Jonathan Zumkehr, president of Local 4070 representing employees at the United States Penitentiary Thomson in Illinois, has been named AFGE’s 2021 Law Enforcement Officer of the year for his amazing work on pay, staffing, and health and safety of employees at his facility and Bureau of Prisons-wide.
Zumkehr has been the local president for less than two years – since May 2020, but he has already made a huge impact on the quality of life of his fellow employees at BOP.
When he first transferred to USP Thomson in 2019, the facility was the lowest staffed in BOP with 167 vacancies despite its status as a high-security facility. Staffing shortages led to exhaustion, low morale, and turnover, exacerbating the problem.
To keep Thomson from losing employees and to attract new ones, Zumkehr reached out to his representatives – Sen. Durbin, Sen. Duckworth, and Rep. Bustos for help getting 25% retention bonus for the workers. Under pressure from the lawmakers, BOP agreed to the retention bonus.
Zumkehr was also instrumental in advocating for a direct hire authority to speed up the hiring process. USP Thomson now is the only facility in BOP with a direct hire authority, thanks to Zumkehr’s efforts.
Zumkehr also was successful in getting BOP to change its COVID testing policy for the entire agency. When COVID hit in 2020, USP Thomson had no COVID cases. But after the agency transferred 19 inmates to the facility without first testing them, Thomson suddenly had an outbreak of 9-10 cases. Zumkehr reached out to Sen. Durbin and Rep. Bustos for help changing the transfer process during COVID. BOP agreed to change the policy, and now inmates are tested before being transferred to other facilities – a huge victory that has made the workplace safer not only at Thomson but other BOP facilities nationwide.
Because of Zumkehr’s leadership, the local also won an increase in locality pay. The government recently announced USP Thomson employees will get a higher locality pay that covers the Davenport area as opposed to the Rest of U.S. locality pay.
“His efforts have led to recruitment and retention bonuses for staff and laid the groundwork for a fully staffed facility,” said AFGE Law Enforcement Steering Committee. “AFGE Law Enforcement Steering Committee wanted to recognize the steadfast advocacy of Local 4070 President Zumkehr by selecting him as AFGE 2021 Officer of the Year.”
Zumkehr is happy his local’s hard work has paid off.
“What we did over here locally, we put in the work, and now we’re bearing the fruits of our work,” he said.
Zumkehr started his BOP career in 2007 at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles, and became an AFGE member from Day One. Two years later, he transferred to the Federal Correctional Complex, Victorville, in southern California where he became the local’s vice president for two terms. He transferred to Thomson in 2019 and took over as local president in May 2020 when the former local president left. He ran and won an election to become local president in November 2020.