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Big pay hikes for corrections workers in a TN county will close longstanding wage gap

Downtown Memphis sits up on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. (Photo credit: John Coletti/Getty Images)
Big pay hikes for corrections workers in a TN county will close longstanding wage gap

More than 200 corrections workers in Shelby County, Tennessee, who formed a union through AFSCME Local 1733 will see their pay rise by as much as 20% starting in mid-April.

The Shelby County Commission unanimously approved the pay hikes for the workers, most of whom are guards. The 13-0 approval on Jan. 10 comes after many county officials said the pay hikes were long overdue. Employees should see the raise in their April paychecks. Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris also supported the increase.

Local 1733 President Jason Hunter said the raises will close a pay gap between Shelby County’s corrections officers and deputies dating back 20 years. Both perform the same duties, but deputies were being paid several thousand dollars more than COs. Hunter, a Shelby County corrections deputy, recognized his co-workers' hard work.

“I am so proud of the work our members did to address this wage issue,” he said. “Our members went through the books and were able to lobby the mayor, the Shelby County Corrections Department and the county commissioners to show that our responsibilities were the same, but our pay was unfairly lower than a similar job title. Members will see a 20% raise – those making $38,000 will see their salaries increase to $53,000.”

Members like Hope Shaw-Patillo first began researching the pay discrepancies after the county changed the CO schedule from an 8-hour shift to a 12-hour shift. As chapter chair for AFSCME 1733, Shaw knew that the corrections department was receiving more federal funding, making it possible for the county to provide pay parity.

She and her fellow officers spoke before the mayor and city council at several county commission meetings. Local 1733 members also sent hundreds of letters and made calls to the mayor, county council, and Shelby County commissioners.

Shaw-Patillo said winning this monumental raise will change her life.

 “I am seriously looking into purchasing my own home, and can actually plan for my future,” she said. “It means I can help my kids with their college expenses. It also means some of my co-workers won’t have to work multiple jobs and can spend more time with their own families.”

Willie Brooks, commission chair and the pay-hike resolution’s sponsor, said, “I am glad that we found a way to work with all stakeholders to correct this pay disparity and raise the pay of our corrections officers. These individuals work tough jobs and long hours to keep our community safe.” 

The raises are part of a broader effort by local leaders to improve employee retention and recruitment.

“This raise will address a significant pay disparity, help us recruit and retain officers, and provide for the safety and welfare of our community,” Harris said.

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