In 2010, Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections (DOC) boasted near full employment with well-trained, experienced corrections officers who considered the job a career and earned a fair wage with good benefits.
Then came Governor Walker’s Act 10. The law stripped COs and all state employees of the ability to bargain with management over wages and benefits.
Today, Wisconsin’s DOC is desperate. It faces record retirements, more than 400 vacancies to fill, forced overtime, record overtime costs of $9.3 million and nearly $12 million in sick time costs. As a result, Wisconsin communities are less safe today.
“For the DOC and for COs, the situation is bad and getting worse,” said Mike Fox, interim executive director of AFSCME Council 32, which represents corrections officers. “Vacancies are growing, and the state can't hire replacements fast enough to keep up.”
Before passage of Act 10, having a strong voice on the job kept morale and professional pride high. An employee survey conducted by the DOC last year found 82 percent cited ‘staff morale’ as the most pressing issue. Some 52 percent raised a red flag about staff retention and 45 percent cited staff safety and wellness as a most pressing issue.
Pay for state COs has fallen sharply and employee costs for benefits keep going up. Neighboring states and many county jails are paying better than the state of Wisconsin.
Iowa’s starting wage is $18.02. In Illinois, the trainee salary is $20.57 an hour. COs in both states have a union contract. In Wisconsin, a CO’s starting pay is $15.34 an hour. Starting pay in Wisconsin’s Brown County jail is $19.11 and $21.18 an hour in Outagamie County.
In 2010, there were only 88 CO vacancies across 21 adult correction facilities in Wisconsin. Now there’s five times that number. These jobs are no longer considered careers for well-trained corrections professionals and are treated as a stepping-stone job until they can find something better, according to Fox.
“Low salaries, dangerously short-staffed prisons, fewer experienced correctional officers, more inexperienced recruits, short-staffing, low morale and mandatory overtime are not the ingredients to attract and sustain a qualified workforce,” said Fox. “Or for a safe and effective prison system that protects Wisconsin’s communities.”
Let’s Honor Our Union History
Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for economic and racial justice, so do AFSCME members today. With strength and solidarity, we honor his legacy through action.
Let’s stand together to reaffirm our commitment to justice. We will Never Quit.
Thank you for honoring our union history
This month, tens of thousands of workers and their allies joined together in Memphis, Tennessee, for I AM 2018, a nationwide campaign to advance social and economic justice by drawing on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike.
Please join us. Even if you couldn’t travel to Memphis, you can take part in this historic moment.
Such a short but powerful statement says that you're not going to let powerful interests rob working families of their freedom to join strong unions. Your recording will be a part of a chorus of workers who know that the fight for freedom has only just begun.
Sisters and brothers: We need to speak up together to secure our future.
Honor MLK's legacy and reaffirm your commitment to justice.
Let AFSCME know you will Never Quit.