From the President

March 3, 2011

Imagine a U.S. labor workforce that is powerless to negotiate for their medical and retirement, much less to stand up against an employer who has violated bargained rights; including due process for disciplinary actions up to and including termination. If you think that this is not a possibility, just ask the workers in Wisconsin. Last week, they lost a battle to retain their collective bargaining rights; at least for the interim, and to the contrary of over 60% of Americans polled who believe that collective bargaining rights should not be retracted in their states. Along with losing most of their collective bargaining rights, they are also now going to be paying higher costs for their pension and medical; which will result in a loss of 8% to their wages. While their public employees were willing to concede on higher contributions for their pension and medical, greedy politicians took advantage of the situation to break down the strength of unions and in the process dismantle a system of checks & balances that had been in place for decades.

While the struggle is not lost, they and others facing similar challenges are in for a long battle to retain and regain what has and could be lost. Lawsuits are being filed and campaigns to recall politicians have begun, but in the end we will not see an end to attacks on public employees until the economy starts to turn around. Unfortunately, some politicians have tried to frame public employees as the cause of the current economic crisis. In reality, we have become the scapegoat. States are facing their economic problems not because of public employees, but because of prolonged unemployment, a stagnant economy, Wall Street crooks and a housing bubble that burst and is still casting a long shadow over the middle-class. A middle-class that continues to be assaulted by forces that are bent on destroying what voice the middle-class has left to fight for their rights. Private sector union membership has fallen to 6.9%, while public sector union membership is currently holding at 36.2%. At one time, labor unions gave the middle-class a chance to not only make a living, but to be able to move up in society. More often, the middle-class are either standing still or falling back in earnings, much less being able to climb the ladder of success.

You may ask, how does this affect me? I work at my job, then go home to my family. All I want to do is to be left alone and to be able to do my job. For now, you may be able to do just that. But what would happen if you lost the ability to fight for your benefits, your wages and your working conditions? Over a period of time, you’re not able to get the same level of medical care, working for minimum wage and working in conditions that leave you little recourse in resolving work conditions.

What can you do? Become part of the solution. Get involved with organizations like SCOPO, become informed about the issues, then plan to meet and educate your local state legislator about what you do and why it is important to adequately allocate funding to probation. In light of the ever-changing Governor’s proposed budget, and talk of parole-probation realignment, we need to be at the forefront of the battle to preserve and expand funding to probation, and be in the room when probation and related labor issues are being discussed. One person and one organization can’t do this alone, especially considering what’s at stake. Consider this a call for the field of probation to rise to the challenge, and take the lead in California’s future. Your future.

Let’s get to work!

Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

Paul Brennan
President, SCOPO