In a major victory for staff at US Penitentiary Thomson in northern Illinois, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has approved a request to pay 25% retention pay to all officers and staff at the facility.
The high-security federal prison has suffered with critical shortages of correctional officers and staff due to low pay and lack of affordable housing.
AFGE Local 4070 has been fighting for two years to secure additional pay for officers and staff and help attract qualified job applicants. On July 30, the Bureau of Prisons approved a 10% retention pay incentive for all eligible staff at the facility, which is the maximum BOP can offer, and submitted to OPM a request for approval to pay 25% retention pay to all officers and staff.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), whose congressional district includes the prison, joined Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in lobbying OPM to approve the retention bonuses.
“This is a big win for the workers at USP Thomson, and we extend our thanks to Senators Durbin and Duckworth and Representative Bustos for leading this fight and supporting the workers at USP Thomson,” Local President Jon Zumkehr said.
The trio of lawmakers announced the OPM decision in their own press release Sept. 17.
“Ongoing vacancies at USP Thomson make it more difficult for overworked staff to carry out their duties—presenting significant risk to staff, inmates and the surrounding community,” Sen. Duckworth said. “I’m glad the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has approved our request for a 25 percent retention bonus at Thomson, which will provide current employees a much-deserved increase in pay and help improve staff retention and overall safety at the prison.”
USP Thomson currently has 96 openings in officer positions, and the new pay incentive will help retain current staff as the prison seeks to bring on additional workers.
“We have the hardest working staff in the BOP, and AFGE Local 4070 is doing everything possible to keep them at USP Thomson,” Zumkehr added. “We have worked with management and have held job fairs every month and have hired over 70 staff this year. Now that we have secured the 25% retention pay, we will retain our experienced staff and be able to recruit additional staff.”