Honoring Our Corrections Officers

by Jon Melegrito  |  May 02, 2011

AFSCME corrections officers in Wisconsin
AFSCME corrections officers in Wisconsin join thousands of workers at the state Capitol in February to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting bill. (Photo credit: Greg Dixon)

At a time when public service workers are under attack by anti-worker, anti-union politicians, National Correctional Officers and Employees Week (May 1 through 7) is an excellent opportunity to recognize the thousands of corrections officers across the country and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

These courageous and dedicated women and men work hard and perform heroic acts in very dangerous conditions, often risking their lives to keep our communities safe.

Yet, these officers continue to be used as scapegoats by politicians who blame public service workers for budget problems they did not create.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a union-busting bill stripping corrections officers and other public employees of collective bargaining rights. Twenty-one other states are considering the same measure.

More than a dozen states, notably Ohio and Michigan, are also using state budget shortfalls as an excuse to privatize corrections and shift core responsibilities to companies that are motivated by profit, not service.

Right-to-work laws – designed to weaken unions – are currently considered in Indiana, Minnesota and 14 other states.

Last year, corrections officers in Iowa opened up their contracts to accept a week of mandatory, unpaid days and the temporary elimination of deferred compensation allotments.

To help find solutions to states’ economic problems, corrections officers along with other public service workers have made sacrifices because they care and they are proud of the work they do.

In observance of this special week, national steering committee members of AFSCME Corrections United (ACU) are in Washington, DC to talk about these critical challenges and plan for the battles ahead. They will also make a renewed effort to win passage of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S.3991), which would grant collective bargaining rights to law enforcement officers across the country, including corrections officers, emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters. Last year, the U.S. House passed the bill but the Senate failed to take action.

“All workers deserve the freedom to be in a union and collectively bargain,” says Sgt. First Class Chet Millard, a veteran of both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a Wisconsin corrections officer (AFSCME Council 24, Local 219). For Millard, the attack on workers’ rights in Wisconsin is an attack on the freedoms he fought to protect as a member of our armed services.

“We are proud of the difficult work they do,” declares Pres. Gerald W. McEntee. “Too often, their voice and experience are undervalued by those in government who seek to privatize their jobs or cut their pay and benefits. We salute their brave and dedicated service. We will continue to fight for them and the valuable work they do for all of us.”

Read more about corrections issues in the latest ACU News.

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