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Prison Guard Pay Eclipses Cal State University Faculty

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Prison Guard Pay Eclipses Cal State University Faculty

Over the last several months, California State University (“CSU”) faculty members have been appealing to CSU trustees to approve reasonable and common sense pay increases of 5%.  Such pay increases would impact roughly 26,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, guidance counselors and staff.  CSU trustees refuse to budge, currently offering no more than 2%.  At the same time, the union representing 29,000 California state prison guards, California Correctional Peace Officers Association (“CCPOA”) was able to secure a 9% salary increase over three years.

By the Numbers

This discrepancy in the pay raises will only exacerbate the already large pay disparity between CSU and CCPOA employees.  According to data from Transparent California, which provides salary and benefit records for public employees, as well as from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Government Operations Agency, the salary breakdown for CSU and CCPOA employees is as follows:

  • $46,000 – average salary for a member of the CSU union
  • $497,000 – average salary of top 5 CSU administrators in 2014 (which was the last year complete salary and benefit information was available)
  • $63,000 – starting salary for correctional officer (31% higher than CSU average pay)
  • $85,600 – average pay for correctional officer (60% higher than CSU average pay)
  • $567,000 – average salary for top 5 correctional employees in 2014

The prison guard contract also includes incentive pay based on location and full work credit while on jury duty, witness duty or military leave for purposes of calculating overtime, a benefit not afforded to CSU members.

Factors Driving Pay Disparity

Clearly there is a significant pay disparity between CSU members and correctional officers, as well as among rank and file members and CSU administrators.  One may wonder how it is possible that the union helping educate more than 400,000 students in California is grossly underpaid when compared to the union monitoring incarcerated felons.

Some of the primary factors that may be at play include, but are not limited to the following:

  • CSU contracts must be approved by the Board of Trustees, many of whom are the highest paid CSU employees in the system and who would arguably have to take pay cuts to pay rank and file employees
  • CCPOA contracts are approved by the Governor of California
  • CSU spends little to nothing on lobbying and campaign contributions based on budgetary constraints and reinvestments into the CSU system
  • CCPOA spends millions annually on political lobbying, political action committees and campaign contributions to elected officials

Future Outlook

Unfortunately, the future outlook for closing the pay disparity gap does not bode well for CSU employees as the prison guard union continues to gain strength and political support every year while CSU employees are forced to negotiate for lower pay.  The playing field would only begin to level should strict campaign finance reform laws and restrictions on certain forms of political contributions and campaigning be enacted, which looks unlikely.  As a result, California is stuck with prison guard compensation and benefits far exceeding those of college professors for the foreseeable future.

The Los Angeles employment attorneys at Broslavsky & Weinman handle all types of wage claims, including discriminatory pay, wage and hour violations and related topics.  If you have an employment law question, feel free to contact us at (310) 575-2550 for a free consultation.

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