In the beginning…
In the 1950′s an officer, despondent over working conditions at San Quentin, committed suicide. This prompted Officer Al Mello and eight fellow officers, five of which were Correctional Lieutenants concerned with the pay scale and working conditions, to start traveling to the three existing state prisons (Folsom, Soledad, and San Quentin) to rally support for the creation of a union dedicated to representing the correctional officer series. In 1957, the California Correctional Officers Association (CCOA) was formed with members from each adult institution. Almost immediately, law enforcement officers from the California Youth Authority, Youth and Adult Paroles, and Medical Technical Assistants, began to inquire about membership.
In 1978, with membership of little more than 2,500, CCOA rented a 600-sq. foot office in Sacramento. The office opened with three employees, two of which are still employed by CCPOA.
In 1982, following legal challenges to the originally passed SEERA, the Dills Act permitted collective bargaining for all state employees. CCOA, CSEA, and the Teamsters fought for the right to represent correctional officers. After a run-off election, CCOA won the right to provide exclusive representation to Bargaining Unit 6. CCOA, Bargaining Unit 6, was renamed the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) to more closely encompass the entire unit which consisted of all peace officer personnel in the Department of Corrections and the Youth Authority. Supervisors of both departments retain the right to belong to the union for representation under the “Excluded Employees” Representation Act.
Soon after, CCPOA expanded its staff which for the first time included a full-time attorney and representation in the capitol. CCPOA was and remains a union founded and run by peace officers. The union consists of individual chapters; each institution in the state is a chapter. From their local membership, each chapter sits on the CCPOA State Board of Directors. The state board and its delegates in turn elect a state president and other state officers, which make up the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is responsible to the State Board of Directors, which in turn is responsible to the entire membership of CCPOA.
CCPOA ratified its first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that took effect July 1, 1982, through June 30, 1983. It consisted of seventeen articles.
On April 4, 1983, CCPOA won the first ever binding arbitration case in California state employee history. The arbitration issue involved the allegation that the state unilaterally changed the correctional counselor caseload without meeting in good faith whenever its actions caused a change in the counselors caseload.
April 1983 also brought the first publication of the “Peacekeeper,” a magazine written and published by CCPOA for its members. This first volume contained articles regarding CCPOA’s growing concern regarding prison overcrowding and the complete “Sunshine Package” for negotiating the second contract with the state.
In 1982, the California voters approved $495 million for new prison construction. The first relief to the overcrowding situation would come in 1985 with the opening of new prisons in Tehachapi and Solano. By the end of the 1980′s, California had constructed ten new prisons.
In late 1983, the California State Employees Association, newly aligned with the Service Employees International Union, attempted a decertification election to knock CCPOA out.
On July 11, 1984, Governor George Deukmejian signed a bill, AB 3361 (Elder), providing all Correctional Peace Officers including supervisors a 2.5 % retirement at age 55. CCPOA had lobbied long and hard for this benefit. The resulting election found CCPOA winning by a landslide vote of 4 to 1 over the CSEA/SEIU axis.
During the next few years CCPOA concentrated its efforts on several issues, some of which included an increase in wages for members, better safety equipment, and additional training. It was at this time that CCPOA sponsored SB 945 (Presley), the first of five major training bills passed by the legislature to improve selection and training of new Correctional Peace Officers in CDC and CYA. Since 1983, we have been surprised at how difficult and obstinate CDC management and the Department of Finance has been against better training. CCPOA backed legislation to increase penalties for violent crimes, endorsed the defeat of Rose Bird as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, continued relief of overcrowded prisons, and as new prisons came on line, made sure that they were adequately staffed.
In 1985, the issue of safety equipment became very heated due to the death of Correctional Sergeant Hal Burchfield at San Quentin Prison, and the position of opposition by the CDC management to AB 19 (Elder), to provide “stab proof vests.” Burchfield died after being stabbed in the chest, severing the aorta, by an inmate manufactured weapon. This tragedy increased the pressure for CDC to reverse position and support the bill to provide protective vests for peace officers.
In the late 1980′s, CCPOA concentrated on the expansion of the number of prisons throughout the state, attempting to see that new staff members were adequately trained and equipped, and sought an increase in the pay scale for members. To guide negotiations CCPOA passed SB 1373 (Keene) which advised the state to set Correctional Peace Officers salaries according to “major law enforcement agencies in California.” Commonly called our CHP party bill, negotiations accomplished multi year raises that closed the 30% salary lag that CPO’s historically experienced.
CCPOA had done an admirable job in gaining pay increases. In 1968, the salary levels were $584 – $710. By 1988, salaries had increased to $2,236 – $2,810.
During this period another unforeseen problem confronted the correctional officer, the growing number of AIDS infected inmates incarcerated at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville and the Correctional Institute for Men in Chino. These units housed 388 inmates. This would prove to be the tip of the iceberg.
In 1988, SB 1913 gave peace officers the right to force an AIDS test of an inmate or person under arrest if medical personnel ruled that the officer might have contracted AIDS from the person. In 1988, CCPOA won a major victory for the safety of its members. CCPOA wanted an expansion of the very limited use of the side handle baton. Management took the position that this was not a negotiable issue and that the use of the equipment would not be expanded. CCPOA turned to the legislature. AB 24 was introduced and provided for the deployment of the side handle baton to all correctional officers in both the CDC and CYA. In its final form, the baton was to be authorized for all correctional officers who had daily inmate contact. Camps, woman’s facilities, and strictly juvenile facilities were exempted. Management opposed the bill in all hearings. An intense lobbying effort on both sides ensued. A final hour meeting called by the governor produced an agreement. Officers with daily inmate contact were granted use of the baton at the CYA Preston and YTS facilities. One level II, two level III, and all level IV institutions would be given the batons. This was a major victory for CCPOA on behalf of our members.
Enter the 90′s…
Ten new prisons opened in the 1980′s. Nevertheless by 1991, inmate overcrowding had become a major problem with twenty prisons running at over 200% capacity.
In 1991, CCPOA introduced the Legal Defense Fund for its members. This benefit provided legal representation in any civil or criminal act or omission arising out of the course and scope of employment. The benefit has a dollar limit of $10,000.
In the winter of 1993, Assemblymen Bill Jones and Jim Costa introduced AB 971, the original three strikes bill. However, the liberally controlled legislature stalled the bill until the media firestorm around the Polly Klass murder by Richard Allen Davis evoked a citizen’s initiative. The “Three Strikes and You’re Out” initiative was circulated in the summer of 1993 in hopes of qualifying for the November 1994 ballot (Proposition 184). This initiative was strongly backed by CCPOA. By Christmas 1993, it had over 800,000 signatures. The legislature in January and February 1994 could not pass it quick enough, and on March 7, 1994, Governor Wilson signed the Three Strikes Law. Proposition 184 was approved by the voters with an overwhelming 72% in November 1994. It should be noted that neither the law, nor the proposition, carried any money allocations for its expected impact on the prison system or its staff.
In June 1995, the contract with the state expired. CCPOA (along with all other bargaining units in the state) would go for three years without a new contract.
In the late 1990′s CCPOA focused on several areas of concern including staffing levels, enhanced retirement, prison gangs, additional training, again overcrowding, and protecting/enhancing POBR rights. Since CCPOA won the right to represent correctional officers in 1982, CCPOA has made considerable progress. Consider what CCPOA has gained in the last 17 years.
- Raises in top level pay from $710 (in 1968) to $4,228
- Law Enforcement pay parity policy
- Supervisory officer parity to the basic Memorandum of Understanding
- Physical fitness pay of $65 per pay period
- Vision and Dental plans
- More vacation time than any other state employees
- 2.5 retirement and a second improvement to 3.0 retirement
- “Final year” compensation factor for retirement (replaced 3 year averaging)
- Enhanced Industrial Disability Leave Program (EIDL)
- Occupational Health Services
- Bereavement Leave
- Shift Differential
- Original department uniform and badge
- Uniform Allowance $520
- Memorial honoring those fallen in the line of duty
- CPO applicant background investigations
- Twenty-five $1000 scholarships
- Peacekeeper magazine
- Off duty weapons privilege
- Inclusion in Police Olympics
- Safety equipment – radios, side handle batons, handcuffs, protective vests, and OC spray
- Catastrophic Time Bank
- Joint Apprenticeship Program
- Created the Correctional Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (CPOST)
- Created the Office of Inspector General
- Release time for state exams
- Licensing fee reimbursement
- Increased training hours
- Post and Bid
- Recruitment Incentives
- Bilingual pay
- Senior Peace Officer Pay
- Educational Incentive
- Legal Defense Fund
- Successfully defended the basic incarceration function from privatization (contracting out)
This is an impressive list of accomplishments. It is important to add to the list those “day to day” accomplishments such as grievance handling, negotiating agreements, job steward training, arbitration, Skelly representation, SPB appeals, tracking/supporting legislation… the list goes on!
Where does CCPOA go from here?
CCPOA continues to fight for the enhancement of wages and benefits, and the provision of a positive work environment. It also faces many challenges: the possibility of private prisons, the continued overcrowding of the existing prisons, the increasing number of violent inmates – especially in the youth facilities – and the need to enhance the profession through training and education.
In the short time since its first contract in 1982, CCPOA has done a remarkable job for its membership. Judging from its record of accomplishment, CCPOA appears ready to meet the challenges of the next millennium.