Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Angry over pay, correctional officers ditch union

TALLAHASSEE — Frustrated by stagnant pay, pension plan changes and fears of more privately run prisons, Florida correctional officers fired their union Thursday.

After more than three decades, the rank-and-file ousted the Florida Police Benevolent Association and chose the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to represent them instead.

"These are tough times, and they wanted a tough union to represent them," union general president James Hoffa said in a conference call.

Prison officers, like other state workers, have not had an across the board pay raise in nearly six years. They also must contribute 3 percent of their pay toward their pensions for the first time, a legislative decision that the PBA and other unions are fighting in court.

Kimberly Schultz, a Miami probation officer for the past 16 years who took part in the conference call, said she voted to switch unions because she wanted "really strong representation."

"We deserve respect and recognition that we don't feel we're getting," Schultz said.

In paper ballots counted by the Public Employee Relations Commission, the Teamsters received 4,097 votes and the PBA 3,015. About 19,000 officers work for the Department of Corrections.

The newly chartered Teamsters Local 2011, based in Tampa and led by Ken Wood, will begin representing officers on Dec. 1.

"They voted for change, and they got it," said PBA executive director Matt Puckett. "The economic times got the better of us."

Two weeks ago, the PBA for a second time succeeded in court in blocking the prison system from privatizing all South Florida prisons, or nearly one-fourth of the giant system, the nation's third largest.

Hundreds of officers have resigned in recent months, some in anticipation of losing their jobs to a private contractor.

The ousted union said it would continue to fight the privatization venture, now before the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

The PBA became a political powerhouse over the past two decades and union political committees spent more than $2 million to reward their allies, including former governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist and legislators in both parties.

Every legislative session at the state Capitol, PBA-sponsored rallies for better pay and benefits were must-attend events for Tallahassee politicians.

The union supported Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Rick Scott in the 2010 race for governor, and it ran a TV ad that accused Scott of endangering public safety by claiming he could cut $1 billion from the prison budget.

Among the public employees already represented by the Teamsters in Florida are county workers in Pasco and Hernando counties and members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

The Teamsters filed an ethics complaint against Scott earlier this year, accusing him of a conflict of interest because a private prison vendor donated $25,000 to his inaugural celebration. The Commission on Ethics dismissed the complaint.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Angry over pay, correctional officers ditch union 11/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.