Teamsters accuse Florida corrections department of wage theftby Dara Kam | October 13th, 2011
The Teamsters Union is accusing the Florida Department of Corrections of cheating prison workers out of nearly an hour of pay each day, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor yesterday.
But the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union that now represents the state’s 20,000 correctional and probational officers, counters that the Teamsters, in an elections battle with the PBA over the prison workers, are “showboating.”
The one-page complaint, filed in Orlando, alleges the state is in violation with federal labor laws because correctional officers are not being paid for the time it takes for them to go through security and receive equipment such as pepper spray before they can clock in to work. They also have to clock out before dropping off the equipment at the end of the day, according to the complaint. The Teamsters are asking the Labor Department to investigate the practice.
“Correctional officers suffer because of wage theft by the FDOC and also because they have had no pay increases for the past seven years,” said Michael Filler, director of the Teamsters Public Services Division. “All officers who put in a fair’s day work are legally entitled to a fair day’s pay.”
Federal courts in other cases have ruled that the time spent before clocking in is compensable, the complaint says.
But the PBA executive director Matt Puckett said the Teamsters’ latest complaint is just grand-standing because the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue.
The high court ruled that state’s have sovereign immunity in wage cases, meaning the Teamsters complaint likely won’t go anywhere, PBA executive director Matt Puckett said.
Last month, the Teamsters filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over the privatization of the 18-county region south of Polk County to the Florida Keys. The PBA challenged the privatization in court and won after a Tallahassee circuit judge ruled the manner in which the legislature ordered the privatization was unconstitutional.
And, Puckett said, PBA lawyers worked out a deal with the corrections department so that prison workers who are late because they’ve had to wait in line to pass through security and get their equipment won’t be docked for pay or written up. That’s the best they could do, Puckett said.
“I think they’re trying to showboat a little bit. Unless they can go to the Supreme Court and overturn it, I think how we’re combating the issue with the DOC is the right way to go,” Puckett said. Ballots on the union representation start going out on Tuesday, Puckett said.