AUSTIN - AFSCME Correctional Officers from the Texas Panhandle visited their elected officials in the State Capitol on Thursday, April 11th to advocate for provisions in the state budget that would increase their pay and secure their pensions.
That group included Terry Garbs and Robert Garbs, who not only work together at the T.L. Roach Jr. Unit in Childress but are also a married couple living in Paducah.
“We met in prison,” joked Terry Garbs, who holds the rank of Correctional Officer V, just like her husband.
AFSCME correctional officers were visiting the State Capitol to voice their support for current proposals in the House Budget (House Bill 1) that would restructure the career ladder to increase pay and better reward experience on the job. The House Budget also includes improvements to the pension system. Addressing problems in the pension system this legislative session is fiscally responsible because the problem will only grow worse the longer it is ignored. AFSCME correctional officers also explained that both increasing pay and securing pensions will cut down on high worker turnover rates and make it easier to recruit skilled staff.
Describing the value of her and her husband’s work, Terry Garbs said: “You must always know where you are and who is around you. I think there is a tendency to dismiss what we do because we walk out of the gate safe so many days. They don’t pay us for the days things go right. They pay us for the day things could go wrong. And things can go really wrong, pretty quick.”
She continued: “The pension is a huge deal. We work hard for our money. And I think it’s fair to expect that at the end of our career, our money will work for us. And if it’s not fully funded, how is that going to happen?”
The Garbs also described how they use their earnings to give back to their community beyond their public service as correctional officers.
“We help a lot of people out, family and friends,” said Robert Garbs.
“It isn’t just what we do in our job,” continued Terry Garbs. “It’s what we do in community service. We’re there to help for fundraisers when there are people in the community who need help. Our time, our money, whatever is needed. As a unit, officers step up and do that on a regular basis.”
Robert Garbs also discussed what it is like to work with his wife in the Roach Unit: “You have to live two different lives. She’s my wife and I’m crazy about her.”
“When we’re inside the fence, she’s a correctional officer just like I am.”
Sergeant Darrin Eakin, President of AFSCME local 3848 in Amarillo, was in the State Capitol with the Garbs. He described how he and his wife pay thousands of dollars in medical bills every month, "I just want to make sure society is safe. My wife and I are just trying to make ends meet."
Earlier in the week, the State Senate passed its version of a state budget. However, senators excluded the pension funding that was in House Bill 1, and only included about half the funding the House approved to give a pay raise to correctional employees.