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Federal correction officers protest vaccine mandate

Federal corrections officers protest vaccine mandate.jpg
Posted at 4:20 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 19:20:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Nationwide Federal corrections officers picketed against the vaccine mandate Friday.

Lining the street in front of the Federal prison in Tucson were corrections officers from Tucson and Safford.

Local 3995 President Richard Hernandez said the union is asking President Biden to slow down and give correction officers time.

“What we'd like to see is before this mandate is implemented, that they need a proper time to assess those and address those concerns. Before that they receive discipline for the vaccine,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez said 80% of corrections officers inside the Tucson facility are already vaccinated.

"[The mandate] is going to impact everybody. If you don't get vaccinated, you're going to be suspended. If you still don't get vaccinated, you're going to be fired and you lose your job," explained Hernandez.

As part of President Biden's mandate, religious and medical exemptions are available, but the clock is ticking for everyone else.

Corrections officers have until November 22 to get vaccinated and that’s leaving corrections officers who don’t want the shot, like Daniel Hopkins, with an uncertain future.

“I have to completely get a new career and it's sad. I see individuals that have been working at the prison for years and they're being forced to do something that was against their core values or they lose their livelihood," said Hopkins.

He’s been with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for two years and said he thinks the vaccine should be an option.

“All this is going to do is make it even a bigger security risk inside the prison,” he said.

That’s the union's other argument—it’ll create an even bigger staffing crisis.

“It makes it hard it makes sense. Our staff is being overworked, being mandated, causing a lot of overtime issues. And we need to hire more people who went into those positions that are important or that are necessary," said Ynetta Villaba, secretary of Local 2313 in Safford.

Local 3995 is ready to represent its members if and when they face disciplinary action.

“We did file charges with the federal labor board, and the agency has agreed to meet with us next week. But it's still unclear exactly what you're willing to bargain over on the mandate,” said Hernandez.