Next week, more than two hundred Local 117 members working for the Department of Corrections, along with their families and other supporters, will converge on Olympia with a simple message for legislators: It's time to invest in the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe.

The event kicks off on Monday with a Legislative Reception at the Red Lion Hotel. Members will talk with lawmakers to discuss critical issues facing corrections employees and their families.

The next day, members will meet face-to-face with their legislators at the State Capitol.

In addition to educating legislators about the dangerous work of corrections, we will focus on a few key policy issues.

Our top priority is for the state legislature to invest in corrections employees by funding their contract. Corrections employees put their lives on the line to protect the public, yet they are significantly underpaid for the important public safety work they perform.

Experienced officers, who represent the largest job classification at the state’s Department of Corrections, earn 37 percent less than officers who work at the county level. Other DOC job classifications are similarly underpaid.

The corrections contract contains wage increases for corrections staff that were awarded by an independent arbitrator and deemed financially feasible by the state’s Office of Financial Management.

We will also be asking the legislature to fund an external audit of staffing levels in all Washington state prisons. The Department of Corrections operates under a staffing model that is dangerously outdated. An external audit would identify parts of the system that are understaffed and make recommendations for improvements.

Finally, we need to fix the Public Records Act to protect the personal information of DOC employees. Many corrections employees are harassed by felons who obtain their information through public disclosure.

A bill (SB 5326) before the Washington State Senate would allow prison staff to seek legal damages if their information is used for nefarious purposes.

If you have registered for this event, you should have received a packet with logistical information and an overview of our legislative priorities. If you have any questions, please contact our Political Coordinator, Dustin Lambro, at 1-800-872-3489 ext. 1262.

Thanks to everyone who is taking time off work and away from your families to attend. This is going to be a great event. See you next week!