Maintenance workers at a private prison run by CoreCivic in Florence are on strike over pay and security concerns.
Workers at the Florence Correctional Complex in central Arizona voted to unionize in March despite claims by CoreCivic attempting to thwart the effort.
Seventeen maintenance workers joined the UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union after a vote with the National Labor Relations Board, according to union organizer Chad Jessee.
Since then, Jessee said workers have been bargaining for higher wages and called CoreCivic’s latest offer “insulting”.
“CoreCivic offered a raise of 44 cents in the first year and 22 cents for each of the next two years,” Jessee said of the new contract negotiations. “That’s less than a $1 raise!” They haven’t had a raise for ten years and that’s what they’re being offered.
Workers currently earn just over $22 an hour.
Jessee said the low wages, combined with allegedly unsafe working conditions, made the offer unacceptable.
About 20 CACF union members and supporters have been on a picket line outside the prison since Friday, Jessee said.
In response to the strike, CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin said the company is committed to providing jobs with competitive pay and benefits.
“During recent contract negotiations with the local Plumbers and Pipefitters Union for our maintenance workers at our Florence Correctional Complex in Central Arizona (CAFCC), we provided a competitive opening proposal which was not accepted. , and no counter-proposal was provided by the union,” Gustin said. “Instead, union negotiators notified the CAFCC that it intended to strike, beginning the morning of August 12.”
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Reached by phone on the picket line on Monday, union member Dave Gossett said he and his colleagues were responsible for maintaining the prison’s complex systems that are necessary to maintain safety and security. Gossett has worked for CoreCivic for two years.
“We’re working on the boilers, the kitchen equipment, the HVAC, the fire system, all the plumbing,” Gossett said. “When you don’t have working water or HVAC systems, when the toilets are clogged, it can create a lot of problems with the prisoners. This can create a security issue.
Gossett said they were asking CoreCivic to pay them the typical industry rate in Florence, which he said was closer to $30 to $35 an hour.
Along with a pay rise, workers are calling on CoreCivic to address security issues at the prison. They claim that part of the fire system that evacuates smoke from buildings, the exhaust fans, has not worked for a year. Gustin said CAFCC’s fire suppression systems are fully operational and were last inspected in October 2021.
Jessee said CoreCivic responded to the strike by bringing in workers from out of state. Gustin would only say that the company has “taken steps to ensure there is no disruption to services as we continue to work through these negotiations, and we remain committed to providing maintenance services of high quality in installation”.
Gossett said workers would remain on the picket line outside the prison’s main entrances until CoreCivic agrees to return to the bargaining table. Other members of UA Local 469 have pledged to support prison workers “for weeks to come” if needed.
According to CoreCivic, the CAFCC is designed to accommodate around 4,100 people and employs nearly 800 people. CoreCivic contracts with several government entities to detain people at the facility, including the City of Coolidge, City of Mesa, Gila River, City of Apache Junction, Idaho Department of Corrections, Pascua Yaqui , the US Air Force and the US Marshals Service.
According to a 2021 auditthe CAFCC had an average daily population of 3,572 and the average length of stay at the facility was 108 days.
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