|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, June 28, 2004
Sacramento Bee 6-26-04
Editorial: No special treatment
The attempt to reopen state employee contracts is about the prison guard contract - not balancing the budget on the backs of state employees.
The fact is, in tough economic times when everybody is making sacrifices, the prison guards continue to rake in salary and overtime pay out of proportion to industry practice and other state employee packages.
The state has 21 state employee bargaining units. Last year, most negotiated concessions with the administration of Gov. Gray Davis, exchanging a 5 percent pay raise scheduled to take effect July 1, 2003, for an extra day of paid leave each month and higher state contributions to employee health insurance. The California Highway Patrol was scheduled to receive a 7.7 percent raise but accepted 2.7 percent in exchange for an extra day off a month.
So how did the state's largest bargaining unit, with 31,000 members, fare? Scheduled to receive a 6.8 percent raise July 1, 2003, the prison guards refused to come to an agreement with the Davis administration. They got their raise as others made concessions and the state struggled with a huge budget shortfall. Their overtime pay continued to skyrocket.
Fast forward to July 1, 2004. The prison guards are scheduled to get a 10.9 percent pay raise - worth $208.3 million - if the Legislature doesn't act to trigger contract renegotiations. But pay isn't the only issue. Structural problems in the contract create huge, ongoing costs.
For example, it used to be that a guard had to work more than 40 hours in a week to get overtime pay. A change in that provision immediately added a million overtime hours and increased overtime costs by 27 percent.
The old contract also monitored sick leave. A change in that provision also had immediate consequences: Guards called in 500,000 more sick leave hours in the first year, a bump of 30 percent.
Former state Sen. Daniel Boatwright, a Democrat from Contra Costa County, attributes the special treatment of prison guards to huge campaign contributions. But he believes they may have gone too far. He told the San Jose Mercury News: "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."
Legislators were told the 2001-2006 prison guard contract would cost $567 million; that cost now is expected to be $2 billion. This year the Department of Corrections was $544 million over budget, after five years of multimillion-dollar cost overruns.
The prison guard contract is a scandal. With only days until July 1 pay increases automatically take effect, legislators ought to use their power to remove new funds in the budget act. That trigger sends the parties back to the table for good-faith bargaining.
Costly special deals for prison guards have lasted long enough. It's time to renegotiate a contract in the public interest.
These news clips are provided by the Public Affairs Department of The California State University. They are intended for the internal use of The California State University system and should not be redistributed. Questions and submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.