Page 6 - Work Force February 2017
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‘Someone is going to get killed’
Union puts pressure on OCFS after workplace assault
 CLAVERACK — A violent workplace assault on a CSEA member employed at a state Office of Children and Family Services facility has spurred renewed calls on state officials to do more to protect workers who face potential violence every day.
Two CSEA members employed as youth development aides (YDAs)
at Brookwood Secure Center were recently walking a resident down a hallway as part of their jobs.
Suddenly, without warning, the youth reached down, grabbed a plastic “wet floor” sign, swung around and bashed one of the aides, Charles Kisembo, in the head.
In those few seconds before the assault, Kisembo, a 22-year aide, and his co-worker did what they are trained
to do. They used a verbal command to attempt to de-escalate the situation. It had no effect.
Seconds later,
Kisembo was on the
ground, with blood gushing from a gash on his head.
Emergency responders wanted to airlift Kisembo to a hopsital, but with none immediatey available, he was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. It took 20 stitches to close the wound and a few days for his brain swelling to subside.
Taking action to prevent violence
Kisembo is now out of the hospital and recovering at home, but the incident left Brookwood employees wondering what it’s going to take for these assaults to stop.
“Someone is going to get killed,” said Brookwood Local President
Ed Birch, who reached out to CSEA Capital Region President Ron Briggs shortly after the attack.
A task force was quickly assembled that includes local officers and activists, staff from CSEA’s Legal, Occupational Safety and Health, Communications and Political Action departments.
The team recently met to outline a plan to take action.
Initial actions included filing a complaint with the state Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau, citing the facility’s lack of adherence to protocols required to be in place under existing workplace
safety legislation. PESH is reviewing the complaint.
At the same time
the complaint was
fuled, CSEA reached
out to the media and elected officials. In early January, Briggs and Birch met with State Sen. Kathleen Marchione, who promised action.
“It’s time for OCFS to act to protect their employees,” said Briggs.
Assaults on staff are all too familiar to members working in youth facilities across the state. CSEA has long complained of the lackluster protections that many feel have been further weakened by the introduction of the Justice Center. Grossly inadequate state funding
has led to understaffing, which is among the factors creating a crisis of oversight.
Employees feel strongly that the cards are stacked against them when it comes to disciplinary measures, and that violent offenders have more
Charles Kisembo recovers from his injuries. (Photo provided by the Kisembo family.)
 “What cost do you place on a staff person’s life? I am a human being. I have a right to be protected.”
rights than the staff working with them.
Brookwood Secure employees still go to work with the fear that they could end up in the emergency room. But CSEA’s actions to date have put OCFS on notice.
Employees feel that staffing
decisions are geared more to budget considerations, with little consideration to workplace safety.
“What cost do you place on a staff person’s life?” said Kisembo. “I am
a human being. I have a right to be protected.”
— Therese Assalian
 State proposes raising age of criminal responsibility
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again proposing a “Raise the Age” initiative, which legally raises the
age of criminal responsibility in our state from 16 to 18.
Specifically, this proposal would treat 16 and 17-year-olds as youths in the criminal justice system, as opposed to as adults.
The state had last proposed raising the age of criminal responsibility in 2015.
CSEA is concerned about
the proposal as it relates to not only the state Office of Children and Family Service facilities,
but local government probation departments. With more youthful offenders potentially coming into a justice system that is already stressed with understaffing
and inadequate funding, we are concerned about potential public safety issues. We want to ensure that workers handling these cases have the proper resources.
6 The Work Force
February 2017

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