Democrat Photo by John Emerson
PEACEFUL PICKET: Dozens of local correction officers lined Anawana Lake Road in Monticello Wednesday to protest the lack of an employment contract with the state.
Correction Officers Picket
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO March 24, 2000 -- More than 100 state correction officers and family members picketed in front of Assemblyman Jake Gunthers office in Monticello Wednesday, protesting over the lack of a contract for almost a year.
Negotiations between the state and members of the New York State Correction Officers PBA broke down earlier this month when the union declared an impasse. The officers, all from either the Woodbourne or Sullivan correctional facilities, have been without a labor agreement since April 1 last year.
We picked Jakes office because its the only appropriate state office in Sullivan County, not because we have a problem with him, explained NYSCOPBA Steward Tom Hopkins. Jakes always been a friend of ours and of labors in general, so we know that he is not our problem.
Although Gunther himself was in Albany during Monday afternoons demonstration, his top local aide, Sean Hanofee, came out of the office to mingle with the picketers. He told members of the union that Gunther has already made several telephone calls and written letters indicating his support for the unions position and urging a quick settlement in the negotiations.
Throughout the three-hour demonstration, officers displayed signs urging passing motorists to honk their horns in support, demanding a fair contract and further demanding that Gov. George Pataki negotiate in good faith.
One of the key elements in the negotiations, according to Mike Castelli, another union steward, is a contractual change that recognizes correction officers as members of the law enforcement community.
We want a fair law enforcement contract, said Castelli. In the past, our contracts have been the same as those for the clerical people. When the alarm sounds and the clerical people are being evacuated and leaving, were the ones who are going in. We are law enforcement, not secretaries.
Union members are also upset that the states highest offer to date has only been three percent per year for the life of the proposed four-year contract.
They believe that both the job and their no-raise contracts in the past demand more.
When the state was hurting financially, they came to us, and we agreed to accept a lot of zeroes, Hopkins said. Now that they have money available, we think its right that they give us a fair and equitable pay raise that reflects the duties of a correction officer.