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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • USP employees picket, citing job cuts

  • Employees at the United State Penitentiary in Leavenworth were in front of the facility Friday picketing what they call job cuts that could be potentially harmful to both their rank and file members and the community.
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  • Employees at the United State Penitentiary in Leavenworth were in front of the facility Friday picketing what they call job cuts that could be potentially harmful to both their rank and file members and the community.
    For 12 hours members of the Local 919 chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees made up of USP Leavenworth employees conducted an “informational picket” against actions taken by USP administration that affect 12 jobs at the institution. Matt Gum, the president of Local 919, characterized the augmentations as “cuts,” adding that they could potentially pose a danger. Gum pointed to the recent deaths of correctional officers ― including Eric Williams, killed by an inmate in April at the U.S. Penitentiary in Canaan, Penn. ― and last week's escape by three prisoners from the Lansing Correctional Facility as incidents that could occur should staff be reduced further at the USP.
    “Those are the things that we are trying to prevent, so we are taking action,” he said.
    USP officials characterize the changes differently. Tom Sheldrake, the public information officer for the USP, said the number of jobs at USP will be the same under the changes.
    “I do know that they are upset because we realigned some positions to better utilize our resources so that we could operate within the current budget situation,” he said. “They indicate that we eliminated 12 positions, but we did not.”
    Sheldrake declined to comment on whether the changes were specifically motivated by federal sequestration, referring instead to higher authorities. Gum contended that the $150 million from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's budget given to the Bureau of Prisons by Attorney General Eric Holder to stave off furloughs that would otherwise have been required because of the federal sequester's automatic budget cuts this fiscal year should have prevented any job cuts from being necessary.
    “Our opinion is he's manipulated what the attorney general's put out and he's still trying to save money by taking 12 jobs away,” he said.
    Sheldrake, however, maintained that the decision to realign those 12 positions was done to streamline the operations at the USP.
    “It's the administration's right to assign posts in the best way that we can to utilize our resources ,” he said.
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