A Message from Local 685 President Hans Liang
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The latest order by Interim Chief Viera Rosa is an affront to each and every one of us and demonstrates the continued denial about just how we got into this “institutional emergency.” Any reference to callouts without even a mention of the hold-over shifts that members constantly are suffering from is unacceptable.
We are acutely aware that we have been in institutional emergency because we’ve been living it every day for the past three years – not just lately. Before the Interim Chief’s arrival, this Department failed to hire and retain sufficient numbers of Juvenile Hall staff for many years. Local 685 members have been paying the price for this lack of attention since well before the Board of State and Community Corrections shut down Sylmar and Central.
We have been consistently and loudly ringing the alarm bells about this institutional emergency. We have rallied at the Board of Supervisors. We have met with the Supervisors and their staff directly. We have talked to the news media. We have testified before Senate and Assembly committees and subcommittees, the Bureau of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), and talked with the Governor. We have written letters, made phone calls, signed petitions, and done everything but go on strike (because we are forbidden from striking).
Make no mistake about it:
It was the County and the Department that didn’t believe we have been in an “institutional emergency.”
The involuntary reassignment of Field Officers will not make up for the lack of hiring and retention of Juvenile Hall staff (DSOs, Sr. DSOs, and GSNs). If you read the Interim Chief’s latest order, he identified “aggressively” recruiting GSNs, DSOs, and the DPO III series, which is the primary way out of this “institutional emergency.” On behalf of Juvenile Hall and Field Officers proudly represented by AFSCME Local 685, we will say it again and loudly:
We understand this institutional emergency because we live it every day, every 16 and 24 shift day we work, and every ordered reassignment day we work!
As we proved during the pandemic, once again Local 685 members will step into this breach and put in the work to save the endangered Probation Department because we are dedicated to fellow officers and our mission.
Probation: An Endangered Entity
The Probation Department historically has been a holistic, united department for both juveniles and adults. All too often, we serve our clients both as juveniles and as adults, and/or have family members in both divisions. Local 685 members are hard-working officers who have dedicated their lives to rehabilitating youth and adults and also the critical public safety component of protecting the rights of crime victims. As a Union, we support our members whether they work in juvenile detention, camps, juvenile supervision, adult field, pretrial, DCFS, school-based, or any other division or caseload. Part of the positive outcomes of a united Probation Department, is that it has allowed us the freedom to transfer from one division to another almost seamlessly, allowing for intersectionality and professional growth.
With this history and understanding of probation, we recognize good policy and management reasons to keep a united department whole. In this current crisis, there are many who seek to divide us by pushing a divided Department idea. This idea or, better said THREAT, has never been more real than it is today.
State of the Department
The Probation Department’s juvenile operations are under a coordinated and well-funded attack by those who would love nothing more than to grab the money used to pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions to fund their private enterprises, veiled as “non-profit” community-based organizations. Make no mistake about it, the leaders of these so-called “non-profits” make enormous salaries while paying their staff minimal wages and providing virtually no benefits. The only thing that’s really stood in the way of their taking over is that Probation is the legal entity established by law to provide these services. But, like everything else, this is a political decision that can be undone by politics.
Due to County neglect, Juvenile Hall staffing is at its most critical low point ever. There are more than 500 DSB employees out on full or limited duty. This means that they are unable to participate in full intervention procedures, if necessary, when dealing with youth.
The BSCC has labeled the staffing shortage as the #1 issue for failure.
To resolve this critical staffing shortage, the County MUST hire, deploy, promote, and retain staff. Our Executive Board continues to press this demand, and for the first time in a long time, the Department is responding positively. This Interim Chief has it on his list of priorities and included it in his recent order.
As we address these critical issues, as Union family members, we must not be a divided entity. We must find a way to support Juvenile Hall operations, not just because our jobs may be next, but because we support each other and won’t risk losing any job!
Deployment Scheduling & Possible Violations
The Department has tried many different variations to resolve several major issues, the most critical of which is a staffing shortage. All of these methods involve deploying Field Deputies into the Institutions. The Department’s actions continue to cause considerable pain among Field Officers. In our divided posture, some believe that our new contract enhances the Department's ability to take these types of actions.
Nothing in either the current or not-yet Board approved MOU allows the Department to take these actions.
Consider these FACTS:
One of Interim Chief Viera Rosa’s first orders attempts to rely on (i.e., justify) existing language in Article 18, Section 2 (Emergencies). Local 685 has challenged that position in “Grievances General in Character.”
It was the County’s insistence on unfettered rights to transfer our members involuntarily and permanently between different classifications that pushed us into Impasse.
Through Impasse, Local 685 was able to guarantee that nothing in the MOU allows the Department to unilaterally declare any emergency or unilaterally involuntarily reassign any employee covered by our Union contract.
Limited Duty Employees
Earlier this week we issued an EGRAM that spoke about medical issues. We are again including it for your reference. (Click here)
We acknowledge that there are many members that fall into this category, and we are supporting you in doing whatever is necessary to protect your safety and health. We are processing a “Group Grievance General in Character” on the insubordination letters that are being issued improperly to members.
Our Executive Board, Special Reps, and Stewards are ready to help you file individual grievances as well. We intend to combine all like grievances and pursue them quickly and vigorously. We also are seeking legal guidance from our longtime Workers’ Compensation firm, Straussner & Sherman, on possible legal options for our members. We will pursue every avenue on behalf of members’ safety and health.
We All Are Part of the Solution
As we have in the past, Local 685 members will demonstrate concern for our Sisters and Brothers and will actively participate in resolving this emergency. Pushing frivolous arguments and disseminating false information will not benefit any of us; it will only give in to division, expand our problems, and support the arguments by outsiders who say that Officers are not capable or suitable to do this job...
This is a drumbeat designed to end Probation as we know it and TERMINATE all our jobs.
We urge each and every Local 685 member to consider the importance of our mission and the tasks before us. Remember: You may think this is someone else’s problem or someone else’s job, but it is every single one of our jobs – in fact, our entire profession – that is at risk!