(MONROE, Wash.) –Teamster corrections employees picketed at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe and the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla on Thursday to demand that the legislature pass a budget that funds their contract and prevents a costly government shutdown.
Picketers at both facilities held signs that read: DOC Corrections Employees – Keeping our Communities Safe – and they urged the public to support them.
“We risk our lives every day to protect the public yet we haven’t received a raise in seven years,” said Sgt. Michael Boe of the Monroe Correctional Complex. “The legislature needs to stop arguing about the budget and fund our contract now. Lawmakers are acting irresponsibly by risking a government shutdown that would compromise staff safety in our state’s prisons. It’s time to do the right thing.”
A government shutdown would lead to widespread layoffs at the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC). If the legislature does not pass a budget by June 30, the DOC has estimated that up to 50 percent of correctional employees, 2,800 staff, could be subject to temporary layoffs.
“Custody staff, counselors, maintenance staff, office personnel, warehouse workers, health care staff – you name it – thousands would be laid off,” said Kathe Jackson, a nurse at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. “The prisons would essentially be on lockdown until a budget gets passed. This creates a dangerous environment for staff and offenders alike. Legislators should not be putting us in this position.”
The DOC is already struggling to house its existing inmates. Recently, the agency signed a contract with the private prison GEO group to transfer inmates out-of-state to alleviate overcrowding in Washington prisons. Correctional employees say that more revenue is needed so that the DOC can responsibly house offenders in Washington State.
“Correctional employees risk their lives to protect all of us. They are the unsung heroes of our communities,” said John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer. “The legislature has an opportunity to honor their work by funding their contract. We’re calling on them to act now.”