Cameron County Sheriff Deputies push for Collective Bargaining

Dozens of Cameron County Sheriff Deputies hit the streets in uniformed shirts and with signs in hand, making the last push to get voters to the polls Tuesday.

They're trying to make history and get a collective bargaining referendum approved by voters.

Deputy Luis Mendieta has worked for the sheriff's department for 16 years and is the current president of the Cameron County Sheriff Deputies Association.

He said collective bargaining has been a long time coming.

"In reality, that's what we are all looking for - our future our benefits, Mendieta said as he and other deputies campaigned outside Burns Elementary School. We're all looking out for our benefits, our kids coming-up to the sheriff's office, working for the sheriff's office and our county itself. So, we're looking out for their future also, not only just ours."

If approved collective bargaining would give the association the right to give their input on things from vacation time to working conditions and regulations, and even negotiating benefits and salary.

Victor Leos, a deputy for nearly 10 years, agrees with Mendieta.

"Who better to know what we need, than the people who are out there serving the community? Leos said. I know that we need a lot more deputies on the street, more training, equipment|"

Some county leaders expressed concern about having the referendum approved; arguing that if deputies asked for a salary raise, it might lead to a property-tax increase.

However, the deputies said having more input will only strengthen the department.

"I train countless deputies, and I TMve seen them leave to better paying departments (or) offices that offer better incentives, Leos said. By having incentives for deputies to stay (in Cameron County), the community not only has an officer that has experience, but (a deputy who will) know what to do if a critical incident happens."

The deputies said they are not worried about early voting numbers and are confident voters will make it to the polls.

"We have a lot of supporters, family and friends that are going out to vote and we've seen the numbers, and of course, it will increase by tonight," Mendieta said.