Union for Allegheny County Jail workers won't be easy, organizers say
Medical personnel at the Allegheny County Jail trying to unionize should expect a fight, said labor officials who have battled Corizon Correctional Healthcare.
“It's about money for them; it's not about taking care of people,” said Richard Draper, an organizer with the National Union of Health Workers in California, which successfully organized Corizon workers at Santa Rita County correctional facilities in 2013.
Draper said Corizon management sent letters to workers that said they did not need a union to earn benefits employees throughout the company enjoy.
Officials at Corizon, a private company based in Tennessee, declined to comment.
The United Steelworkers petitioned Jan. 9 to organize 84 workers at the Allegheny County Jail. A National Labor Relations Board hearing is set for Thursday in the William S. Moorhead Federal Building on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, to determine who may join the proposed union.
Corizon provides prison health care services to about 381,000 inmates in 28 states, according to its website. It won an $11.4 million contract from Allegheny County and began offering medical services at the jail last summer. Jail health care workers were not unionized under Allegheny Correctional Health Services, a nonprofit the county Health Department established to treat inmates. The nonprofit bid for a new contract but lost.
Health care workers in the jail could benefit from recent unionization drives in other fields, said Karl Petrick, an associate professor of economics at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.
Petrick said strikes by fast-food workers and protests outside Wal-Mart stores on Black Friday point to a potential labor rebirth.
“We may well be talking, not this year but over the next few years, about an increase in the number of unions in private-sector jobs,” Petrick said.
Decline has been the rule among unions nationwide for decades.
Roughly 11.3 percent of U.S. workers — about 14.4 million people — belonged to a union in 2012, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, according to a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. In 1983, union membership stood at 20.1 percent with 17.7 million workers, the bureau reported.
Public-sector employees had a union membership rate of 35.9 percent in 2012, five times that of private sector workers (6.6 percent).
About 65 percent of petitions result in union elections, according to the NLRB.
The Steelworkers do not file petitions unless certain it has enough support to win an election, said organizer Randa Ruge.
The union successfully petitioned for an election at Duquesne University where adjunct faculty members voted to join the Steelworkers. The university is challenging the election in court.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- VA promotion for administrator stuns legislator
- Contempt citation sought by state against Highmark for alleged violation of deal with UPMC
- Prosecutors say cyanide-death defendant Ferrante tested toxin on mice to gauge effect on human
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked to prosecute case alleging assault of Allegheny County assistant district attorney
- Peduto, Harris compromise on $1.6M for North Side community center
- Newsmaker: Mary Barkhymer
- Police arrest 8, cite more than 2 dozen after riots in Morgantown
- Ross brothers ordered to pay fine, remove debris from Christmas display
- Pittsburgh VA director gets more time to appeal firing recommendation
- Legal titans prepared to tussle in Ferrante cyanide homicide trial