Employee Career Ladder--
For "EQUALITY" - "NOT" Because of Attrition
April 6, 2001
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1. Basic Argument: Equality
2. Why Professionals Stay: Rootedness
3. What is "Equality"?
4. Hard Part: "Where We Are!"
5. NEED: "Where We Need to Go!"
1. BASIC ARGUMENT: EQUALITY
The Texas Public Employees Association (TPEA) should fight for all TDCJ unit employees. Thankfully, the state has begun to address some of the pay issues for officers. While indeed many are asking for raises for officers to reduce attrition, attrition alone is not the best argument for a pay raise.
The need for a pay raise is so very obvious to any fair-minded person. Some single parent officers actually qualify for federal aid. That is shameful, and shameful because other "State" officials with jobs requiring similar skills make so much more. To "Exclude" one group as one TPEA official did simply because some CO's are leaving--this is actually prejudicial against the CO's who are staying as well as certainly prejudicial against the excluded supervisors.
Many CO's will be here, as a team, and not quit; will be here and retire from TDCJ regardless of a pay increase? Chaplain's too. Many love their profession, desire to excel. Some retired officers are returning? Many will stay regardless of pay because it is a profession, it is a family. The TPEA "OUGHT" to join the clarion call from TDCJ Local Unit's General Staff. That clarion call is none other than: "EQUALITY FOR ALL STATE EMPLOYEES: equality now, based upon required education and experience." The only thing TDCJ Unit Employees and Officers want is what is naturally theirs--equality with other state employees. Nothing less. This is simple and clean, not complicated at all.
2. WHY PROFESSIONALS STAY: ROOTEDNESS
It takes grit and strength and some officers will "NOT" stay for "ANY" amount of money. Because you either have what it takes or you do not. Not everyone for any amount of money can deal with some of the roughest, most manipulative and meanest people in the land for eight or twelve hours, every single workday and go home happy. You either cultivate a professional attitude, become corrupt or quit.
The main reason some officers will "NOT" leave or go for promotion to other cities is "because" of their rootedness. They are staying in the localities because of the stability of their families. Should we not "Reward" stability and rootedness? Such rootedness is clearly one of the most significant components of reliable and loyal employees.
3. WHAT IS "EQUALITY"?
All of the staff in each TDCJ Unit need a raise to come up to the national average, sure. But that is not quite as substantial a rationale as this: how about giving a raise to equal employees in other Texas agencies. That includes CO's, Wardens and Chaplains. Anything other than a career ladder, compensating for education "AND" experience is just another prejudicial blow to morale. It is unjust to offer career paths and excellent pay for contractees like Windham School and UTMB (which they deserve, bty), but to leave out TDCJ's own staff--not just leave out, but repress and hold them back in the face of unrelenting inflation. How is it that a Windham School Principal and a UTMB Director of Nursing on a unit can make more than the Senior Warden or Assistant Warden or Major--though the former are contracted and the later are career TDCJ dedicated? And of the TDCJ dedicated, we do in fact ask for more years of experience and education than do the contractors themselves ask of the contractees. Is that equal or fair?
In the chaplaincy department, how is it that the director of chaplains with several degrees makes less than the directors of the Tier Program, Substance Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Post Trauma Treatment. This is all more unjust when the director of chaplains, by and large, has twice the number of degrees and experience.
I think the principals and DON's are making what is normal. What is "NOT" normal is that the chief law enforcement officers and TDCJ staff of multi-million dollar environments have been ignored for so long. In the mean time, other state offices and professionals have kept up with inflation (including education, medical, DPS, CPS, etc.). How is it that a DPS Major makes over ten thousand dollars more than our senior wardens? Where does that place our TDCJ Majors? Some mid-level positions within TDCJ Huntsville start with a higher salary for less experience than is commonly asked for unit sergeants and lieutenants and degreed staff.
Does anyone find it strange that an 23 year old engineer graduate, with no TDCJ experience or a 19 year old programmer, can enter TDCJ with a higher pay than a unit lieutenant--both of whom had to necessarily pay a lot of years and of whom many do have degrees? Does anyone find it stranger still that a 25 year old ex-felon-inmate can leave TDCJ with a GED and an air-conditioning maintenance certificate and start off at a job making MORE than the CO who supervised him for the last five years?
4. HARD PART: "WHERE WE ARE!"
The TPEA proposal does not help very much with pay equity "within" this institution or within Texas as a whole. But worse still, the proposal actually fosters the prejudice that has kept the pay scale unequal and unjust; in the long term, we will be no better off and some will be selected to remain on federal aid.
What is most shameful is that TDCJ staff have actually lost pay each year. Without a pay raise worth much in the last 15 years, with inflation an economic constant, with RIF cuts throughout in belt-tightening (causing heavier work loads), and given other state agencies' pay increases and comparative contractor pay inequity--all this hurts each TDCJ Unit Staff as we have been ignored for so long. Reason for being ignored? The "reason"—I believe—is in part because TDCJ employees have been quietly doing their job and taking care of their families and each other. They've been doing this trusting the state to take care them like the State takes care of so many other state employees. It was only a matter of time before the employee's themselves saw the inequities leveled against them as word trickled down to these home town environments about how unfairly they are paid in comparison with other state employees—other state employees with similar education and experience, but in less threatening or hostile environments. It is to the Unit Employees' credit, to their loyalty, rootedness and agency pride that no one has yet called out sooner or loader or even looked at class action.
These inequities increase every year as other state employees make more money and receive incremental pay increases while TDCJ employees continue the downward struggle against inflation.
Compared to other "Texas State Agencies," how do TDCJ employees fair? It is clear. We are the recipients of the scraps from the economic table, tossed a hundred dollar bill every now and then to appease. Not truly invited to sit at the table as an equal. All the while we endure the rigors of jobs with no fewer challenges than anyone else around the table. Don't forget, either, that the peace around the table is in a large part due to the scrap takers below.
A CO should not have to wait fifteen (15) years before reaching the high end of the pay scale. Compare CO's with State Troopers and our Sergeants and Majors with DPS rank. Anything else is degrades our own. A fair pay scale should start, after the first year, and work up incrementally each and every year toward retirement, whether that is 20 or 30 years. Every Unit Employee, in their profession and according to their experience and education, should have a career ladder with a percentage raise each and every year of employment moderated and adjusted by the degree of US and Texas inflation for the respective past year. Fifteen years from now 35,000.00 will certainly not be as much as 25,000.00 is today.
5. NEED: "WHERE WE NEED TO GO!"
The darned question is this: why not EQUALITY? For God's sake, why not EQUALITY? It is clearly the local TDCJ Prison Unit Employees that have been passed over or ignored for decades--no other agency, nor even the upper echelons of Huntsville TDCJ itself. Why not add a chair to the economic table and make us EQUAL? All of us on each unit in each department--equal pay for equal education and experience? Let's get our own off welfare.
Isn't that a novel idea?
Doesn't this just sound good--an honest, clear and straightforward EQUALITY with ALL other state agencies? Anything less is just another slap in the face, just another appeasing bone tossed from the economic table to some of Texas' most dedicated and rooted employees. WE need this EQUALITY not because of attrition. WE, the Unit TDCJ Employees need this EQUALITY because it is right, deserved and fair.
It's also "Texan."
It is time to give pay scale equity a good honest look.
Dr. M. G. Maness, Chaplain, Gib Lewis Unit, Woodville
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