Statewide Training At Prisons A Success
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) participate in annual state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) statewide labor-management meetings each spring, traditionally resulting in sharing good information and finding solutions to workplace issues.
The idea to strengthen issue-solving on a local level had been discussed and came to fruition in 2016 when DOCCS partnered with the labor unions and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) to develop a training to hone the labor-management procedures at all the state correctional facilities.
PEF President Wayne Spence said, “The training was initially an idea that spawned from a Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations project in 2013. I pitched the idea to the deputy commissioners at DOCCS, and am grateful that the training took place. Training on both sides of the table is a step to a more cohesive and productive workforce.”
As a result, employees and supervisors from DOCCS participated in a two-day labor-management training to develop more comprehensive local labor-management teams. The training was launched in New York City and was held throughout the state at 53 prisons and parole offices.
“The training included council leaders, and elected PEF officials at each facility, CSEA elected officials and local management such as the superintendents and deputy superintendents,” said Steve Drake, PEF co-chair of the statewide DOCCS labor-management committee.
“I thought the training was a huge success. We are continuing to evaluate the actual progress at each correctional facility and have seen improvements as to what is being reported out of the local labor-management meetings.” Drake said.
Paul Rigby, also PEF statewide co-chair, said, “The training was beneficial because it brought everyone to the table. We discussed common issues and ways to resolve them. The training emphasized everyone has a role and equal seat. There is an understanding of positions, but this provided an opportunity to be on common ground and to compromise.
“Managers learned how the process is beneficial to them by having all the DOCCS Albany staff on board, and reiterating the information to other local managers. It was very effective and PEF is grateful for DOCCS’ participation and understanding.” Rigby said.
“DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci and I value the ongoing working relationship that we have with the various bargaining units that allows us to exchange information and solve problems,” said Daniel F. Martuscello III, acting executive deputy commissioner. “Recognizing the workforce transitions that occur in both union representatives and managerial staff, DOCCS fully supported the recently facilitated joint labor-management training that was delivered across the department with the participation of PEF and the NYS & CSEA Partnership for Education and Training. Because of this collaboration, labor and management were provided the tools necessary to support a successful and vibrant local labor-management process.”
“The NYS & CSEA Partnership for Education and Training was pleased to partner with PEF in this year-long effort to strengthen the labor-management relationships at DOCCS locations throughout the state,” said Mary Ellen Cox, program associate for labor-management services at the Partnership.
“Collaborating with PEF added a unique element to our standard training program which inspired creativity and improved our problem-solving abilities. Each DOCCS labor-management committee has now formed a strong foundation for effective communication, mutual respect and problem solving. The Partnership continues to work with these committees to provide additional support and guidance as they progress through the labor-management process.”
Lori Greenizen, an offender rehabilitation coordinator at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility, attended the training in August 2017. Cape Vincent is a medium correctional facility with nearly 900 inmates. Greenizen said the training enhanced an already good labor-management relationship, and that the trainers tailored the trainings to each facility.
“The training broadened my horizon on the topics we discussed such as staffing, health and safety issues, and how we transition when new policies are enacted. We worked on opening dialogues so there is better communication. Communicating with management is an avenue to solve an issue. I’m a believer in communication, and it works when labor can bring forth its workplace concerns and they are heard. It helps to create a better working environment for both sides of the table.
“Solving problems at a local level is more useful and timely, rather than having to address the issues on the statewide level,” Greenizen said.
Lindsay Bonanza, a teacher 4 at Mohawk Correctional Facility, also said the training brought a new level of understanding to Mohawk’s labor-management table.
“It was very beneficial because it gave everyone an idea of the challenges we all encounter. Sometimes we may forget the superintendent is in charge of a lot of people. So maybe an issue that is big to us, may not be that large in the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider all the other things managers have to deal with on a daily basis.
“Sometimes, managers forget the officers, teachers, vocational instructors and nurses are the ones on the ground floor, all day. It was just nice to have everyone come together and be on the same page. It was interesting to see we had similar concerns such as short-staffing. We all realized we had more in common when it comes to the concerns within the jail,” Bonanza said.
Drake said a survey is in the works for all the participants to get feedback about the training and how it has improved communication between staff and supervisors at each facility.
Dr. Jim Kimple, a professional trainer in organizational effectiveness and workforce development, facilitated the trainings. He was hired by PEF with Article 15 funds that the union has been using with agreement from GOER.
The Partnership provided additional trainers which included Cox, Russell Ferguson and Stephanie Burkes.