Corrections officers picket today for free speech |

Corrections officers picket today for free speech

Karl Horeis

The State of Nevada Employees Association plans to protest today what they call unfair treatment of Nevada Department of Corrections employees. Groups are scheduled to picket at two locations starting at 1:30 p.m.: the Department of Corrections administration offices at 4070 Silversage Drive in Carson City and the High Desert State Prison in Las Vegas.

SNEA members say they are being denied freedom of speech on the job and allege that members have been placed on administrative leave and investigated for raising concerns about safety and security.

A SNEA press release distributed Saturday says nine association members were placed on leave at the High Desert State Prison “in an effort to intimidate the union membership before the march and rally takes place.”

“This is an example of the worst kind of abuse of power and state resources by a public official,” said Scott MacKenzie, executive director of the employees’ association. “Safety and security were already of concern before the additional nine union members were placed on administrative leave.”

The SNEA filed a federal lawsuit in late December against several top officials of the state Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office. The group also filed for injunctive relief to stop the “anti-worker” activities of the Department of Corrections.

Glen Whorton, assistant director of operations for the Department of Corrections, said it does not discuss such issues once a lawsuit is filed.

“We don’t have any comment on their little get together (today),” he said.

McKenzie said the issues began when the group came up with a system of delegation to help workers voice concerns. It involved employees’ selection of a smaller group of trained representatives, who would then talk to employers about working conditions.

He said it worked well during talks with welfare and mental health officials.

“They didn’t always do exactly what we wanted, but that’s OK; they were playing within the parameters of the law,” he said.

Corrections officials weren’t as open to dialogue, according to McKenzie.

“The Department of Corrections viewed it like a military coup or something, and it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Department of Corrections officials maintain it does not deny rights to employees.