What's New at Teamsters 320
This week is Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week. It’s a time to recognize the correctional professionals who are responsible for supervising adult and juvenile offenders in the community. The duties of these men and women are essential to the criminal justice system and public safety, but there have been no presidential proclamations, ceremonies of note, or flag waving to honor these brave officers and personnel. They continue to wear the forgotten badge.
After an offender is convicted, depending on the particular conditions of sentencing, a probation or parole officer is assigned for the purpose of supervising the offender’s conduct in society. According to the American Probation and Parole Association, 4,793,934 Americans are under the supervision of a community corrections program. The Minnesota Department of Corrections lists over 122,000 Minnesota offenders under community supervision. At the state level, 2,446 offenders are supervised for violent crime and 1,534 offenders are supervised for criminal sexual conduct.
Probation and parole officers supervise offenders through an array of methods in the form of home visits and searches, drug testing, counseling and coaching. When combative situations arise, probation and parole officers can use force to disarm or restrain an offender without relying on defense tools such as firearms or tasers. Safety is becoming an increasing concern as more Minnesota counties require probation and parole officers to wear bullet-resistant vests during contact with offenders.
Community supervision is a proven system demonstrated by the continued decline in adult recidivism rates. Probation and parole officers should be treated with the same dignity and respect as other officers or personnel in law enforcement and corrections.
Teamsters Local 320 recently celebrated a victory for probation officers in Itasca County who won the right to just cause and grievance provisions. This is a historic event for county probation officers who were previously at-will employees. Local 320 will continue to press the issues of probation officers at the workplace and throughout the State of Minnesota.
The Local has had another victory in a long battle with Itasca County. After the union organized the Probation Officers in 2014, the County questioned whether it was the true employer of the probation officers. Probation services in Itasca County are provided through a Department of Corrections/County Probation Officer system. The County argued that because of this system it did not believe that it acted as the traditional employer in all respects. The question was submitted to the Bureau of Mediation Services, and after a series of written arguments were submitted, the Local prevailed on that issue.
The parties then entered into negotiations for the first contract. The negotiations were difficult, particularly with regard to just cause and a grievance procedure. Despite the Bureau’s earlier decision, the County still did not agree that it had the authority to negotiate those provisions. The County eventually filed suit, asking the court to determine the scope of its bargaining obligations. A series of procedural motions ensued, landing the case in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The court issued a decision on June 26, 2017.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s denial of the County’s summary judgment motion, stating that “by seeking declaratory judgment, the county is improperly attempting to circumvent the statutory requirement to execute a written agreement through negotiation or arbitration.” The court stated that the inclusion of just cause and grievance provisions must be resolved through negotiations or arbitration.
The Local is ready to go back to the table or appear in front of an arbitrator. In either case, it will not stop fighting to get the best contract for these members.
“This is a major victory for Minnesota County Probation Officers and will continue to have ramifications throughout the State of Minnesota,” says Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 Secretary-Treasurer and principal officer. “County probation officers do have rights and protections afforded to them under state law and Teamsters will enforce the law!”
On behalf of Teamsters Local 320 I want to thank all veterans and active duty service men and women of the United States Military. For Memorial Day, Local 320 will never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice to their fellow citizens and for all our freedoms.
This spring Teamsters Local 320 made a solid commitment to those who have served this country. Since Armed Services Day and Memorial Day were in the month of May, Local 320 decided through its Member Action Committee (MAC) to use the annual General Membership Meeting and Member Appreciation Night to raise donations for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization.
On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, Teamsters Local 320 invited DAV Chapter 1 Commander Jimmy L. Kline and Chapter 1 Adjutant Mark L. Jaruszewski to join us and address the membership. That night, Local 320 raised 754 lbs. of donations and issued a check for $1000 to DAV.
Let us never forget those who perished serving our country, but we must also constantly remember those who return with the scars of war and need the help and support of their community. These scars are not always visible, but they still cut as deep and maim as viciously as any noticeable injury. Commander Kline described the pain and suffering Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) causes for so many of our veterans and how DAV views PTSD as any other injury of war.
Local 320 is proud to have teamed up with such a positive organization as DAV. On this Memorial Day Teamsters Local 320 pledges to continue its support for disabled veterans and we wish all Teamsters and their families the best over the long weekend.
Minnesota Teamsters Public and Law Enforcement Employees Union, Local No. 320, held a press conference on Monday, May 22, 2017, at 9:00 AM with Assistant State Public Defenders, who are Teamster members, to discuss the State Legislature’s possible failure to reach a budget deal for the Board of Public Defense. Over 650 public defense employees are affected as the entire state court system is put at risk.
The Board of Public Defense requested an additional $17.476 million to its budget for 19 new Assistant Public Defenders, 7 new Dispositional Advisors to assist clients with mental health issues, and 11 new Legal Specialists. The biennial budget request was designed to bring attorney staffing levels to 75 percent of existing state and national standards.
In 2010, the Legislative Auditor’s (OLA) concluded in its report on public defense that: “High public defender workloads have created significant challenges for Minnesota’s criminal justice system.”
The “challenges” cited by the OLA include: 1) the inability to handle certain case types in anything like a timely manner; 2) aggravation of jail overcrowding; 3) postponement of trial settings, which are already far enough out to impinge on the right to a speedy trial; 4) deterioration in the quality of fact-finding, as witnesses become unavailable; and 5) increased strain on all the
other participants in the justice system.
“What the State Legislature did to public defense with its budget bill is a mockery of justice,” says Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Spokesperson for the public defense employees. “Minnesota State Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said the Legislature is ‘jeopardizing public safety’ with underfunding the state justice system, and we agree.”