Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy has published a guest editorial piece in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.
The op-ed piece highlights the critical work of corrections and calls on the state legislature to fully fund the contract for correctional employees.
You can view the entire piece on the WWUB website. The piece is also published in its entirety below:
Support our correctional employees who keep us safe
By John Scearcy
Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 117
The recent brawl that took place at the Washington State Penitentiary is another reminder of the inherent dangers of working inside a prison.
The fight broke out in the West Complex gym and involved 25 to 30 inmates. The officers on duty at the time were faced with the difficult task of restoring order while at the same time protecting themselves and other inmates.
Given the challenges, prison staff responded quickly and effectively, quelling a dangerous incident that could have escalated into a deadly riot.
Correctional employees routinely face this type of violence.
In the 12 prisons scattered across the state, they are assaulted, spit on, thrown at with cocktails of bodily fluids, and called to break up fights. They do their jobs without body armor, a baton, a gun, or a Taser.
At the same time, these workers oversee, nurse, train, counsel and protect some of our state’s most dangerous offenders, the majority of whom will be released back into the community.
These are important, difficult jobs. Yet too often correctional employees don’t receive the recognition they deserve.
We can support our state’s correctional employees by fully funding their contract, which is currently being considered by the Washington State Legislature.
The contract contains modest wage increases that were awarded by an independent arbitrator and deemed financially feasible by the state’s Office of Financial Management. The state’s House of Representatives voted to approve the contract, while the Senate voted against it.
It’s been seven years since these workers have received a cost-of-living adjustment or general wage increase, and they have seen their real earnings shrink by more than 10 percent. Approving the corrections contract would help our state’s economy.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ impact model indicates that a fully-funded Department of Corrections contract would generate $527 million of economic activity statewide.
Small business owners understand that when local workers have more money in their pockets, the entire community benefits. That’s why over a hundred small businesses across the state, including 32 in Walla Walla, have signed a letter supporting funding the corrections’ contract.
The first week in May is Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). This is a time to showcase the accomplishments of our public servants and to express our gratitude for the important services they provide.
Correctional employees risk their lives every day to protect our communities. Now it’s up to the state legislature to make sure we honor the brave men and women who perform this difficult work that helps keep all of us safe.