Probation, parole officers rally to demand back pay

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | 9:25 p.m. CDT; updated 4:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Probation and parole officers rallied Tuesday to demand that they begin receiving about $4.4 million in back pay the courts have said the state owes them.

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 2000 rallied Tuesday in Kansas City and St. Louis, saying they are tired of waiting for money that is rightfully theirs.

“We’ve been deeply bruised in regards to morale,” said Sterling Brown, a union organizer for the union in Kansas City, where about 25 people turned out for the rally. “It’s a travesty that at this point in the process we are still being denied these funds.”

The legislature this year appropriated $3,715,449 for the office of Corrections Department Director Larry Crawford. They included language to allow the director to use money that doesn’t go to other expenses for back pay for the parole and probation officers. But lawmakers did not require that the department begin disbursing the back pay.

Brown said Crawford has not responded to the union’s efforts to meet with him. He said he’s not sure who is responsible for the delay in disbursing the back pay, but “Crawford could definitely be a catalyst in regards to releasing these funds and making them available to officers.”

Crawford said he had tried to contact the president of the union by telephone recently and wrote her a letter Tuesday. He said his department’s budget would be tight this year and it would be spring before the corrections department would be able to determine if any funds remained for the back pay. That would be after the Blunt administration — and likely Crawford — is out of office.

And Crawford noted that the state Office of Administration would calculate how to repay the back pay and write the checks.

In 2003, the state’s nearly 1,200 probation and parole officers were excluded from a $1,200 pay raise for state workers. Republican lawmakers argued in 2004 that it would be unfair to other state workers to give probation and parole workers anything more than the average $1,215 raise their union already had negotiated.

The workers sued, claiming that the state was retaliating against them because of their union activity. In 2004, Cole County Judge Richard Callahan ruled that the officers were illegally excluded from the raise.

A state appeals court upheld that decision, and Callahan in April issued another ruling saying the workers were owed additional pay from 2004 to 2007, amounting to $4.4 million in back pay and $316,248 in taxes.

Brown said the union also wants the state to begin paying the $100 per month pay raise the workers were initially denied.

“We’re not greedy people,” Brown said. “We work hard. We get up every morning with the intention of protecting and serving the citizens of the state of Missouri. We are not asking for more than what we deserve; we are only asking for what we were denied unjustly.”

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