* Labor Tribune…
Union workers at Vandalia Correctional Center in Illinois will not be facing reduced capacity or layoffs in the near future, following protests from AFSCME and local officials.
AFSCME members had mobilized in recent weeks with petitions and appeals to elected officials after an announcement that the state was considering consolidation of populations within the prison that the union felt would lead to a reduction in employees and possibly closure of the prison in the future.
Council 31 pressed the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the governor’s office to reconsider while invoking the union’s right to bargain over the impact of the changes.
“This is the culmination of months of work,” said Eddie Caumiant, regional director of AFSCME Council 31 and the union liaison to IDOC.
IDOC’s statement insisted that closing Vandalia was not the intent of the consolidation and conversion review, but that the department was only seeking ways to more efficiently operate the facility as the prison population has declined under recent sentencing reforms in the criminal justice system. Vandalia’s population has dropped from 525 on June 1 to 458 this week, while in February it was as low as 301, according to IDOC.
“At this time we have decided to hold off on the consolidation/conversion at Vandalia,” read the statement from IDOC. “If it is decided in the future to revisit this plan, we will notify AFSCME Council 31 and continue discussions.”
That last part is key, according to Caumiant, as union leaders had made it clear to IDOC that they could not make unilateral changes in the workers’ jobs and working conditions without negotiating.
…Adding… The Pritzker administration insists that no layoffs were ever planned at Vandalia. IDOC was simply trying to move prisoners out of a very old section into a newer section to comply with a consent decree.