Monday, June 18, 2007

Unions: How unions need to change Probation in Texas

I am very curious as to why there is a strong resistance to unionizing probation officers and staff in Texas. Bexar County is feeling growing pains and may one day be in a leadership role for the rest of the State. Dallas Po’s have gone the same route with positive progress. The resistance comes from those who could use the positive publicity and fail to see the benefits of treating staff with dignity.

Somewhere down the ole’ dusty managerial trail of fiscal responsibility, cut backs, bottom lines, and fat executive salaries, real people have been lost. Productivity is now replaced with disgruntled workers. These workers were loyal, took pride in their products, and had a sense of community with long tenure in companies that built generation after generation of new products and services, and most importantly loyal employees. Now we experience low wages, low job satisfaction, and no job security. One can only surmise why there is a need for unions. The plight most companies and government agencies face is actually caused by this era of erroneous non-leader types who fill administrative positions in both corporate and government America. In other words, the destruction of productivity and creativity by corporations and government agencies is caused by executive arrogance and stockholders who fund their shenanigans.
General Patton would be in dismay to see how his beloved country has cultivated a crop of self-serving administrators, aka managers, instead of true leaders. Leadership is not born of degrees or positions, leadership is born of men and women who are passionate about their people. Pride in oneself perpetuates down the line. What is a leader? A leader is one who has been in the trenches, will go in the trenches, and knows his or her troops. Lead by example comes to mind. Where this country lost sight of leadership is when our men and women in leadership roles forgot where they came from and cultivated their own careers on the backs of their troops. This is why a union is necessary for our country to survive. Our children will be susceptible to what we are seeing now in our workforce. Sure we have a few fat cats who make lots of money, but what happened to Bob, Juan, or Sue? These men and women of this generation helped this administrator to his or her level. When the bottom line came, it was always the staff that was cut first and in turn cut the jugular vein of our society.

Meanwhile back on track, looking at the bigger picture, I wonder if the managerial type or possibly court officials simply do not understand the positive influence they can give officers and staff members. If working conditions, wages, and job satisfaction were all positives, then you or I would not hear the rumbling in South Texas.

The Austin crowd will be first to stand up for progressive sanctions and restorative justice and pass bills reducing jail populations and building treatment empires. Nothing is written or no one carries the torch for the forgotten person on the front line of defense in our nations communities.

Less we forget the hundreds of staff tirelessly working day in and day out without adequate compensation and due protection. Officers and staff have many years of experience and education. There is a very small step between an officer and administrator and should be respected by the courts and administration. We should hold our heads high and be proud of who we are as Americans and take pride in what we do each day. The union can bring equity and reduce the huge disparity among the probation staff. Bob, Juan, and Sue can once again be proud of who they are and where they work. Each could be our future leader and what better lesson can we give then the lesson of true leadership. Vote Union!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Shevere we often kid about liberals and conservatives. I just have to remind you that for the most part this town is republican paradize. Let me point that most liberals laws allow for workers compensation of any kind. In the busy republican San Antonio most back water defendant have to deal with elitest rascesim and the reality that a few white supremist run this city. Therefore, let call by it's name and that is Republican don't want progress. In Adult Probation a few Latinos high jacked the department because until a few years ago most Latinos could not get a proffesional job. After so many years the white Arizona leader call Fitzgerald has taken power back. Let's be clear, Mr. Shevere Union or no Union we are not going back to the good old days of Corrupt white judges. We are not going back to Mr White Fitzgerald apartaid game out of the good all Arizona. The union will be managed down the middle in fair manner. Just a reminder, we are not in the old South linching people because we are in democracy.

dare to publish the truth

Douglas Tomasini said...

On your 6-18-07 posting you wonder why there is a resistance to the union in Bexar county and other CSCDs. I cannot speak for administration because I am not a part of management, but I am employed with the Bexar County CSCD. Since learning of the union, I have kept an open mind concerning the union and it's progress. Talking to union members and non-union members has also revealed some important facts. Most of the people who will not join a union at the Bexar County CSCD have made their reasons very clear. The main reasons stated are: 1)don't believe the union will help; 2)disapprove of unprofessional tactics used by union members; and 3) many of the union organizers in Bexar County are not well liked. Cost does not seem to be a factor in the decision not to join the union.
You also stated the Dallas Office has improved due to the union. Examples of progress in that office are: 1) getting a new director; 2) getting a raise; 3) changes in case file audits; 4) new disciplinary procedures; and 5) union dues are deducted from an employee's salary. These are important victories, but they occurred some time ago. I don't believe the continued successes or interests in the union are as prevelant as you want people to believe. The web site for the Dallas Union has not had a newsletter posted since August 2006. The number of union members having union dues deducted from their salary has fallen from 161 in 2004 to 157 at present time. The interest in the Bexar County union seems to be about the same.
The union organizers in Bexar county have been responsible for several important changes. These changes occurred not because they are union members, but because of their hard work, dedication, and persistance.
You also speak of self-serving managers. Myself and many other employees have been treated well by managers and administration. No doubt, some employees have reason to complain, and probably should. I don't even object to the filing of a lawsuit. But, was the press conference necessary?
You also state the union will improve wages, working conditions, and job satisfaction. Some of Chief Fitzgerald's accomplishments are: 1)a new building approved and in planning; 2) every employee receive at least one raise; and 3) several employees receive three raises.
Each person in our department should always work to improve our profession. I believe the methods used to date have certainly made some changes, but at a terrible cost to the department.
Posted by Douglas Tomasini

Bryan Shreve said...


I appreciate your passion and historical perspective. I certainly hope racism does not exist for any nationality or race. I believe all should be judged by his or her character and work ethic. The past needs to kept locked up in a tight box only opened once a year to see if it is still there. We need to move forward and treat each other with dignity and respect. Those who do not play nice in the sand box should be put in time out or sent home. I vote for sending home. Staying focused is such an important ingredient a lot of folks loose site of especially when it comes to passionate topics such as our paychecks. Thanks for your opinion , and I am here to serve you as long as each of us show respect for one another and not personalize attacks (hint, hint).
Keep the faith

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tommassi I thank you for your honesty. We don't hear from the other side that is so content with the current enviroment. I thank you for your eloquent speech. Yet, I might say that I am rather interested in those who are non-members of the union. It's a reality that a large unity of officers is better than a few. Yet, a large amount of our concerns are about changes that you did not mention. Not mentioned are: 1) first admendment rights for employees. 2) the total elimination of at will hiring and firing 3) the poor enviromental conditions we are forced to work in 4) a restructuring of the grievance process 5) the personal process of black listing officers 6) the lack of consideration of the rights of the support staff.
7) Ddocumented salary structure and progression for Support staff and officers.
At this point if we reach consences with the issues just mentioned then we could as a department approach the success of the Dallas officers.

The mention of tactics by union members are far from the out cry of the battles of past unions. The Ford factory of the 1920's where workers had no benefits and poor working conditions. The mention of salaries was not even something they could approach. So the union tactics are not what you are looking at. The fact is the manisfestation of the current environment is part of the anger, mistreatment and the desire for change. Cesar made his marks as a man that ran an oppressed department. Mr. Fitzgerald made his mark on December on 2006 when he filed the infamous e-mail. Perhaps you have forgotten that he stated that he would interview us each year to be able to keep your job. On the Chiefs behalf the State Attorney filed a sapona with Google wanting the names of blogging officers. Therefore, the administration has it's favorite officers who are treated under a different standard. We are divided I agree, but the administration does not treat everyone equalily. You could be the best officer in the world and if you dare question their ethics, you no longer treated with the same respect.

Mr. Tomasini, I too wish for a department where the internal customer is treated better. I long for the officers to retain the professional image that would drive our repution as a premier organization. I would like to see our training to be driven by resources that would include substance abuse seminars with the top experts. I like to see a closer relationship with S.A Police and for us to have the ability to provide funds to encourage our staff officers to achieve a Master level rewarded with salary compensaion. I would like resources to send every officer to have closer relationship with a criminal justice department and have new methodology tried in our department. So sir, with much respect I disagree with you. The Steel Workers Union is part of the passage to a better department. I would prefer to reach the heights of our department with every officers but we will change the department with the few that have the courage to want change.


Anonymous said...


I will not defend Dallas but will defer to Kurt K. who reads this blog and will most likely take offense to your comments. Your information is lacking in several areas. While I understand PSI loves their manager, several other areas of the department suffer. Today an officer walked out and left because of unfair working conditions. I believe you need to leave your floor and talk to others who are suffering.

The chief did not get you a raise, the funding was always there and the increase was from the line officers sweat from collections.

The union organizers are strong and are well liked but maybe not in your circles. I dare you to venture outside of PSI and talk to others. This union will fly and will Charter. The press coverage was needed or jobs would have been lost. I will be the first to tell you the jobs lost would have been not been the union organizers but others. Even though we disagree, no one wants anyone to loose their job! When you threaten jobs it involves ones security and that was done to all! The public is behind us and those union people you speak of saved my job! My hat is off to those officers who stood up! This the dawn of a new day! Where nepotism and cronyism and unfair treatment will not be tolerated. Please check your rate of inflation vs. your salary over the past 10 years! Then tell what you find! Please check your facts on the building! As per the landowners, your facts are off and no ground has yet to be broken. You hear the press but do you hear your co-workers?

I disagree with almost all of your facts and challenge you to look harder. The union is our only hope. If the union cannot help than all else is lost. The numbers of Dallas is a very strong number for officers who work at home 3 days a week and are scattered all over town. Union numbers change from maternity leave to military duty back and forth each month. The facts you speak of show 150 strong over time! The Dallas Local is way stronger than 150, again your info is not correct!

I wish you the best and will push on without you but the door is always open if you change your opinions! I hope you never feel the pain others in this department have suffered. We will be a great department again!

Bryan Shreve said...


I sincerely appreciate your view points. This type of forum is set up for positive debates and hopefully one day reach a level to share common ideas to enhance our profession. I have also heard the scuttle in the pine hallways of a few who may think doing nothing is the right way. I spoke earlier of leadership. I doubt very serious a good leader will sit back risk nothing and enjoy the fruits of labor of those who he or she criticizes. I also believe Bexar County is at a cross road and divided amongst those who oppose change because of change itself and those who wish to bring Bexar County up to a leadership standard for other counties in the State to follow. A critical question Douglas is why is there a movement in Bexar County? I believe there is a need to comment on your reasons you say are very clear as to why our fellow staff will not join the union.

1) Don’t believe the union will help.

Reply: Historically, unions have protected workers from unfair labor practice, wrongful terminations, retaliations, promoted fair wages, settled employee grievances, improved benefits, and given solidarity with a unified voice to improve the general welfare of employees.

2)disapprove of unprofessional tactics used by union members

I can only speak of the future and do not find it productive to constantly look back at events you or I had no control over. I personally believe Douglas there is room for anyone willing to do the honorable task of mentoring those who are lead astray by bitter events in the past.

3) many of the union organizers in Bexar County are not well liked.

These are our fellow employees and many of us have developed long lasting friendships. We should use the union to build deeper friendships and allow ourselves to use our diversity in both culture and ideals to build a stronger bond instead of personalizing each issue.

4) Cost does not seem to be a factor in the decision not to join the union.

Great Douglas, will you be joining the union?

Your comments about the Dallas Office have improved due to the union. You gave examples of progress in that office is: 1) getting a new director; 2) getting a raise; 3) changes in case file audits; 4) new disciplinary procedures; and 5) union dues are deducted from an employee's salary. These are important victories, but they occurred some time ago. I don't believe the continued successes or interests in the union are as prevalent as you want people to believe.

My response is I can not morally speak details for the Dallas Office. I know that several weeks ago three of their representatives who work in the Dallas probation office spoke eloquently about their trials and tribulations that lead to a better department. I came from the meeting excited and motivated to start our new beginning. When a person truly believes he or she is doing something honorable, why would you not want to share and allow others to benefit?

Douglas you spoke of the web site for the Dallas Union has not had a newsletter posted since August 2006. The number of union members having union dues deducted from their salary has fallen from 161 in 2004 to 157 at present time. The interest in the Bexar County union seems to be about the same.

My response is really funny. If your numbers are correct, and I really hope they are, this is great news. In the probation field the turnover is really alarming due to low wages and high volume caseloads. With your numbers this means Dallas lost only four (4) members in two years. I really do not expect any union to wave a magic wand and fix all problems with any organization, especially in two short years. I hope we are that lucky and sustain membership the way Dallas has with its own staff.

The union organizers in Bexar County have been responsible for several important changes. These changes occurred not because they are union members, but because of their hard work, dedication, and persistent.

You commented on this writer speaking of self-serving managers. You and many other employees have been treated well by managers and administration. You said there is no doubt, some employees have reason to complain, and probably should. Doug you also stated you didn’t’ even object to the filing of a lawsuit. But, was the press conference necessary?

My reply is yes. Any great movement that has honorable intentions to serve others and to effect change for the overall good is worth the effort. We don’t have to look back far in our own history and see what MLK, Jr. did to change the dynamics of this country. I sincerely believe Douglas we can pull our personalities together and capitalize on our strengths and work through our weaknesses with mentoring and leadership. As far as management goes. Yes, there are very good managers, and like people in general, very bad ones. I feel for those with the bad managers and hope this select group grow into leadership worthy of their position.

Your comment on my statement about the union will improve wages, working conditions, and job satisfaction. Douglas you replied that some of Chief Fitzgerald's accomplishments are: 1) a new building approved and in planning; 2) every employee receive at least one raise; and 3) several employees receive three raises.

My reply is an obvious one. Douglas you may be satisfied with your wages. You may be one in the group that makes a living wage that reflects your hard work and education. However, there are many who work in your hallway, in the other buildings, or in the other facilities that struggle day in and day out trying to juggle their income and living expenses. Some are single moms and dads or have children in daycares or college. When we choose this profession, we did it not because of the idea of becoming wealthy (obvious statement); we choose this profession to make a difference in our communities. We hoped that our wages could give us comfort enough to support our families. There are some in our brotherhood and sisterhood that are very comfortable and feel the same as you. I believe some may be somewhat self-centered and not focused on what is really important to make our profession worthwhile, and that is bringing every staff member to a level he or she is proud to say, yes I work for the department, and it is great. We don’t have to look too far and see other companies who really understand loyalty and taking care of its own. Douglas what do you think of when you see a UPS driver, US Post Office worker, teacher in Bexar County, or someone working on the many bases around town? Those folks are making a comfortable living, and most do not need a degree. Should we be apologetic for wanting our fellow employees having the same standard of living and actually supporting their family? I know any company that brings in the revenue such as a probation department should have revenue to spend on its employees. I never hear the district attorneys office or the judicial side of the house complain about wages. Why? Education, position, or simply they take care of each other. Douglas I think you may be looking at this in a near sighted way and missing the big picture. Look at the starting salary and salaries of all staff. If this doesn’t bring up questions in your mind, then we simply disagree. You mentioned the new building. What good is a new building if you fill it with underpaid and under valued staff? The county should find ways to bring our profession upwards to a level that would impress anyone darkening the halls of the multi-million dollar building. I rather buy the old buildings, gut the pine box offices, and refurbish it to bring it up to an aesthetic standard. The money saved can go to the staff. Douglas, then we can say the three wages which brought some up, maybe middle management or administrators to a proud wage, can be mirrored with the line officer and support staff making more than $18,000-$30,000 a year. If I was in a leadership position, I would not rest until my troops were justly compensated for their education and experience. Remember, Douglas our fellow employees are the backbone of the department.

Your comment on each person in our department should always work to improve our profession, and you believe the methods used to date have certainly made some changes, but at a terrible cost to the department.

I agree there have been some changes. I respectfully disagree there is a terrible cost. We have just begun parting the waters. This movement is bigger than you or I. Our future officers and staff along with the community will see the fruits of these employees who are brave enough to stand and be counted for what is morally right. I am proud of these employees as you should be. Each member of the union joins for a variety of reasons. I hope at least one of these reasons is to bring about positive change for the employee. This will in turn improve our mission by protecting the public that many of us took an oath to protect. Officers and staff day in and day out should not worry about how they are going to pay rent, mortgage, and daycare or college for their children. Hope is all they have at this point, and one day I personally hope they soon forget about the times of this struggle and focus on their honorable careers.

Gain the faith, and God Bless America

Anonymous said...

"Be the change you want to see in the World."

-Mahatma Gandhi

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bryan, well said, and thank you for metioning MLK Jr. Be careful next is Noam Choamsky and the reality on what happens to the American Worker.

Mr Tomasini if you forget history you will repeat the same action of the past. We need a strong department with all officer active in the Political Life of our common actions. Therefore, sir, we could be stronger united even when we disagree. Take a step and make the contact with us because honest debate is healthy part of the process. Come to a Union meeting and make yourself heard.

Today was not good day for a fellow sister. She decide to quit because her managers is one of those that practices unfair tactics. So Mr. Tomasini as you can see some manager with a vengance. With a union in place, we would have disputed the problem with a grievance process.


Thank you sister we won't forget!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Bryan, sorry for the off topic comment, but with your background working with GPS systems, I'd be interested in your thoughts about this article on Grits. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Celso, It also amazes me that you could be so misinformed about local politics. It is the dollar that talks, not the democrat/liberal/republican. Just so you know, Judge Roman is a democRAT, who is responsible for pushing Mark Herrera and FITZ on the BEXAR COUNTY CSCD. Just ask the judges what party they are from and YOU may be surprised how many are democrats. By the way, this is the United States and everyone has the right to vote for whatever party they want. And yes, the majority gets their way, whether Republican, Democrat or Liberal..................................................................DOUGLAS why did you leave and come back? Was it once, twice or more????

Anonymous said...

If you are still wondering why there is resistance to the union in Bexar County, you need to read the "Bexar Me The Pain" web page. The recent postings will explain it clearly. The site continues to post anonymous comments. Only a few people have identified themselves.Being anonymous does not hold anyone accountable and encourages false information. "Bexar Me The Pain" has become a chat room and not a place for professionals to exchange ideas and discuss change.

Knowing the identity of a person posting a comment and a blog administrator is very important. A person's morals, character, knowledge, and motives are essential when assessing the content of a comment.

Judging from past and current postings "Bexar Me The Pain" is largely pro-union and administered by union members. Many postings also seem to be from union members. The union and it's members have always been well known. So why are so few willing to associate themselve's with their comment. Many would probably state they are afraid of retaliation from administration. Retaliation may be a viable threat but this fear does not lend cedibility to their comments. The fear may even measure the low level of commitment these union members have. I respect those members willing to place their name on a posted comment.

The "Bexar Me The Pain" web site does give people a place to state opinions, ideas, and complaints. But with with most being anonymous, what is the value. This is no better than a "Suggestion Box" filled with ideas, rumors, and complaints from anonymous sources. Anonymous statements by their nature are considered suspicious.

The union seems to believe the only way it will be succesful is if the department and Mr. Fitzgerld fail. The union has worked hard to publicize only department mistakes. Much of the information is posted anonymously and is false.

I certainly do not believe I have all the answers but anonymous support does not encourage anyone to join the union.

I do not believe anything can be found on the "Bexar Me The Pain" which speaks of professionals. Instead you find posted articles on judges and co-workers and then the blog administrator asks for your opinion of the person.

Douglas Tomasini

Bryan Shreve said...


I appreciate your comments and would have to humbly agree with you that the Bexar-me the pain blog has reverted in something I wish to avoid. I have remained quiet for some time wishing the tones could somehow become gentle and give way to reason. The voice we should here at this juncture is one of persuasion and positive change. Standing up for a belief is honorable and no one should be apologetic for this noble act. Assaulting coworker’s character by personal assassination of this coworker who disagrees or believes the union should go another direction obviously shows a lack of professionalism. I do not wish to be drawn in this type anonymous blog attacks. I am sure we can respectfully agree this is not a direction or format to amplify a voice of reason.

Different thoughts or ideas should be cultivated and welcomed by anyone in our organization. Our diverse background and professional experience can cultivate an awakening in Bexar County and bring positive awareness to our need for a strong viable union. I personally do not agree with slander of any kind. I believe in honest debates on policy, changing an antiquated system of justice, and focusing on protecting the public instead of perpetuating a broken policy of fortress probation and getting paid by the head for supervision.

I admit my own discouraging moments over the past several weeks and lost my zeal for supporting the union. It may be the many words written in the anonymous tongue and quill. It may have been the many water fountain conversations I had with my peers pondering our direction. There have been so many personal attacks on character of those who wished to volunteer. I doubt those who are the culprits of these disparaging attacks will ever understand how those discouraging comments soiled any chance for fresh ideas and a strong union workforce in Bexar County and especially those minds who could have made a strong difference. The many voices are better than one voice especially if the one voice does not have the moral support of the constituency. I believe this was in itself an implosion from within our own group.

This is how I see it. I hope self reflection and honest soul searching setting personal egos and pride aside can salvage what was a great movement. I trust in myself to get back my faith in the system. I hope those who rose to the occasion and wanted positions on the union board do good work and focus on the overall good of the department. Filling a position is easy. What he or she does in the position speaks volumes and will be remembered for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

Those who choose not to stand and fight the oppression at this department are like sheep led to the slaughter. Silence is the first indicator of a defeatist attitude. I'm appalled at those who let others talk them out of making this department better! There is absolutely no excuse for be quiet!
Stand and fight or get out of the way, but. never forget those who fight the good fight and make the department better!
It is better to have fought for what is right than to give up and not even try.

Bryan Shreve said...

A wise man once wrote the road less traveled is worth every step. I find it difficult to understand why others feel it necessary to judge others or throw out personal character attacks on those who do not agree with the message of either side. As a person who has personal experience in a law enforcement/corrections union, I know the value of solidarity. I also know you may approach active change differently then the other person. One can also predict with the low pay, low job satisfaction, and hopelessness of a rewarding career in Bexar County probation, a person may be discouraged to speak out. What is the point?

On the other hand, actively seeking change outside Bexar County may be worth the struggle. I don’t believe managers or administrators will fight our fight or give anyone who is a line officer, a moment of their time to petition those in Austin for a working professional wage. The answer you may hear is quit and find another job if you don’t like the wage. Obviously, they have their own careers to solidify.

This brings it full circle. We look at each other and pass one another in the halls. Frustration builds to apathy and here we are looking at the hard facts. The strength of any union is loyalty with all members and protecting each other. Announcing to the world someone has a defeatist attitude polarizes one against another. You wonder why some are silent? I believe some may consider that being silent is being professional and non-judgmental verses being slanderous and petty against each other. I also believe keeping a professional attitude and backing off when you feel like stating the hard truth is the best way to approach this emotional issue.

Keep it professional, act like professionals, and you may see more volunteers wanting to carry the cross. Until then, the union and we in Bexar County have a lot of fences to mend.

Anonymous said...

As many of you know the training department at the Bexar County Community Supervision Department has been unable to provide coffee at many of our training sessions. Our budget has been tight and made this decision necessary.

About a month ago a collection was started for coffee supplies. Employees were asked to provide what ever they could and members of the union quickly responded. Much of the supplies donated so far have come from union members.

We hope to start providing coffee at the training sessions soon.

Douglas Tomasini