After the AFSCME union released a public statement just over a week ago to it's members and the general public regarding it's intention to join an in- process lawsuit filed on behalf of state inmates regarding extreme heat conditions behind bars, there has been some backlash from employees the union itself represents. After we posted the news release, we received dozens of emails in opposition of the employees union joining the suit initiated by an offender organization.
The number one issue with these employees is that they feel the union is now somehow in cahoots with offender organizations. Thereby crossing that invisible "us against them" line in the sand.
We reached out to Lance Lowery, The American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees union counsel 3807 President for clarification on the union's decision to join the heat related suit that asks state officials to provide air conditioning in state prisons to ease extreme summer heat conditions for both employees and offenders.
Mr. Lowery sent us this email as a response;
"This suit is not about the inmates, it's about the employees who are working in extreme heat. Thousands of employees are effected by unhealthy work conditions. We are bringing forth a suit for the employee's, not the inmates. We are supportive of all litigation seeking climate control to prevent any further unnecessary death or illness for all parties."
"Heat enhances and increases the likelihood for employees to have heart attacks, high blood pressure, adverse effects of diabetes, or even strokes, which employees have died from while at work under hot conditions."
"While we have found there are a few people ignorant of the dangers of work place heat, most employees support our actions to improve work place conditions for employees and prevent unnecessary deaths or illnesses."
"It comes down to this, we don't want to see anyone else die. Heat doesn't care if it's victims are wear white or gray. Poor southern states such as Arkansas have air conditioned their prisons for over 30 years without breaking the state. Texas is a wealthy state that can pay for better conditions and pay for their employees, but chooses not to. Upper administrators are rewarded extremely well for keeping the cost low, while the officers are having to put up with the daily fallout and extreme shortage of staff during the summer months. The number of call ins during the summer time speaks volumes about what the employees support, extreme heat obviously is not one of them. "
President AFSCME 3807
Texas Correctional Employees
"We Patrol Texas' Toughest Beat"