Deputies decide to change their union

They plan to join the Fraternal Order of Police

Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 7:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 7:14 p.m.

Alachua County sheriff's deputies have voted to switch unions in hope of getting better pay and benefits after several years of economic hard times, union officials said Friday.

Deputies represented by the Police Benevolent Association voted instead to join the Fraternal Order of Police, whose president is Gainesville police officer Jeff McAdams.

The Florida Public Employees Relations Commission counted the votes Friday. The results must be certified, which is expected in about two weeks, McAdams said.

"They want an opportunity for a union to come in and fight for benefits and wages that they haven't been able to secure under the PBA," McAdams said. "This gives us a stronger union in Alachua County. It will give us an opportunity to use our collective voice for the benefit of our members."

Sheriff's employees got a raise of about 2.5 percent in the 2009-10 fiscal year after voting to cut extra pay for holiday work. That was the only raise in several years as the county has faced revenue shortfalls.

ASO deputy Brandon Kutner, president of the local PBA, said he believes deputies were frustrated by budget difficulties.

"I think that played a role in it. Unfortunately, as public servants, I don't think we necessarily can justify the growth in salaries when the private sector is also struggling," Kutner said. "There are only so many years that an individual can see that their pay is stagnant, especially in a profession where it is commonplace to lay your life on the line. I think a lot of this was frustration."

Kutner added that the PBA tried to work with management at the Sheriff's Office and the County Commission on benefits but was not able to reach an agreement.

The FOP's last contract with the city included raises from the previous contract and ran from 2007 to September 2010. Negotiations are under way for a new contract, McAdams said.

In the vote, 79 deputies voted to join the FOP while 37 voted for the PBA.

One voted not to have a union, McAdams said.

A vote was also taken among ASO sergeants and lieutenants — 20 voted for FOP, 18 for PBA and six for no union.

They will have to hold a runoff election within a month.

With the changes, the FOP will now represent officers, corporals and sergeants at GPD along with ASO deputies and jail officers.

It also represents officers at the Alachua Police Department.

McAdams said he is looking forward to developing a cooperative relationship with Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

The PBA, meanwhile, represents members of the High Springs and University of Florida police departments.

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