Proposition F - Reclassify Deputy Sheriffs

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the March 2004 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

Prop. F would amend the City Charter section under which the deputy sheriffs and the City negotiate and arbitrate their labor agreements. Presently, deputy sheriffs are covered by Charter section A8.409, which covers most City employees except nurses (covered by Charter section A8.403), transit operators (covered by Charter section A8.404) and police and fire (including fire department paramedics). Police and Fire negotiate and arbitrate under charter section A8.590-1 et seq.

Proponents argue that the reason to move deputy sheriffs into the same labor section as Police and Fire is to "recognize" their public safety role. The reality behind this symbolic "recognition" is that this Charter amendment would, for a variety of reasons, lead the deputy sheriffs to get increased benefits.

Why it is on the ballot

The Charter contains separate provisions for Police and Fire negotiations, and "miscellaneous" employee negotiations. Charter section A8.590-1 et seq., covering Police and Fire, was passed by the voters in 1990 over the strong opposition of the Agnos administration. The language of section A8.590-1 et seq. ("section A8.590") was largely written by lawyers for the Police Officers Association and SEIU Local 798, and contains few management protections because the unions had collected sufficient signatures to place the measure on the ballot without Board approval. Although the Board ultimately agreed to place section A8.590 on the ballot, the City lacked the bargaining leverage to make any significant modifications to the text proposed by the unions' lawyers.

Charter section A8.409, on the other hand, which covers all the other City employees, was negotiated between the City and many of its other unions in 1991, before being placed on the ballot. Charter section A8.409 contains a number of safeguards not contained in section A8.590. In particular:

  • Section A8.409 has deadlines that require agreements and arbitration awards to be in place before the beginning of each fiscal year, to permit the City to budget appropriately. Section A8.590 has no negotiation deadlines.
  • Section A8.409 has civil service "carve-outs" (things which may not be negotiated) leaving basic merit-system issues such as classification, qualifications for employment, hiring lists, probationary status, and testing to the Civil Service Commission. Section A8.590 has no express Civil Service carve-outs.
  • Although both sections A8.409 and A8.590 have criteria an arbitrator must apply in deciding on appropriate contract provisions if the parties cannot agree, Charter section A8.409 focuses more heavily on the City's ability to pay the cost of an arbitration award, and requires specific findings under each criterion.

Deputy sheriffs are presently grouped with miscellaneous employees under section A8.409. The primary duties of sheriffs in San Francisco are serving as jail guards, courtroom bailiffs, and building security.

Because section A8.590 contains no deadlines, agreements with Police and Fire are almost always reached after all other negotiations have concluded. In general, Police and Fire raises have been somewhat higher than raises for other City employees, including deputy sheriffs. However, in recent negotiations, deputy sheriffs have gained ground.

There are approximately 840 budgeted deputy sheriffs in City government, and about 780 actual people on the payroll


Those who support this measure state:

  • This measure recognizes that deputy sheriffs are "safety" employees. While deputy sheriffs do not have patrol duties in San Francisco, they are appropriately treated as safety employees. Indeed, with respect to retirement and many other matters, deputy sheriffs are already treated as safety employees.


Those who oppose this measure state:

  • None of the major differences between sections A8.409 and section A8.590 are due to the fact that one covers safety employees and the other covers miscellaneous employees. Rather, the differences are due to the fact that section A8.590 passed a year earlier, and the City lacked the leverage to negotiate needed safeguards into the measure. Section A8.409, while itself flawed, contains better protections for the City's budget and civil service restrictions. To the extent this measure is triggered by the perception that Police and Fire negotiate on more favorable terms than other City employees, the proper solution would be to put all City employees under section A8.409.

SPUR's analysis

This measure would simply move deputy sheriffs from section A8.409 to section A8.590. The purpose of this move, according to the sponsors, is to recognize that deputy sheriffs, like police officers and firefighters, are "safety" employees--i.e. that their job involves protecting public safety, and that it entails substantial personal risks. The practical effect of moving the deputy sheriffs will be that their contracts will likely be negotiated at the end of the negotiation cycle, along with Police and Fire. This will enhance the likelihood that deputy sheriffs will be treated similarly to police and fire employees.

It weakens existing protections of the City. There is, in fact, no good policy reason to have the public safety employees negotiate their labor contracts under a different Charter provision from the rest of the City employees. The right solution would be to put all City employees under section A8.409, rather than to weaken existing protections.

SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Proposition F.