Sacramento Bee: Ending prison contract will put disabled out of work and cost taxpayers

By Patricia Bates and Jesús Andrade
Thursday, June 7, 2018

Published by the Sacramento Bee

The Legislature should reject a troubling proposal by the governor to end a state prison's janitorial contract with PRIDE Industries in favor of hiring unionized state employees. A failure to do so will result in a loss for taxpayers, for a vital part of the state's prison health care system and, most importantly, for hard-working people with disabilities.

The budget conference committee could discuss the issue as soon as Wednesday.

PRIDE Industries — a nonprofit that serves businesses and government agencies nationwide while creating meaningful jobs for the disabled — has provided exceptional janitorial services at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton since February 2016. That contract is now in jeopardy and could result in 121 people with disabilities losing their jobs.

In August 2015, an evaluation of the facility highlighted subpar sanitation and cleanliness standards that, left uncorrected, would have jeopardized its operating license. The evaluation also found problems with high staff turnover and transfers, non-qualified candidates and applicants failing the background test. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wasn't getting good people to take the prison janitorial jobs, and when they did, those employees left for other jobs as soon as they could.

The evaluation suggested several alternatives, including contracting out the jobs. The state awarded the contract to PRIDE and since, the facility has received nearly perfect scores from an accrediting commission.

The contract is up for renewal, but the state Department of Personnel Administration has advised that the contract violated state protections against contracting out state jobs. The recommended transition plan to disband PRIDE's staff of 235 people, including 121 people with disabilities, is scheduled to begin in August.

That shift will result in an additional cost of more than $5 million. The Legislature needs to step in and direct prison officials to work out a new contract with PRIDE to ensure the facility continues to operate in a safe and sanitary fashion. That would be the best outcome for employees, taxpayers, the state and the city of Stockton.

Patricia Bates, a Laguna Niguel Republican, represents the 36th state Senate District and is the Senate Republican leader, and can be contacted at senator.bates@senate.ca.gov. Jesús Andrade represents District 6 on the Stockton City Council and can be contacted at jesus.andrade@stocktonca.gov.