Democrats in the California State Senate, ending years of unwavering support for California’s potent prison guards’ union, vowed yesterday to block a promised 11.3 percent raise for the state’s 31,000 correctional officers, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Schwarzenegger administration has pressed the union to return a portion of the raise scheduled for July 1 to ease the state’s budget woes. Senate Democrats now say they have enough votes to stop the raise and are prepared to force the union to make concessions.
The Times says that the senators’ willingness to take on the union signals a “remarkable turn of fortunes” for the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, which has grown into one of the most influential forces in state politics. With state funds scarce, many Democrats are unwilling to champion the union when the prison system is under attack for mismanagement, a “code of silence” among some guards, and alleged abuse of inmates. “The Department of Corrections is an out-of-control spending machine,” said Sen. Jackie Speier, a critic of the prison system.
“I believe public safety is jeopardized when you’ve got a work force that is demoralized by the Legislature … basically telling them they are not worth what they are paid,” said union leader Lance Corcoran. He warned his union could not control how prison guards would react to a broken promise: “It’s going to be a long, hot summer.”