CT Prison Workers Unions Call For ‘Heroes Pay’ For Pandemic Efforts

Unions representing workers at Connecticut’s prisons want state lawmakers to pay them what is being called “heroes pay” because of the level of exposure they had to COVID-19.

Sal Luciano, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said this is for workers at all of the prisons, whether they come in direct contact with inmates or not. For every hour Department of Correction employees have worked since the start of the pandemic, Luciano said, $1 should be added to their paycheck.

“If you worked $20 hours in a week, an additional $20 should be added,” he said. “If you worked 60 hours, you should get an additional $60.”

Luciano and the others who participated in the virtual press conference Monday urged lawmakers to take up the issue in the legislative special session.

Ginny Ligi is a corrections officer at the Cheshire Correctional Institution who contracted COVID-19 and was out of work for about three weeks. She also is a member of AFSCME Local 387

“We deserve to be treated as heroes, not zeros,” Ligi said. “During the COVID-19 crisis, corrections facilities became a petri dish for infection. Corrections employees, like myself, had a one-in-four chance of contracting COVID.”

She said many corrections employees “continue to suffer from long-term health impacts and will never be the same.”

Millie Brown is the president of the corrections supervisors union that is part of CSEA-SEIU Local 200. Brown said “the sacrifices our members took can not be repaid.” But Ligi said pandemic pay “signifies more than just compensation.”

“It is an affirmation of our importance and value as workers,” she said.

Debbie Williams works as an identification records specialist at the Bridgeport Correctional Center. And though Williams works in a clerical position, “COVID doesn’t differentiate between workers on the front lines and those who work in the office.”

Funds for the proposed lump-sum payments to essential workers would come from federal American Rescue Plan resources allocated to the state.

A total of 19 prisoners have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to state DOC officials. A total of 4,546 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19; 4,495 of them have recovered.

None of the staff at any of the prisons have died from COVID-19, but 1,690 have tested positive for the virus. All but four have returned to work, according to DOC officials.

Among inmates, 4,828 have received one dose of the vaccine, according to Andrius Banevicius, a DOC spokesman. A total of 2,697 corrections staffers have received one dose of the vaccine, although Banevicius said “it is likely that additional staff members have received the vaccine outside of work.”

“But due to HIPAA privacy laws we have no way of knowing how many may have been vaccinated,” he said.

From www.ctpost.com

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