Teamsters corrections workers say safety and security conditions in the prisons have deteriorated to dangerous levels.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, Teamsters corrections workers raised their voices, demanding that DOC leadership do more to improve safety inside the state prison system.

Employees at the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) began to gather at 6:00 a.m. yesterday and remained down the hill from the facility until late in the afternoon. Workers from all shifts circled the block holding picket signs and chanting, "What do we want? Safety and respect!"

Donna Lytle, a medical assistant who provides cares for the approximately 1,500 incarcerated individuals at the prison, says the majority of the people she treats are respectful. "Sometimes they just need somebody to listen to them so that's a lot of what I do," she explains.

But she also sees that the security situation inside the prison has deteriorated. "In the four years I've been here, I've seen an increase in assaults on staff," she says. "We work hard, we sacrifice a lot with our families. We deserve to have a safe place to come to work." 


Donna Lytle (r) spent all day on Wednesday picketing to demand safer working conditions.

From 2019 to 2023, the DOC saw a threefold increase in the rate of serious assaults on staff. On Monday, another assault occurred at the facility when an officer at MCC working in the Sky River Treatment Center was punched in the face. 

Workers are calling for an independent, comprehensive safety audit and for the DOC to involve line staff in decisions related to safety and security, among a number of other demands. 

"We need to let the people in Olympia know that we're the ones in here doing the job," said Julius Monroe, a transport officer and 23-year employee at the facility. "They're making the rules telling us how to do the job and they don't know what it takes for us to do it. We need to change that."


Julius Monroe, an officer for 23 years at MCC, says DOC leadership needs to do more to prioritize safety.

Workers are also demanding an end to dangerous custody overrides that put individuals with a history of violence in less restrictive parts of the prison. "Stopping overrides will make the facilities safer not only for staff but for the entire prison population," said Sarena Davis, Director of Corrections and Law Enforcement with Teamsters 117.

With negotiations over the workers' 2025-2027 contract in full swing, the Union has proposed several ways to improve safety. We want to hold management accountable and provide more support for workers who are involved in critical incidents.

"DOC leadership needs to understand that we are serious about improving staff safety,” said Paul Dascher, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Corrections workers make tremendous sacrifices to protect our communities and prepare the prison population for eventual release. We will continue to fight to make prisons safer and make sure our members rights are protected."


See photos from the Picket for Safety and Respect here.