What do you get without a union? 12 hour shifts!

No matter how glowing the remarks in this article about the success of 12 hour shifts, I can say from first hand experience that they pretty much suck…back in the late 1970’s when I thought being a machinist was cool and the road to big blue collar money I worked in a non-union contract manufacturer…and we did 12 hour shifts…four days on two days off…and I was tired all of the time…my schedule was totally out of time with my friends and with my normal sleep/work/play rhythms. And I was a young man then. I can’t imagine working 12 hours per shift in a prison…medium security or not where I need to keep my wits about me to protect myself and others.

Correctional officers at one state prison now work 12-hour instead of eight-hour shifts, and Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is considering expanding the program to another institution next year.

A Department of Corrections survey of Prairie du Chien employees found that 60% of those responding believed the shift change had saved them money; 69% believed it had given them more time to spend with their friends and family; and 78% said working fewer, longer shifts made it easier for them to balance their work and personal lives.

The longer shifts were adopted at Prairie du Chien to help study how they would affect the Department of Corrections’ budget, operations and morale. Officials are looking at expanding the program next year to Redgranite, according to department spokesman Aaron Swanum.

“No final decision has been made on the future of 12-hour shifts,” Swanum wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Both prisons are medium-security facilities, but Redgranite holds twice as many inmates — 1,027, compared with 516 at Prairie du Chien, as of last week. Redgranite is 30 miles west of Oshkosh. Prairie du Chien sits on the Mississippi River, 60 miles south of La Crosse.


Making the change without the approval of employees is something the department could not have done when employees had broad powers in labor negotiations. Walker and Republicans in the Legislature in 2011 restricted collective bargaining for corrections employees and most other public workers to wages and capped raises at the rate of inflation.


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4 thoughts on “What do you get without a union? 12 hour shifts!

  1. Ed, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as changes within DOC goes. There’s a lot that’s going on that will likely never get reported on by the media, and most (if not all) of it is due to the neutering of unions after Act 10.

  2. I wonder just how well a guard is able to deal with society’s most dangerous people during those last couple of hours of the shift?

  3. As a retired 30-year veteran of the Department of Corrections, I can vouch that I could hardly stomach being at my institution EIGHT hours a day. And I was a manager!

  4. I work DHS at Sandridge (WI) and am we have just switched to a schedule of 7 days straight most of the time but am wondering if the twelve hour thing is going to trickle down to us. DHS acts like it is it’s own entity, but seems to mimick DOC most of the time. I guess time will tell.

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