Governor's recall sought by union
CCPOA represents 1,500 to 2,000 correctional officers and counselors at Susanville’s two state prisons — the California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison.
Corcoran said the union has a number of bones to pick with the governor, including his Aug. 1 executive order that could reduce union members’ pay to $6.55 per hour — the federal minimum wage — until the state legislature passes a budget.
“CCPOA has never been shy about putting its resources behind causes and individuals it supports or opposes,” Corcoran said. “This is about the governor’s lack of leadership and his lack of credibility. We understand we have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The governor’s a multi-millionaire with a lot of multi-millionaire friends. We recognize it’s not going to be easy.”
Corcoran said the governor’s order reducing state workers pay to the federal minimum wage exempts 11 agencies that play a critical or public safety role, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was not included in the list.
“Obviously, that’s a slap in the face,” Corcoran said. “This is getting personal.”
But Julie Soderlund, a spokesperson for the governor, said CCPOA’s recall effort is all about contract negotiations and politics.
“This union is seeking a huge pay increase,” Soderlund said, “and they’re threatening the governor with recall. But he won’t be intimidated by it.”
Corcoran, who worked at CCC from 1986 through 1995, characterized that as “the most simplistic argument” against the recall. He said the governor has lost the faith of his own party.
He also acknowledged all union members, including some in Susanville, may not support the union’s effort to end Schwarzenegger’s reign.
Several dozen local union members held a picket on Main Street in Susanville on Wednesday, Sept. 13 to express their dissatisfaction with the governor’s order to reduce their paychecks.
Lt. Scott Porter, an administrative assistant at CCC, said the prison staff has been told they will be paid minimum wage beginning with their checks on Oct. 1 if a state budget has not been passed by then.
Porter said the staff had expected to receive the minimum wage checks on Sept. 1, but the state controller said the computers that issue the checks could not be reprogrammed quickly enough to accomplish that.
“It’s definitely a topic of conversation,” Porter said.
John Boitano, an administrative assistant at HDSP, said the staff at his institution is waiting to see what’s going to happen with the state budget and the possible wage cut. He said a court challenge to the governor’s order would be heard on Friday, after the newspaper’s deadline.
“This is not going to affect just the individuals who work for the state at this institution, but it will affect the whole community as well,” Boitano said.
Several local lending institutions have offered financial assistance to their customers who are affected having their paychecks cut, should the governor’s order be implemented.
The union claims the governor’s wage cut could affect as many as 150,000 workers statewide.
According to Soderlund, former California Governor Gray Davis took $3 million from CCPOA and the union membership received a 37 percent pay raise in 2003 — the year Schwarzenegger was elected in the recall election that ousted Davis.
Since 2006, the union has been unable to negotiate a new contract with the state. Soderlund said CCPOA rejected a 15 percent pay hike and benefit increase offer and left the proposal on the table. She said the state just can’t afford the kind of contract the union wants.
“Clearly they’re trying to accomplish their objectives with the contract” by bullying the governor and the legislature, Soderlund said. “The governor will continue to focus on the issues the people really care about, like the state budget. The people will see through this and recognize it for what it is.”
She said the governor said he would not accept contributions from any group that negotiated directly with his office, and he has held to that policy.
“The governor has talked about reform and rehabilitation,” Corcoran said, “but he hasn’t shown leadership. He’s a great poser, and now he’s posing as governor. He still has fans, however, we just want to see him making movies again.”
According to Corcoran, the union membership gave $108 million back to the state in 2004 by not taking raises that already had been negotiated.
He also said the governor has allowed the federal government to take over medical care in the state’s correctional institutions at a cost of about $7 billion.
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