Jail employee union files complaint alleging unfair labor practices

click to enlarge Jail employee union files complaint alleging unfair labor practices
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Allegheny County Jail

The president of Allegheny County Jail's employee union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint alleging its leader has been targeted for speaking out about workplace concerns.

“The filing was made last week as a result of several immaterial, targeted attacks by Allegheny County Warden Orlando Harper against Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union president Brian Englert," reads a statement from the union. "Englert, along with other community members, have been outspoken on several operational and safety issues within the county jail."

The union also claims Harper has “singled out Englert for various matters, including Englert’s attempt to communicate with union members through email and social media posts, secure uniforms for its members, and suspending Englert without pay for conducting union business.”

These alleged actions against the correctional officers’ union president come as the jail faces widespread public criticism for issues including its handling of deaths in custody, misleading public comments regarding the jail’s death rate, persistent understaffing, and reports of “brutal” treatment of incarcerated people with mental disabilities.

“Inadequate staffing has caused corrections officers to bear the heavy burden of working excessive hours under dangerous conditions. The addition of this issue with others, such as a lack of available uniforms and equipment has plummeted employee morale to an all-time low,” said Eric Stoltenberg, legal counsel for ACPEIU. “While Warden Harper should be laser focused on addressing these issues at the jail, he is instead attempting to silence and retaliate against those who have exposed the unstable and dangerous environment for the inmates and its correctional officers.”

The release also notes that union members, elected leaders, families of people incarcerated in the jail, and the media have all called for Warden Harper’s resignation this year.

Englert says the state's Labor Relations Board “has acknowledged receipt of the filing but has not set a date for the hearing.” The complaint is not yet available on the NLRB website.

County spokesperson, Amie Downs, declined to comment on the complaint.

UPDATE: This story was edited at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 24 to reflect an updated statement from the union.