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When states change the game, change gears

Thinking outside the box during tough economic times

As noted here, correctional staff at the Kern Valley State Prison in Calif. are planning a unique and imaginative job action: Set up a up a tent-city at their prison’s doorstep to demonstrate the hardships prison employees are enduring at their facility. It is encouraging to see state employees thinking outside the box. After all, the collective bargaining box was "blown up" years ago.

It is a new game: State employees and their bargaining agents must play the right one to survive.

The days of wine and roses are long gone — Left are empty bottles, thorns and a dull, ever-present headache. Even so, California (like many other states) and its "Bargaining Units" seem to be using the same old playbooks while playing decidedly different games.

California is playing a leisurely game of golf, confident in the knowledge that it owns the course and is setting the rules to work in its favor.

Meanwhile, the unions are suited up for the regular season, seemingly oblivious to the lack of the neatly gridded field required to scrimmage. Of course, the CHP is always on the golf course and will always get first pick of the leavin’s on their master’s cart. So, it’s understandable why Unit 5 would play the same game: it’s fixed. So, what does it mean to change gear in the real collective bargaining realm?

For starters, it’s not enough for unions to recognize the realities of their state’s sorry economy — Unions must convince the taxpayers they recognize it by presenting solutions which reflect those realities. When those efforts fall short, they must be retooled and redoubled.

Collective Bargaining in state service is no longer a zero-sum game. The "sum" is diminishing. Unions jockeying for their traditional piece of budget pie will get, at best, their usual cut.

So, it’s time to rethink not only the gameplan, but the game itself.

About the author

The PacoVilla Corrections blog has been online since 2004, with an emphasis on all things correctional" from an officer's perspective. Topical fare focuses on both prisons and parole. Often hard-edged, Paco Villa Corrections blog is a prolific and vocal critic of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Governor, Legislature and the so-called Mainstream Media.


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