Friday, September 9, 2016

Living wages and prison worker strikes

I have previously noted that the "living wage" discussion does not extend to prisoners. Prisoners perform work, such as farming tilapia and fighting fires. And sometimes they get as little as 74 cents an hour for the work.

(Not including housing.)

Needless to say, the prisoners are not happy about this, and today prisoners in 24 states are participating in a strike.

One of the issues - "slave labor." Here's part of what the organizing groups said back in April:

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

As even this call to action notes, sub-minimum wages for prisoners - or no wages at all - are Constitutional - at least in government prisons. Private entities have different rules sometimes.
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