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California Overtime—Unions Waste of Time

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San Pedro, CAElaine, a parole agent for the State of California, says she is owed a lot of California overtime, several hours a week for more than a year. "I feel that our union let us down because they negotiated a deal that has basically cut me out of many overtime hours," she says.

Elaine explains that parole agents work on a point system, and her union negotiated with the state of California that anyone who has more than 154 points per month is entitled to overtime. "For the past year, I have been logging anywhere from 175 to 220 points per month, which means that I am seeing between 70-100 people per month," Elaine says. "I see these people in my office or I visit them in their home, and I also spend a lot of time writing reports after each visit, so there is more work involved than just seeing an individual.

"Our union said that we can, and should, waive our points so that we don't incur overtime. This means that we may not see an individual that month, but that person will then go unsupervised, and if something happens, we are held liable. It doesn't make sense because we have to see that person sooner than later and overtime will just roll over to the next month.

"I didn't get paid overtime for an entire year. On top of my regular eight-hour shift, I worked about two or three hours every night because I had to take work home with me. Now the union says that we can collect overtime, as of this month, but only because they are doing a massive discharge review: the State of California is trying to get as many parolees off payroll as possible because it is costing the state too much money.

"But they have still screwed up. I was given 30 minutes of overtime pay to review one person. I have no idea how they come up with this time allocation. For example, last week I reviewed 16 people and got paid 30 minutes of overtime for reviewing 12 people. The bosses are scrutinizing our time cards and deciding how much to pay??"I am sure that this practice is a violation of the California labor law. And our union is doing nothing about it??"that is so wrong."

Elaine's union represents payroll agents and correctional officers that work in the state prison. Parole agents are only 10 percent of the union, yet they are paying union dues. She says that correction officers make up most of the membership so they get to rectify their grievances first, before the union helps the payroll agents.

"I feel that our union isn't properly representing us, but it is difficult to get a wage and hour attorney to go up against a union," Elaine explains. "No one wants to touch you if you are in a union.

"When I started my job two years ago I was told that I would be working eight hours a day, five days a week. And I have the union book that outlines hours of work and my job description. They are real sticklers: for instance, if you use a company vehicle you had better be working - that is policy. But they aren't sticklers when it comes to overtime.

"My co-workers share my view on overtime violations but they have more at stake??"they have been working here longer and they are counting on benefits when they retire. They don't want to make waves, they want to stay under the radar and keep their jobs. I understand that getting some pay is better than no pay.

"But I think right is right, and labor law violations should not be tolerated. I want to get this issue out in the open because it isn't so much about the money; it is about how many people have been screwed around, it is the principal.

"Our union reps are weak and we really don't have a leg to stand on. It is frustrating that we pay dues for no reason. A lot of unions were originally formed for good reasons, but now, what is the point if they can't even stand behind us with overtime issues?"

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