Manatee sheriff's deputies turn down union attempt

Herald staff writersDecember 6, 2012 

MANATEE -- A vote among Manatee County Sheriff Office's rank-and-file deputies to let a union handle their salary negotiations did not pass.

Had the measure passed Wednesday night, The Florida Police Benevolent Association could have provided collective bargaining for deputies below the rank of sergeant in the areas of patrol, courts and administration, said Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Deputies assigned to the corrections bureau would have to vote separately for collective bargaining, Puckett added,

Puckett said 122 deputies voted Wednesday to bring in the PBA for collective bargaining; 10 voted for another union organization; and 201 voted to not unionize when it comes to salary talks.

"The vote to unionize did not prevail," Puckett said Thursday. "It just wasn't time for them to say yes to that. It's obviously not what a segment of the deputies wanted, but I don't think that means they rejected the PBA. They're just not ready to negotiate as a collective bargaining unit."

The vote will not be official for 15 days, providing time for both sides to appeal, Puckett added.

"I will reserve comment until the 15-day appeal deadline passes," Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube said Thursday.

Puckett said there were no irregularities in the vote and he did not expect the PBA to appeal.

Although some of the roughly 370 eligible sheriff's deputies are already members of the PBA, with $22 going out of their pay

monthly to pay into a legal pool that provides help should they need it, this vote was to have, or not have, an exclusive contract with the union for collective bargaining in salary talks. "I think that we had some membership already among the rank and file, but some members felt, especially after the last Manatee County Commission vote, that their concerns were not being addressed," Puckett said.

Commissioners in September unanimously voted for a budget that did not include a tax increase to finance employee pay raises.

Had Wednesday's vote been for collective bargaining, the union would have provided a labor negotiator, labor attorneys and other labor-related resources, Puckett said. The monthly dues would rise $10 to $32 for collective bargaining, Puckett added.

Puckett said the association would like to continue its partnership with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office despite the "no" vote.

"It doesn't mean that because the vote didn't go that we leave," Puckett said. "It just means we're not going to sit down and negotiate a contract." Puckett said the association respects the decision and that the process could be initiated again.

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