SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOISLoud chants of "vendors go home" greeted business representatives who arrived at the Department
of Corrections today for a mandatory meeting for those seeking to bid on providing dietary services to the Illinois Department
of Corrections. The chants came from more than 200 DOC employees from across the state who were protesting the privatization
of these services.
"Privatizing these services creates a serious security risk for our members," said
Tom McLaughlin, regional director of AFSCME Council 31. "People who provide food service directly supervise inmates who
are working with items that can be used as weapons. This work is security work and only people who have that experience and
training should be doing it."
The picketers, who gathered outside the Concordia Court building an hour before
the meeting was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., went inside to attend the meeting. When told they could not attend, they
countered that it was a public meeting and they weren't going to leave. They continued chanting in the hallways.
officials then moved the meeting to the auditorium, and it began 40 minutes after the scheduled starting time. Vendors asked
no questions of DOC officials during the meeting.
"People are very angry about this," said McLaughlin,
explaining the protesters' unwillingness to leave, even after the meeting. Privatizing services not only presents a security
risk, he said, it means taking good-paying jobs and replacing them with lower-paying ones and it violates the Private Prison
Moratorium Act. Further, said McLaughlin, there has been no reliable indicatino of how privatizing these services can save
the state money without creating a security risk or harming local economies.
Governor George Ryan proposed privatizing
prison commissary and dietary services as part of his slate of budget cuts introduced in late November.
in today's protest included:
46: East Moline
117: IYC- Valley View
416: IYC-St. Charles
632: Decatur C.C.
3663: Big Muddy