Montco prison guards vote to unionize

Posted: December 18, 2013

Montgomery County correctional officers voted 120-82 on Monday to join the Teamsters, a union official said.

The balloting took place at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Lower Providence Township, with 225 guards eligible to vote, said Chris O'Donnell, business agent for Teamsters Local 384.

"Long overdue," he said of the results.

Once the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board certifies the Teamsters as the officers' bargaining representative, the union will talk more to its new members and draft a contract proposal.

The county, O'Donnell said, "can no longer take anything away from them . . . unless they negotiate with the Teamsters." That includes wages, health-care benefits, and other entitlements, he said.

O'Donnell said the county could file an objection to the unionization. But that doesn't appear likely.

"At this point in time, our focus is moving forward," County Solicitor Ray McGarry said. "It was a fair process, and the correctional officers have voted."

Some guards at the facility contacted O'Donnell several months ago to ask about the Teamsters representing them. Unionized public-safety workers, who include deputy sheriffs and probation officers, get more attention from the county commissioners than correctional officers, who were "kind of the group that time forgot," O'Donnell said.

Guards' complaints ranged from concerns such as shrinking salary and benefits, to the claim that officers sometimes relieve themselves in garbage cans because shifts are too shorthanded to allow bathroom breaks.

Other guards and Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro disputed such claims.

The union announced last week that it wants to expand its representation of law enforcement and correctional officers in Pennsylvania.

A Fraternal Order of Police official said the group continues to dominate in urban police departments and throughout most of Southeastern Pennsylvania.


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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