Prison Farm Update: Farm Coordinators to meet

Posted Sep. 8, 2016 by

Prison Farm Coordinators impacted by the recent announcement to close the state's prison farms will meet with union leaders for an update tomorrow. The special meeting will discuss what’s happening on the ground in their institutions.

Union officials are still awaiting a judge’s ruling in a court case filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to halt the farm closures. Judge Holbrook was expected to have already ruled on a preliminary injunction the union filed in June.

OCSEA has also filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) and a grievance over DR&C’s refusal to bargain.

“This is a Senate Bill 5 style attack on our collective bargaining rights,” said Shawn Gruber, OCSEA Corrections Assembly President. “Never has management just refused to bargain a layoff. We firmly believe this is a renewed attempt to get what they failed to get during the Senate Bill 5 fight,” he said.

It’s also another way of the state going around Ohio voters. In 2011, Ohio voters sharply rejected the law that would have prevented public workers from bargaining the terms and conditions of employment, things like layoffs, for example.

Under the OCSEA collective bargaining agreement with the state, DR&C is required to give appropriate notice and to bargain with the union when a closure is announced. In addition, it must provide the union with a rationale explaining the reasons for the closure, all of which DR&C has failed to do.

The union and numerous stakeholders were blindsided this spring when DR&C announced it would be phasing out its farm operations at all 10 prisons and selling most of the land.

In the meanwhile, thousands of dollars (or more) worth of prison farm equipment was auctioned off at London Correctional Institution in late August. Most of the equipment went for far less than its original price.

Items Auctioned

Even neighboring farmers who attended the auction called it a “sad day.” OCSEA President Christopher Mabe said: “The investment in Ohio’s prison farms is so large, that it just doesn’t make sense that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would walk away from it. He added, “They’ve invested millions of dollars in capital improvements, equipment, supplies and in people. The most important investment is in people, of course, both inmates who are building skills and the prison farm staff who have become experts in farm management and food production.”