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Montana State Prison employees take first step in possible strike over wages, long hours

Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 11:28:44-04

DEER LODGE — Employees at the Montana State Prison, including corrections officers, are considering going on strike over wage negotiations and long working hours.

The Montana Federation of Public Employees, which represents employees at the prison in Deer Lodge, voted Tuesday evening to take the first step in the strike process in which they may strike at a later date. The employees are upset over low wages and a recently instituted 12-hour shift to make up for a shortage of employees.

“They are not agreeing to pay their employees a wage commensurate of the work they're doing and so the employees, rightfully so, are frustrated that the administrations not bringing real solutions to the table,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis.

The Department of Corrections, which is in negotiations with the union, said it is disappointed in this vote by the union members, but hopes to arrive at an agreement that meets the needs of all parties involved.

The union will hold another meeting to explain to members details of the pending strike before deciding to move ahead. The employees have to give the Department of Corrections ample time to replace striking workers with National Guardsmen before going on strike.

UPDATE: 8/13/2021, 9:25 AM - The Federation of State Prison Employees released the following press release:

A union meeting was held at The Broken Arrow restaurant on Tuesday, August 10th to discuss and vote on the following: engaging in concerted activity due to the lack of adequate pay for state prison employees and continued poor/unsafe working conditions.

The 6:30 pm meeting was held by the Federation of State Prison Employees Local 4700, the Union that represents the prison staff. The union says that the continued inadequate pay and poor/unsafe working conditions are the direct cause of the severe staffing shortage at Montana State Prison and are keeping potential new staff from applying.

“There are correctional officers who work up to 40 hours of overtime in a two-week period, usually 16 hours at a time and on days off. There are others who are denied bathroom breaks for hours on end. There are also staff who are harassed, threatened, retaliated against, and bullied by the command post on a daily basis. We have some serious issues that need fixed.” Said members who attended the meeting.

The vote to engage in concerted activity passed 60-0 by those in attendance.