, Report Says
Legislative analyst says corrections officers are better paid than other state employees, thanks to their union.
SACRAMENTO -- Lawmakers should reject Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's proposed 5% raise for California's
politically powerful prison guards' union, the state's
nonpartisan fiscal watchdog said Thursday.
Correctional officers have received more than adequate pay
increases in recent years that have far surpassed those of
other state workers, Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill
The guards have been among the most influential state
employees in recent years by virtue of their union's
dues-funded war chest, which is used to contribute to
politicians and to run public relations campaigns touting
In the last five years, the guards' compensation has
climbed 34%, more than twice the rate for an average state
worker, Hill said in her report. The guards account for 40%
of the $9.2 billion in personnel costs from the state's
Hill said the salaries and pension improvements the union
had won, in addition to other benefits, have made it easy
for the state to fill vacant posts in the prisons.
"For all of these reasons, the job of state correctional
officer may now be the most sought-after in the California
economy," she concluded, saying another increase is not
Lance Corcoran, a spokesman for the California Correctional
Peace Officers Assn., said Hill's report would sink already
low morale and could provoke rank-and-file officers to stop
working. He said her call to reject the proposed raise
showed "contempt" for the idea that the guards' pay should
keep pace with that of other law enforcement personnel,
such as state police officers, who have received comparable
"I truly believe that it is going to be difficult for [the
union] to prevent wildcat work stoppages by some of its
members," Corcoran said. "To my knowledge, no one at the
[Legislative Analyst's Office] has ever been gassed. No one
at the LAO is required to wear a stab-resistant vest to sit
behind their desk."
The raise proposed by Schwarzenegger was intended to
sweeten a one-year package that was otherwise undesirable
to the officers.
His administration is attempting to impose its own terms
after a breakdown of negotiations with the union, whose
contract expired in 2006.
Hill, whose report described the governor's relationship
with the guards as "completely dysfunctional," recommended
that lawmakers approve elements of the administration's
plan that would give the state more power to manage the
prisons -- including monitoring sick leave, reducing
overtime and assigning guards to certain posts.
But she warned that those provisions could prompt costly
lawsuits by the union alleging violation of state and
federal labor law.
In December, the state's Public Employment Relations Board
rejected the administration's plan to impose its "last,
best and final offer" for three years, limiting it to
Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of
Personnel Administration, said Thursday that the
administration stands behind its proposal, including the
raises. But it is not clear that lawmakers will approve
"There's a number of issues around which we might look to
reject this," said Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who
chairs a public safety committee. "It appears the
administration wants to put forth the last, best and final
[offer] without having gone through the negotiations."
The union, which has about 30,000 correctional officers,
has wielded significant political clout, contributing more
than $12 million to candidates and causes since 2000,
according to campaign finance reports.
It donated $2 million to the campaign against an
initiative, which was on Tuesday's ballot and supported by
state legislative leaders, to change California's term
limits law. Voters rejected the measure.
The donations came months after lawmakers, on the final
night of last year's legislative session, failed to pass a
bill that would have circumvented Schwarzenegger and
awarded the guards a raise. Corcoran argued the union had
not been proficient in shaping recent policy, failing last
year in its opposition to Schwarzenegger's $7.7-billion
plan to overhaul the prison system.
The governor, who has not received contributions from the
union, worked with the guards on a renegotiation of their
last contract, in 2004.
See the article on Los Angeles Times website