Correctional officer Mollie Jansen and some of her colleagues at Ohio’s Mansfield Correctional Institution are helping to put a human face on the critical issue of understaffing that is threatening the health and safety of officers and inmates at the state facility.
Jansen, who has worked for almost three years at the mixed-security prison for men, is a member of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association /AFSCME Local 11, which has been calling on state authorities to fill vacant positions at Mansfield and other correctional institutions in the state to relieve the understaffing. The issue has grown even more critical since last October, when an inmate in Mansfield took a female correction officer (not Jansen) hostage for nearly 11 hours.
This past weekend, the Mansfield News Journal and other Gannett newspapers focused on the issue, airing OCSEA’s concern that “programing and staffing issues” are root causes for the hostage-taking. OCSEA’s efforts to inform the public and elected officials about the issue have made it a subject of news media attention like never before.
The News Journal interviewed CO Jansen about her anxiety working at Mansfield, pointing out “she’s already undergone counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder” that began about six months ago “when an inmate grabbed her as she tried to escort him to his cell and he couldn’t be subdued with pepper spray. Now, she said, she’s had enough. “I won’t stay a correction officer,” the paper quoted her saying. “I can’t. It’s too dangerous.”
The News Journal story noted that of all the state correctional facilities, Mansfield has had the highest number of staff assaults between 2011 and 2013, with 55 injured. The facility, which opened in 1990, housed 2,589 inmates as of Jan. 4, 2016. It has a security staff of 436, according to the prison’s website.
“Statewide, there are 6,547 correction officers, about eight inmates for each correction officer compared to seven to one in November 2008 when the prison population was at its peak,” the paper said.
CO Shawn Gruber, an OCSEA board member, suggested three ways to reduce assaults against staff: lower the prison population, increase correctional staff and listen to staff on the frontlines.
OCSEA also says that state prison officials need to end the practice of allowing officers to work alone with inmates.
The United Auto Workers alleges that Volkswagen has failed to consult with a newly elected maintenance workers union on a range of issues from vending machine prices to out-of-pocket prescription drug costs despite a union victory at the plant in December. The union in filings with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday also alleges […]
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The AFL-CIO on Feb. 4 launched the first in a series of nationwide symposiums to address the growing economic inequality among U.S. workers – particularly African Americans. Working in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), the AFL-CIO intends to identify the many ways systemic racism affects black workers, and provide real policy solutions to address the growing disparity.
The typical black household now has just 6 percent of the wealth of the typical white household, according to a Demos report, “The Racial Wealth Gap.” “We need to fix the rules of our economy to treat everyone the same,” said AFL-CIO Exec. Vice. Pres. Tefere Gebre in his welcome address. People of color need the biggest ladder to move up to the middle class, and that way is through public-sector employment, he added.
The steady loss of public-sector jobs after the Great Recession disproportionately affected African Americans. And with the looming threat of an adverse decision in the Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the black middle class might become obsolete.
“We realize that black workers are the canary in the mines. Everything that happens to labor will happen to us harder,” cautioned the Rev. Terry Melvin, president of CBTU and co-author of “A Future for Workers: A Contribution from Black Labor.”
“Black workers comprise the segment of the working class that normally is subject to the forward thrusts of employer offensives. It is the segment of the working class that suffers the most from unemployment and underemployment,” the report concludes.
Now more than ever, African-American workers need good jobs with strong benefits and wages. And just as urgently, labor needs to organize black workers to grow the labor movement.
Labor radio show host Rick Smith interviewed Vernon Gammon of Local 391 about MillerCoors plans to shut down the brewing facility in Eden, North Carolina.
(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) – The Teamsters Union will file a lawsuit this week against the West Virginia State Senate accusing Senate leaders of concealing email communications with a professor at West Virginia University (WVU) concerning right-to-work (RTW) legislation.
DAN AND NICK, I want to personally thank you and your team for the excellent support you provided to my team this outage. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the way you and your team worked safely and error free. This was the first time I did an outage utilizing boilermakers (I used to work the outages in the east, and we used in-house workers) and cannot be more happy with the results.
Five-year grant to fund health and education programs for Flint children FLINT, Mich. (Feb. 9, 2016) – The United Way of Genesee County today announced a joint effort made by General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to donate $3 million to support the increased health and education needs for the children of Flint […]
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Former AFSCME Sec.-Treas. William Lucy returned to the union’s headquarters Feb. 8 to celebrate Black History Month, declaring that low-wage jobs are the new slavery and that unions – particularly AFSCME – are powerful instruments that can bring people together and elevate dignity and respect for all working people.
“AFSCME started as just an idea, because we were not granted the same rights that unions in the public sector got under Franklin Roosevelt,” he said. “We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve gotten, turning our good idea into a great organization. We’ve empowered African Americans, and all public service workers.”
Lucy was introduced by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who noted not only his nearly five decades of leadership with AFSCME, but also Lucy’s work as the president of Public Service International, which represents millions of public service workers around the globe, and how he co-founded both the Free South Africa Movement and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).
“Bill was also in Memphis in 1968, working with the 1,300 sanitation workers, standing shoulder to shoulder with them as they fought for representation with AFSCME,” President Saunders said. “This union is in his heart, and his soul, and his blood.”
Lucy traced historical milestones that benefited African Americans and AFSCME, such as President Kennedy’s executive order that opened union representation for federal public employees, and which AFSCME used in lobbying state governments to expand union rights for public service workers. While many African Americans were leery of President Johnson, he said, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act that came out of his administration are landmarks.
The formation of the CBTU came about because African-American trade unionists were disappointed that the AFL-CIO decided to remain “neutral” in the Presidential race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, Lucy said. “We thought there was a big difference between the two, so we called a meeting in Chicago. We were not the only ones concerned, because 1,300 other black trade unionists showed up for that meeting.”
Lucy compared President Obama to FDR, noting that the two had pulled our nation out of great depressions and recessions. “And now the same crowd that caused our problems are asking for another chance.”
He said the coalition of labor, African Americans, women and Hispanics is key for progressives to win elections. “Our opponents want to divide and conquer, but if we stay united, we will win.”
World War II was the start of Lillian Hatcher’s many years fighting for social justice. While doing defense work at Briggs Manufacturing in Detroit, she noticed that African-American women were passed over for promotions to riveter positions. Determined to do something about it, she joined UAW Local 742 and the Double Victory Club, an African-American […]
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