More than 200 Teamsters working for the Department of Corrections, along with their families and supporters, converged on the state capitol in Olympia today to push for wage reforms.

“Our top priority is to ensure that the state legislature invests in corrections employees by funding their contract,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Corrections employees put their lives on the line to protect the public, yet they are significantly underpaid for the important public safety work they perform.”

According to a release from Teamsters Local Union 117, experienced officers — who represent the largest job classification at the state's Department of Corrections — earn 37 percent less than their peers who work in county corrections. Other DOC job classifications, per the union, are similarly underpaid.

In their visits with lawmakers, DOC staff also emphasized the need for the legislature to fund an external audit of staffing levels in all Washington state prisons. The Department of Corrections operates under a staffing model established in 1988. An external audit, they said, would identify parts of the system that are understaffed and make recommendations for improvements.

“Officers are working at a 1-135 ratio to the inmates in the living units. We don't have extra officers helping with the tier checks. We're not able to get done what we need to get done security wise. That puts us at risk and makes our prisons more dangerous,” said Ronny Matsen, a correctional sergeant at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

Corrections staff also advocated for a change to the Public Records Act to protect their personal information. Many reported being harassed by felons who obtain their information through public disclosure.

A bill (SB 5326) before the state senate would allow prison staff to seek legal damages if their information is used for to harass or intimidate any person.