Corrections workers plan rally in Olympia

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — Hundreds of corrections employees from across Washington, with one bus slated to leave from Clallam Bay Corrections Center, will meet in Olympia on Thursday to rally in front of the Capitol.

The employees will call for legislation to improve on-the-job safety for corrections employees, a representative from a labor union announced Monday.

Teamsters Local Union 117 — which represents state Department of Corrections employees — is hosting the 10 a.m. rally.

Some 400 state employees are expected to attend the rally, Local Union 117 Communications Coordinator Paul Zilly said.

Between 20 and 25 of the 366 represented by the union at Clallam Bay Corrections Center are expected to attend as well as some 20 to 25 workers from the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks.

A march around the Capitol at 416 14th Ave. S.E. in Olympia is scheduled to culminate on the Capitol steps with speeches from union officials, corrections employees and state legislators, Zilly said.

Zilly said the main issues that union-represented employees — which include corrections officers, counselors, psychologists and maintenance workers — want addressed are on-the-job safety and securing the same negotiating rights that represented police officers and firefighters have.

“This will be another attempt to get our message out,” Zilly said.

Meet with lawmakers

About one-third of those who attend plan to meet with state legislators, he added.

“We have many, many visits set up with legislators,” Zilly said.

Teamsters Local Union 117 represents 6,000 corrections employees across the state, Zilly said, and 16,000 total employees in Washington state.

Dan Pacholke, director of the prisons division of the state Department of Corrections, said he is aware of the planned employee rally and that the department has taken steps over the past few years to address employee concerns over on-the-job safety.

Pacholke said these measures have included establishing employee-run committees at each of the state’s corrections facilities to address safety and introducing new management training programs.

“Staff safety is much more a matter of practice than policy,” Pacholke said.

On-the-job safety is the top priority, Pacholke said, though working with corrections inmates is by nature a high-risk job that puts every employee in a certain unavoidable amount of danger.

“I want every employee to be safe, but the bottom line is, I can’t guarantee that,” Pacholke said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 08. 2013 5:47PM
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