AFSCME probation members say enough is enough to unsafe working conditions

Members of AFSCME Local 685 and AFSCME Local 1967 were joined by supporters at a rally on Tuesday to demand safer workspaces.

Led by the Coalition of Probation Unions leaders and supporters Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, and IAFF Local 1014 President Dave Gillotte, the rally was held in response to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors lack of action to protect probation department employees from being assaulted on the job. More than two dozen probation officers per month are assaulted by justice involved youth in Los Angeles County probation facilities. “Most of these assaults happen when officers are breaking up fights between youth to stop them from hurting each other or killing each other,” said AFSCME Local 685 President Hans Liang. “Since January, there have been an average of 113 youth on youth assaults each month in the halls and camps. Imagine how many more there would be or how serious these fights would be if we weren’t there to intervene immediately.”

Probation department employees have been fighting for safer workspaces for years. In April 2021, probation employees called for change after Detention Service Office Michael Wall died in the line of duty shortly after breaking up a fight at Central Juvenile Hall. No changes were made. A year later, the Coalition of Probation Unions held a rally in April 2022 to present their 3-point plan to strengthen and modernize the probation department, which included ways to make their workplace safer.

Lack of staffing and outsourcing are the main contributors to unsafe working environments. The probation department has not been hiring qualified workers to handle probationers. Instead, they have been outsourcing bargaining unit work to underqualified and untrained workers, which puts probation officers at a greater risk of being assaulted. Earlier this month, the County posted three newly created positions that do similar work as probation officers, but the positions do not require a degree or practically any experience.

AFSCME Local 685 member Stacy Ford believes that the Board of Supervisors have been grossly negligent. “My question that I have is, who holds the Board of Supervisors responsible for their negligent actions?” said Ford during the rally. “This Board has done nothing in support of the probation department. In fact, they have supported rules, regulations, and legislation that has crippled our camps and juvenile halls. This Board should be under fire for what I call unresponsiveness. They have been unresponsive to our calls for help. They have ignored the cries for help from the young people we serve. These young people want to know they are safe in our care.” Ford also called for charges to be filed against the Board for failing to provide a safe working environment.

The Coalition of Probation Unions requested funding from California Governor Gavin Newsom, however the Board of Supervisors rejected the funding, stating that it was not needed. The Coalition and all of its supporters call on the Board of Supervisors to adapt their 3-point plan, which will address the unsafe working conditions and significantly reduce the amount of probation officers assaulted on the job.