Hundreds of Teamster correctional employees, their families, community allies, and other Teamster members, rallied on the steps of the State Capitol in Olympia on January 10 to demand safer conditions and interest arbitration legislation that will ensure that the State’s 6,000 correctional employees be given the same rights as their counterparts at other public safety agencies.
Waving signs reading, “Interest Arbitration Now!” and chanting, "Teamster Power!", prison workers from 12 Washington State institutions, many of whom traveled on buses from cities as far away as Monroe, Walla Walla, Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Clallam Bay to attend the event, marched around the State Capitol before assembling on the Capitol steps.
"We are here to tell our State government that we are tired of their inaction on safety issues," said Eric Smith, a Correctional Sergeant at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.
In addressing the crowd, correctional employees, State Legislators, and Teamsters leaders emphasized the dangerous nature of corrections’ work and the essential role that correctional employees play in keeping our communities safe.
“Correctional employees perform one of the most stressful, dangerous jobs in the United States,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “They deserve a safer working environment and the same rights as other public safety professionals.”
"We secure and ensure the safety of the citizens and taxpayers of this State," said Tara Proctor, a Secretary at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Complex in Connell.
Thompson called on the Washington State Legislature to pass legislation that she said would improve working conditions for correctional employees. “Interest arbitration would force the State to acknowledge the uniquely dangerous nature of corrections’ work and to bargain fairly.”
Sergeant Brad Waddell of the Monroe Correctional Complex reiterated the need for the State Legislature to pass interest arbitration. "We have traveled from all around the State to express our need for a bill of interest arbitration for all Local 117 members at DOC."
Over a dozen State Legislators attended the rally and many spoke at the event. “These legislators are leading the fight to ensure that we are granted the same rights as other public safety groups including the Washington State Patrol, firefighters, and county corrections,” said Michelle Woodrow, Local 117 Director of Corrections & Law Enforcement.
Throughout the day, correctional employees met with legislators in their offices to educate them on the challenges of corrections’ work and to urge them to support interest arbitration legislation.
Already over 1000 correctional employees and their supporters have signed an online petition calling on the State Legislature to pass the legislation. For more information, visit www.DOCProtectsWA.org.