Jerry Brown has weak argument for ‘large’ prison guard raises

jerry brown

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has a “weak justification” for the short and sweet tentative contract offer it struck with the state’s union for correctional officers, a new report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office says.

Brown is offering a 5 percent raise to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which would be the best wage increase for the 27,000 employees it represents since 2006.

The analyst says that “large” wage increase might be unnecessary.

“We see no evidence of recruitment or retention issues to justify the large pay increase. In fact, we find that (CCPOA-represented workers) compensation levels likely are sufficient to allow correctional facilities to meet personnel needs at the present time,” the report says.

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CCPOA members should have received ballots asking whether they want to approve the contract. They’ll be voting over the next few weeks.

The Legislature also must approve the contract, and the report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office is intended to help lawmakers decide how to vote.

The analyst compared the contract to a recent group of labor agreements that also included base wage increases of 5 percent for state workers. State attorneys, engineers and scientistsall got those deals over the past few years.

They’re smaller unions, and the Brown administration characterized those raises as necessary to address recruiting and retention challenges within those job classifications.

Separately, Brown last year struck contracts with other unions that included base wage increases of 3.5 to 4 percent. Subsets of employees within those units received larger raises, particularly if they worked in jobs with recruiting and retention issues. For instance, doctors working at a group of remote prisons received a 15 percent retention incentive.

The legislative analyst reported that the state does not appear to be having trouble finding people to work as correctional officers.

It reported that:

▪ The number of correctional officers with zero to four years of experiences has increased from 3,800 in 2004 to 6,100 today, suggesting that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is able to recruit entry-level officers.

▪ The department’s proportion of midcareer correctional officers with 10 to 19 years of experience has held steady. They make up 41 percent of the workforce.

▪ Correctional officers have fewer opportunities to pursue their careers outside of state government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for correctional officers will decline by about 8 percent between 2016 and 2026.

▪ Wage increases for state correctional officers have exceeded inflation since 2001. If the contract is approved, the analyst estimates that wages for correctional officers will be 67 percent greater than they were in 2001-02.

The Brown administration estimates that contract will cost about $338 million over the next two years. The legislative analyst warns that it could be more expensive, particularly because of overtime and increased pension contributions.

Last year, workers represented by the correctional union earned $361 million in overtime, the analyst reported. The new contract could increase that sum by $6 million to $20 million.

The tentative agreement has a perquisite for correctional officers to help them buy new uniforms, increasing their allowance to $1,000 a year from the current $950.0

It also includes a new uniform allowance for parole agents, giving them $250. The legislative analyst that the department’s operations manual says, “no uniform is required to be worn by parole agents.”

The one-year contract Brown offered is a simpler agreement than his administration’s previous contracts with the union. The two most recent multi-year contracts offered less generous health benefits, initiated a new paycheck deduction that funds retiree health benefits and reduced pension benefits for future workers.

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