Arbitration Rights For Corrections Officers

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Members of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill to include corrections officers in compulsory arbitration, rights typically given to local police and firefighters.

The committee heard from HB 5623 sponsor Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) and several law enforcement officials who said they were in favor of the bill.

Mr. O’Malley said that corrections officers are trained, hard-working individuals and were indeed offering a critical law enforcement service and that they have earned the right to arbitration like their counterparts in police and fire service.

“I can tell you that county jails today are far from Andy Griffith’s Mayberry lockup and Otis letting himself in and out,” Mr. O’Malley said. “We ask these trained men and women to deal with mental health issues daily. Also medical and drug issues. Our counties have difficulties recruiting enough staff to do these jobs. Why? Because this could be considered one of the worst jobs in the state of Michigan. How can we make it more attractive? Well, I say let’s start by showing these corrections officers the respect they deserve.”

Mr. O’Malley pointed to the intense conditions of working in county jail as another reason to allow for greater arbitration rights.

Testifying before the committee, among others, was Ken Grabowski, legislative director with the Police Officers Association of Michigan.

Mr. Grabowski said he supported the bill and pointed to PA 312 of 1969 as validation that corrections officers were part of the law enforcement community. But, through various pieces of legislation and court rulings, corrections officers’ affiliation with law enforcement and their rights to arbitration was dissolved in 1980.

Still, Mr. Grabowski said corrections officers suffer the same hazards and grueling conditions as police officers.

“They probably have more hazardous conditions,” Mr. Grabowski said. “The police officers can get out in the fresh air and breath some things that aren’t filled with illness as they are now. Corrections officers are currently sitting in jail and they must work with these prisoners, they must help them, and they are subjected to COVID-19 or any other virus.”

Some of those officers have died from exposure to the new coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Grabowski added.

Several deputies and sheriffs also signaled their support for the bill, including Reggie Crawford, president of the Wayne County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Mr. Crawford said corrections officers “go to jail every day, and the only difference between us and those who are incarcerated is we get out.” He noted the rigors of corrections work as a reason to receive full contract arbitration rights, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, which he himself was infected with.

Not wishing to speak but in opposition to the bill was Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs with the Michigan Association of Counties.

The committee also heard testimony from Rep. Bronna Kahle on HB 5672, which would prohibit implanting electronic microchips or other such devices in employees as a condition of employment.

Ms. Kahle said the bill would not prohibit voluntary microchipping if an employer asked, but the bill would not make it mandatory, adding that there was a fine line between corporate convenience and personal freedom.

“While we definitely want to cultivate an environment for Michigan companies to thrive, especially during this time as people are safely resuming their lives and their livelihoods, we also respect the rights of employees,” Ms. Kahle said. “While there are only a few known U.S.-based companies embedding microchips in employees right now, there could be more following suit, especially in the environment we’re living in right now. It’s never too soon to get ahead of this technology and proactively prepare a regulatory structure to protect Michigan workers from infringing corporate surveillance.”

Ms. Kahle noted other states who have either signed employee microchip regulations or are on their way to doing so, including Indiana.

Referred to the House Ways and Means Committee was SB 432, allowing for tax-exempt status for entities receiving aid from the Michigan Strategic Fund.

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We will be additional news within the coming weeks regarding Arbitration Rights for Corrections Officers. Watch our website and social media platforms for the update on the vote.

Related Post: Correction Officer, Binding Arbitration – PA 312