A recent survey conducted by Teamsters Local 700 in reveals that Sheriff Tom Dart is failing to protect his employees inside the Cook County jail. The survey reveals he is failing to provide Officers with Personal Protective Equipment prior to the start of their shifts, and forcing some officers to work multiple 16-hour shifts per week, compromising their ability to fight illness and increasing an already stressful job. The data shows that the Sheriff does not have COVID-19 “under control” as he has claimed for months, and it is the Officers who are in harm’s way. Already, over 500 Officers have tested positive and five have died from the virus.
Corrections Officers are the front line at the severely short staffed Jail, working dangerously long hours and paying a terrible price for it. According to the survey, Officers are routinely being mandated to work double shifts, 16 hours, in a dangerous environment which requires every officer to be on guard every minute. Nearly one in four responding Officers report having been mandated to work a double shift between 30-60 times since March and another 8% said they’ve been mandated more than 60 times since March. That means roughly 1-in-5 Officers has been forced to work a 16 hour shift at least once a week.
“This is just a small snapshot into the life of a Cook County Corrections Officer. The survey shows that, on average, nearly 20% of our Officers are forced to work a 16-hour shift once a week. It’s not safe. It’s not healthy. It’s not right,” said Teamsters Local 700 Vice President Anthony McGee.
If supervisors determine there are not enough Officers scheduled to properly staff a division of the jail for the upcoming shift, they can mandate Officers to stay an extra eight hours.
“Most of the time, Officers are not even notified of mandation until an hour before their scheduled shift is over. It’s overbearing and abusive to our officers. Not only is it diminishing their health and morale, but causing problems at home and in their family lives,” McGee said.
Teamsters Local 700 is in negotiations for a new contract with Sheriff Dart, and curbing mandatory overtime is a priority for the Teamsters. The Teamsters bargaining team is demanding changes be made to the mandation policy.
“Enough is enough. Our Officers deserve better,” McGee said. “Every hour that an Officer is in the Jail he is at risk and so are his loved ones.”
The survey also shows that the Sheriff is still not providing PPE and increasing Officers’ risk for exposure to COVID-19. 31% of Officers who responded said they’re not being supplied with proper PPE prior to every shift over the last two weeks. 59% of Officers who responded said they have been ordered to interact with inmates who were not wearing masks over the last two weeks. The survey was conducted from October 27-November 2.
“It’s downright dangerous to be putting Officers into these situations. Sheriff Dart has not done enough to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the jail. Just look at the October-November spike in cases among Officers. Why doesn’t Sheriff Dart have a handle on COVID-19?” McGee said.