The title references an old folk tune from the early 1900's sung on the picket lines in front of steel mills, coal mines, and other flashpoints of labor unrest. It was a time when being a "union man" was something to hold your head up about and be proud of.
The highest-paid state employee in California last year, a prison surgeon who took home $777,423, has a history of mental illness, was fired once for alleged incompetence and has not been allowed to treat an inmate for six years because medical supervisors don't trust his clinical skills.
Since July 2005, Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing has mostly been locked out of his job - on paid leave or fired or fighting his termination - at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, state records show. When he has been allowed inside the facility, he has been relegated to reviewing paper medical histories, what prison doctors call "mailroom" duty.
Rohlfing's $235,740 base pay, typical in California's corrections system, accounted for about a third of his income last year. The rest of the money was back pay for more than two years when he did no work for the state while appealing his termination. A supervisor had determined that Rohlfing provided substandard care for two patients, according to state Personnel Board records.
Rohlfing won that case before the board and was rehired and assigned to "mailroom" work in late 2009.
An isolated incident, perhaps? Not likely:
Rohlfing isn't the only doctor in California's cash-strapped prisons earning big money to shuffle paper. Dozens have been relegated to the chore in recent years, according to Kincaid, who said it's the standard assignment given to physicians when questions arise about their clinical ability. Some eventually return to treating patients, some quit and others are ultimately fired, she added.
Last year, a prison doctor who was fired for letting his license expire and was later reinstated by the Personnel Board received $313,610 in back pay, records show. Another, fired for "extreme departure from the medically accepted standard of care," was reinstated and collected $298,787 in lost wages. And a surgeon who had been fired, then put on three years' probation, for missed diagnoses that led to the deaths of two inmates and treatment that robbed another inmate of vision, collected $193,779 in back pay.
Solidarity Forever, baby.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky