It was a sea of red at our DOC negotiations this week. Members of our union’s bargaining committee were decked out in red T-shirts, red caps, red sweatshirts and blouses. Our team had deliberately coordinated our dress to protest the State’s proposal to restrict our access to vacation leave.

In the previous negotiations session, the State sought changes to the vacation leave article (Article 21) in our contract to allow DOC management to discipline members who make certain kinds of vacation requests by defining it as unscheduled leave.

Our team was united in rejecting the proposal. To show our unity and send a message to the State, the group decided to wear red for this session. All members participated in the action.

On Thursday, the State made a stab at another idea that was unanimously opposed by our negotiations team. The State proposed designating Visiting as a Specialized Unit.

There are a couple of problems with that. Not only would it erode our bid system and strip members of their right to work in those areas, it wouldn’t address the problems they claim they’re trying to solve.

The answer is not to diminish members' bid rights, rather provide more training and more visit staff. In short, management needs to do their job, but of course that would require spending more money, and DOC is always looking to do more with less.

Other topics for discussion included hours of work, assignment of overtime, probationary periods and trial service. Many of the State’s proposals appeared to want to make union members pay for mismanagement by the Department.

"We need to stay strong and support each other."

We are nearing the end of negotiations over language issues and expect to exchange economic proposals with the State in our next session scheduled for July 10-11.

If you have questions, please contact your bargaining committee member or your union representative. You can watch a short video update from Officer Devon Burnett of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center below: