Governor Brown’s Prison Guard Contract Comes Under Fire

Jerry-BrownBoth the media and Republicans slammed Governor Jerry Brown’s contract deal with the prison guards.  However, Governor Brown struck back, arguing that “the deal is virtually identical to pacts his Republican predecessor made with other unions that they readily supported.”

However, critics say that the proposed contracts will not cut state spending by nearly enough.

Moreover, the Legislation Analyst Office, a nonpartisan analyst, added fuel to the fire concluding that the agreements will save about $129 million less than was estimated.  They write, that the “MOUs complicate effort to achieve expected savings for 2011-12.”

They add, “If the Legislature wants to maintain the level of savings assumed in the budget, it could (1) reject some or all of the MOUs and request DPA [Department of Personnel Administration] to negotiate for more savings, or (2) authorize or require administrative actions, such as layoffs.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Governor Brown is so angry he actually called the paper itself.

“Collective bargaining  is about give and take … and we think we did a good deal,” the angry Governor Brown told The Chronicle this week. “You have to create a balance and work with your workforce. The legislators can come up here and mouth off, but you can’t run a state having warfare with all of your employees, which is what happened with the last administration.”

An editorial from the Sacramento Bee hammered the contract.  They argued that “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked to wrest back control of the prisons from the CCPOA [California Correctional Peace Officers Association]. But now that he is governor, Jerry Brown is reversing those hard-earned reforms on behalf of a major campaign contributor.”

The editorial continues, “Given that the state’s corrections system is a major driver of state spending, the stakes are immense in any new contract for prison officers. Yet the Brown administration has released a 218-page proposed 2011-13 contract document that is loaded with barely legible handwritten notes and cross-outs. Whole swaths of the corrections system, such as parole, remain to be negotiated. Estimates of costs are woefully inadequate. The Legislative Analyst’s Office admits that its one-week review of this “extraordinarily complex” document is not enough to determine full costs to taxpayers.”

However, on the specifics of the contract that the Bee criticized, it got a lot wrong and had to at least partially retract in five specific points.

Writes Matt Cate, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee, that the Bee’s editorial “woefully mischaracterized the agreement between the State of California and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Opinions of the agreement aside, I was stunned by the many factual errors on which The Bee’s opinion was based.”

He continues, “Fortunately, the newspaper chose to run a major correction Wednesday; however, it did not cover all the misinterpreted points. Today, it’s important to clarify the state’s position and the facts regarding the contract agreement it has reached with the CCPOA. The truth is that the Brown administration won major concessions from the union and negotiated a deal for taxpayers that is much better than anything achieved by recent administrations.”

After laying out the specific corrections, he concludes, “I appreciate The Bee correcting many of the matters I’ve addressed here, and I recognize that The Bee’s editorial writers have a right to express their opinion on such important and significant matters. But it is critical that their opinion be based in facts, not fiction.”

Adding fuel to the fire was an article from the LA Times last week, in which the the paper reported, “The guards, who are among Brown’s largest political benefactors, would be able to save an unlimited number of vacation days under their new deal. When they leave state service, those days could be exchanged for cash at their final pay rate, which would probably be higher than when they earned the time off.”

The paper continues, “The governor is extending this benefit only to members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., a union that spent nearly $2 million to help him win election last year.”

All of this prompted Governor Brown to call the newspapers.  The Chronicle reports, “The obviously angry governor ridiculed accusations that the contract is political payback for the union’s support during his campaign, and said critics of the labor agreement just don’t understand what it’s like to actually negotiate.”

They continued, “Brown avoided criticizing the media specifically (you know what they say, we buy ink by the barrelful), but he had some harsh words for Republicans – who, to be fair, have actually been fairly circumspect in raising specific concerns about the contract. Senate Republicans told us this week that they are simply worried the savings will be less than the governor had estimated in his 2011-12 budget.”

“Collective bargaining is a give and take and Republican critics know nothing about it,” he told the Chronicle. “These critics don’t actually manage anything. … They talk, and we have to actually manage. … Some don’t want unions to have any rights, which is a traditional right-wing idea.”

“Why don’t they go into prison and have people throw feces at them?” Governor Brown asked. “It’s not that easy of a job. They are up here on much easier duty.”

The Chronicle adds, “Brown retorted that Republicans could have made gains on those issues as part of negotiations on the overall state budget. He said one GOP critic – Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel (Orange County) – is worth millions and ‘doesn’t need a pension so it’s not a problem.’ She should ‘have more sensitivity to normal Californians,’ said the governor.”

“Republicans won’t vote for cuts, they are on strike for the most part against the people and the budget,” Governor Brown said. “They could have gotten pension reform if they’d gone along with tax extensions, but they took a dive. They would rather make a partisan point than solve a problem. They could have leveraged much greater pension reform than we have now. It is directly in the hands of Republican leaders.”

The Republicans, for their part, are mainly concerned that the savings claimed is not what is achieved.  It was an ironic moment when the Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton was able to make the case that the Democrats’ deal with prison guards means there will need to be even larger cuts to education.

Granted, we are talking about a hundred million dollars in a world that starts in the billions, but still…

The bigger problem for Governor Brown is that the powerful prison guards union supported him heavily for Governor last year and now some believe that the contract is political payback – an accusation that the governor has naturally denied.

He makes the point that he raised $40 million in order to get elected and thus one could argue that every bill he signs has political influence.  But the smell test is getting pushed right now, especially for those who were hoping that the Democratic Governor could rein in the prison guards union, of whose contract and the budget for the department of corrections is a chief competitor to education.

Sadly, that appears unlikely to occur and their donations were money well-spent.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “Governor Brown’s Prison Guard Contract Comes Under Fire”

  1. Dr. Wu

    As K-12 faces dramatic cuts and California’s higher education system, already hammered over the past several years faces another round of debilitating cuts it is unconscionable that the prison guards get anything.

    Has California become ungovernable?

  2. Dr. Wu

    How do I feel–not good.

    Those who want to be partisan and gloat can feel happy while our State collapses. I supported (and voted for) Arnie and I’ll support Jerry. But he has two strikes now–first on the vote this spring that never came about, the second now.

    If we cannot solve our problems the debt markets and (for municipalities) Chapter 9 will eventually solve them for us. But it won’t be pretty.

  3. rusty49

    “Those who want to be partisan and gloat can feel happy while our State collapses.”

    I wasn’t gloating, in fact I commended you for being honest. I was hoping that Brown would step up and do the right thing too but I also knew he was beholden to the unions. This whole mess sickens me.

  4. Rifkin

    I don’t know if this was what motivated Brown, but the CCPOA gave him two general election contributions directly last year: the first was for $15,900 and the second for $25,900. He also received smaller (most around $100) contributions from a few dozen CCPOA member employees.

    [i]”The whole system is broken and we’re headed towards a major calamity.”[/i]

    Our entire democracy would be well served by getting rid of the private financing of campaigns. For every $10,000 private donors give to politicians, many get $10 million or more in return. Favoring the private financing of campaigns to save taxpayer money is penny wise and pound foolish, aside from all the corruption it amounts to.

  5. Rifkin

    I’m not sure what restrictions there are on campaign donations to a gubernatorial candidate in California, but that $25,900 amount must be some kind of limit. 256 separate donors to Brown (mostly lawyers, Indian tribes, Hollywood types and government lobbying groups) gave exactly that much.

  6. Observer

    In a recent paper, the LAO pegged the cost of each prisoner at $47,000 a year. At one time I read that Texas does it for about $15,000 a year, but I suspect that is a bit low. The cost is not just due to the power of the guards; it is also the cost of medical attention imposed by the judicial system. With the flick of a pen, Brown could pardon every prisoner over age 70 who isn’t a mass murdered (Charles Manson gets to remain a guest of the state)and save billions without significantly exposing us to risk. If there is interest, I’ll dig up the link to the report.)

  7. medwoman


    I would love to see it.
    Also am in agreement with you about not paying to warehouse those who are no longer a threat to the community. Does anyone believe there is any protective or deterrent effect in keeping someone wheelchair bound, on dialysis and probably within the last few years of life incarcerated ? Not sure about an age exemption, but I am sure that something more logical and less expensive that what we have now could be figured out.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    medwoman: “Does anyone believe there is any protective or deterrent effect in keeping someone wheelchair bound, on dialysis and probably within the last few years of life incarcerated ?”

    Bc it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment to turn them loose w/o the ability to obtain health insurance coverage.

  9. medwoman

    If it were up to me, there would be universal health coverage,so it wouldn’t matter.
    But even in the system we have now, it would be less expensive to cover their health insurance than to cover their health care and house them.

  10. Rifkin

    In case any Vanguard readers are interested in the subject, Judge David Rosenberg has written an op-ed ([url][/url]) in The Davis Enterprise attacking my column of April 13 ([url][/url]), in which I questioned the wisdom of California spending $5 billion on 41 courthouse projects at this time, when our state is still $15 billion in the red.

    Shocked at his op-ed, which I found to be poorly written and full of deceptive claims and some downright untruths, I penned a point-by-point response to the judge, which you can read here ([url][/url]).

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