SACRAMENTO - It is no secret that the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has had a difficult time in retaining agents. ABC invests approximately $100,000 in the first year of training of new agents, both at the academy and in the field. However, it is quite common for these new hires to take their training to other State agencies where they can earn the same pay and benefits, without having to work two nights a week and most holidays.
In March 2015, CSLEA President Alan Barcelona and CABCA President Kevin Highbaugh met with several legislators to follow up on a report ABC presented to the Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee about its high vacancy rate and recruitment and retention issues. At the time, ABC was down 22 agents (positions that had not been filled) and 56% of agents had left ABC for other state agency jobs.
On November 17 and 19, 2015, CSLEA and its affiliate California Alcoholic Beverage Control Agents (CABCA) continued to press for remedies to stem the tide of newly trained agents leaving ABC. On November 17th, CABCA President Kevin Highbaugh, CSLEA Chief Counsel Kasey Clark, and CSLEA Lobbyists Shane Lavigne and Kate Bell of Capitol Advocacy met with Alexis Podesta, Undersecretary and Interim Secretary of Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency and Tina Daley, Agency Deputy Secretary, Fiscal Policy and Administration. On November 19th, the same CSLEA/CABCA representatives met with Helen Kerstein, Senior Fiscal and Policy Analyst for the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Both Agency and the LAO were well aware of the problem. Given the availability of special funds and the support of industry as well as legislators, the discussion focused on the obstacles to a workable solution. CSLEA and CABCA made it clear they are willing to re-open the Unit 7 contract immediately to address the problem, and are committed to bringing the issue to the budget process and the bargaining table. CSLEA and CABCA helped facilitate Agency's analysis of the problem by furnishing data including a number of exit interviews from former ABC agents who identified pay as a major factor in their decisions to leave for other agencies.