MCO has had many victories in our 50 years, but none of them came easy. We had to fight to get testing and equipment to protect against communicable disease and supplemental benefits for injuries sustained in our dangerous workplaces. In recent times, we’ve had to fight for uniform guidelines for dignity assaults and raise our voice in opposition to the Michigan Civil Service Commission’s rule changes. Below are summaries of our biggest advocacy fights today for corrections officers and forensic security assistants.
Our resolve to keep fighting for our livelihood, safety, and recognition as professionals must remain strong, especially in light of recent attacks on unions, such as Right to Work and the Michigan Civil Service rule changes.
Join MCO in our fights for corrections and forensic officers’ safety at work and well-being at home and in their communities.
This union was founded to address the safety of corrections staff and the security of Michigan prisons, and we continue to push for more safe and secure facilities. Here are some of our key areas of safety and security advocacy.
COVID-19 has sickened hundreds of Michigan corrections officers and thousands of inmates. MDOC staff are putting their health on the line every time they go to work. We are advocating for more PPE and other safeguards for staff. Through an outside law firm, we are assisting members in filing for workers' compensation if they test positive for the virus. And we have demanded emergency bargaining to discuss several other concerns, including the forced use of leave credits during employer-required quarantines. Read more about how MCO is advocating for officers throughout the pandemic on our COVID-19 information page.
Michigan and many states are experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis among corrections officers. MCO has actively tried to work with the MDOC to find solutions.
Corrections staff are experiencing an epidemic of PTSD.
Since 2015, at least 12 Michigan COs have taken their own lives. In 2019, a survey conducted by Desert Waters Correctional Outreach found more than 15 percent of MDOC staff have a major depressive disorder; 25 percent suffer from PTSD; and almost half have anxiety. These findings align with the results of a survey Desert Waters conducted on behalf of MCO in 2016.
That's why MCO has led a crusade to educate the public and legislature about the pervasiveness of PTSD within the MDOC. Thanks to our efforts, we are starting to see more attention and action on this topic. For example, the MDOC established a Wellness Unit for staff in crisis, and the governor appointed a corrections officer to the Suicide Prevention Commission.
MCO members, leaders, and staff have relentlessly pushed this issue for years, and we are making progress, even if it can be hard to see when there’s so much work left to be done. We won’t rest until MDOC staff have the mental health resources they need.
In September 2017, the Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC) changed a number of rules and now prohibit us from bargaining shift transfers, overtime assignments and positions, and layoff and recall procedures. These changes removed several important provisions from our contract and put them under the discretion of the MDOC and MDHHS. These changes went into effect Jan. 1, 2019.
MCO members joined together instead of letting these changes divide us. Together, we were able to convince the MDOC to write policies that are familiar, transparent and fair.
Read about our advocacy on this issue at mco-seiu.org/civilservice.
Corrections officers are an integral part of the criminal justice system. Although often unacknowledged and underappreciated, they are a humane and constant force in correctional facilities. They aren’t guards; they're corrections professionals expected to do so much more. With the onset of corrections reform, their responsibilities continue to grow.
Through our Move Forward campaign, we highlighted the values of corrections staff as part of law enforcement and made accompanying posters for each prison. Integrity, Honor, Sacrifice, and Community are just a few of the values that officers said guide them in their work.
MCO is constantly advocating for legislation, workplace policy, and other guidelines that recognize officers as the professionals they are.
Profit should not be a motive when it comes to incarceration. Since the beginning of our union, MCO has stood opposed to prison privatization and the privatization of any prison services, such as food service.
Under private food contracts with two vendors, inmates were given small quantities of subpar food. Food service employees were not adequately trained on the realities of working inside of a prison. All of this created instability in the safety of Michigan prisons. Food complaints were just one of the underlying factors that led to a riot at Kinross Correctional Facility in 2016.
MCO’s tireless advocacy played a part in the return of food service to state operation in 2018.
MCO has fought back efforts of private prison companies in our state and we will continue to lead this charge to protect corrections staff, the incarcerated, and Michigan taxpayers.