Athens, Ga. – On Monday, two roadside billboards sprouted up that posed a simple question: If Rep. Jody Hice stands with law enforcement officers, then why is he attacking their rights and threatening to take away their pensions?
On March 6, Hice introduced H.R. 1364, a bill that has since been met with heavy criticism from law enforcement officers and public servants across the country. If passed, the legislation would effectively end the ability of Federal Bureau of Prisons law enforcement officers to advocate for critical health and safety reforms and penalize those who work to ensure the safety of their colleagues. The bill also proposes the removal of a worker's retirement benefits if that employee representative exceeds, what Hice considers, a 'reasonable' number of official time hours.
"Rep. Hice's latest bill is further proof that working people in this country are under attack," said Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young. "The brave men and women who work in federal prisons and protect our communities deserve the right to representation."
"For Rep. Hice to propose legislation that takes back a correctional officers’ earned pension and hinders our ability to make our prisons safer is despicable,” Young added.
Hice's bill attacks what is known as 'official time,' an official duty status provided by the federal government to allow union representatives to represent their coworkers. Official time is often used to improve the workplace, like advocating for stab-proof vests and better officer to inmate ratios. It allows employee advocates to educate members of Congress about unsafe and unjust situations in the government workplace.
"On official time, my colleagues and I provided information about working conditions to lawmakers from both parties, this ultimately led them to pass the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act of 2016," said Young. "The law was named after a correctional officer who was murdered on the job. He was alone with 130 inmates, but only had handcuffs and a radio to protect himself."
"Because of our ability to use official time to educate lawmakers, correctional officers across the country are now equipped with pepper spray," Young said. "If passed, Rep. Hice's bill will make it more difficult for correctional workers and all advocates for safe and fair federal workplaces to report fraud, waste, and abuse to Congress."
The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 330,000 law enforcement officers, also opposes H.R. 1364. National President Chuck Canterbury urged leaders from both parties to vote down the bill.
"We're asking people to call their representative and tell them to vote 'No' on H.R. 1364, and hope that Congress will heed these calls and turn their focus on how to improve the safety of our prisons, not hurt the working people who keep them running," Young added.