Announcement of Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Workstoppage for Sept 9, 2016

This comes from the IWOC, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee:

4-1-2016

Prisoners from across the United States have just released this call to action for a nationally coordinated prisoner workstoppage against prison slavery to take place on September 9th, 2016.

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

Read the rest here.


This is an article that appeared on TruthDig:

National Prison Strike Campaign Vows to End ‘American Slave System’
Posted on Apr 2, 2016
By Eric Ortiz

Starting Sept. 9, prisoners in the United States will begin a coordinated effort to shut down prisons across the country. They plan to stop working in correctional institutions. Without prisoners doing their jobs, these facilities cannot be run. According to Support Prisoner Resistance, the nationwide prisoner work stoppage will serve as a protest against prison slavery, the school-to-prison pipeline, police terror and post-release controls.

Prisoners organizing the strike are not making demands or requests in the usual sense. They are calling themselves to action in a planned protest and want every prisoner in every state and federal institution across America to “stop being a slave.”

Some people may bristle at the notion that prisoners are slaves, but they are forced to work for little or no pay. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, also maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in 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.”

Correctional officers watch over every move of prisoners, and if assigned tasks are not performed correctly, prisoners are punished.

Read the rest here.

Texas prisoners organize: threaten to strike on April 4th with IWW Prisoner Union

This is a press release from IWOC:

CONTACT: Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee: 816-866-3808, iwoc@riseup.net

texaslockedin
March 29, 2016

HOUSTON, TX—Prisoners affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union have announced plans to enact major work stoppages in Texas on Monday April 4th if their demands are not met.

Inspired by a growing wave of prison strikes in Alabama, Georgia, and California to end prison slavery and vastly reduce the prison population, Texas prisoners say it’s their turn to “take a stand.” These prisoners are part of the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the first widespread effort for union recognition among prisoners in decades, with over 750 members in prisons across the country.

“This story is nothing new,” said Nicholas Onwukwe, former prisoner, and Co-Chair of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee, “Texas is running a slave plantation. They work with companies to take advantage of slave wages, and keep expenses as low as possible by forcing people into inhuman conditions. But prisons can’t run without inmate labor. Change is coming because prisoners are growing a mass movement in prisons, one that won’t stop until prison slavery is abolished.”

IWOC prisoners in Texas have issued demands for their strike and a call for support. They demand better living and working conditions within the Texas penal system, an end to extortion in the form of large copays for medical treatment, meaningful good/work time to require re-entry at the “earliest release date” unless there are “objective reasons” against it, an independent committee to review inmate grievances and an end to human rights abuses.

Jocelin Johnson, the fiance of a Texas prisoner and herself a former prison guard has seen these abuses first hand. “An officer ‘accidentally’ cut off the tip of my fiance’s finger month’s ago, yet the grievances go nowhere,” she says. “These changes are past due, it’s time for all of us to stand up for justice.”

The IWW is an industrial union open to all workers, including prisoners. The IWOC is working with the families of prisoners as well as union members across the country to coordinate support for the strike in the form of public pressure and social media support.

Want to join in? See our first action a national phone zap here, and watch us on facebook to stay connected. Any donations appreciated and if you’re willing to work for justice in Texas or elsewhere please contact us! iwoc@riseup.net, 816-866-3808.

BP Using Prison Labor in Oil Spill Cleanup

From: The Root

Surprise, surprise. BP is using inmates from the Louisiana prison system to clean up the oil spill. The words “Inmate Labor” are emblazoned on their backs as they toil in record heat, cleaning up the mess that BP has made. Local residents are angry that the company is using cheap labor instead of employing local residents who need jobs. Inmate laborers, aka “trustees,” are paid very little, while BP and subcontractors receive tax credits. We don’t know why people are surprised. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Prison is the only place in the United States where slavery is not outlawed. The inmates are being treated like modern-day slaves because they actually are modern-day slaves. In the infamous words of Nancy Reagan, “Just say no” — to prison, that is.

–Nsenga K. Burton
_______________________________________________

More on the story from BV Blackspin:

Soon after a BP wellhead exploded in the Gulf of Mexico spewing a jillion gallons in to the waters off the coast of Louisiana, the British company started the business of cleaning up the worst oil spill United States’ history.

Within days, cleanup workers were spotted on beaches, wearing T-shirts with the words “Inmate Labor” printed in large red block letters (pictured). Coastal residents, many of whom had just seen their livelihoods disappear, took to town hall meetings to express their outrage. The community wanted to know why BP was using cheap or free prison labor when so many people were unemployed?

The short answer is that hiring prison labor is a way for BP to save money while cleaning up their mess. It’s what we call a “two-fer” or a win-win. By tapping in to the inmate workforce, the company and its subcontractors get cheap labor and lucrative tax write-offs. But cheap labor is only part of the story.

In a fascinating story featured in The Nation, Abe Louise Young investigated BP’s use of inmate labor to clean up their mess.

In Louisiana, inmates who have maintained good behavior become eligible for work release in the last three years of their sentences. The Louisiana Department of Corrections calls them “trustees.” This means they can work for private companies on the “outside.” The trustees get to keep a portion of their earnings,
which they can redeem upon their release. Participating businesses receive a tax credit of $2,400 for every work release inmate they hire under a federal program designed to encourage the hiring of risky “target groups.”

The use of inmate labor on the oil spill is a hot button topic on the coast. When Young asks a warden of a South Louisiana jail about this practice, he refused to discuss the matter, exclaiming, “You want me to lose my job?”

A different warden, on condition of anonymity, said that inmates from his facility had been employed in oil cleanup, but declined to answer further questions.

Some officials did speak with Young, though. A lieutenant in the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office stated that three crews of inmates were sandbagging in Buras, La., in case oil hit there: “They’re not getting paid, it’s part of their sentence,” she said. “They’ll work as long as they’re needed.”

Inmates can’t pick and choose their work assignments and may face penalties for rejecting a job, including loss of earned “good time.” The warden of the Terrebonne Parish Work Release Center in Houma explained:

“If they say no to a job, they get that time that was taken off their sentence put right back on.”

This is particularly controversial in that this work could have adverse health implications for those exposed to the toxic chemicals used as dispersants.

The scientific community has acknowledged that while the dangers of mixed oil and dispersant exposure are largely unknown, the chemicals in crude oil can potentially damage every system in the body. The uncertainty regarding the impact of oil cleanup operations on the health of the workers has led many to protest the use of involuntary labor in potentially hazardous conditions.

Now one may wonder why a company would use inmate labor at all instead of giving those jobs to coastal citizens? Particularly when so many residents are unemployed or have been put out of business by the oil spill.

The answer is not so simple. Turns out, these jobs are really sh*tty, and the workforce is not as willing as you might expect.

Young spoke to Scott Rojas of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, who stated that finding local labor to do oil-spill cleanup jobs is easier said than done. “These are really hard, and really low-paid jobs – I know agencies have put effort in to finding locals to do the work.
But they may not always have an easy time of it.”

The Louisiana state unemployment agency advertises oil spill cleanup positions as “green jobs.” At $10 per hour, these jobs would seem like an attractive opportunity.

But Paul Perkins, a retired Angola Prison deputy warden and owner of five for-profit inmate work release centers, told Young that even as the agency is “overflowing with applications for oil spill jobs,” the work force is inconsistent. “They might hire 400 people on Monday, and after one day of work, only 200 will come back on Tuesday.”

And in some cases, residents feel like they shouldn’t have to take these jobs. In a fascinating account of an encounter with some locals at A-Bear’s Restaurant in Houma, Young recalls an elderly man speaking frankly about his son’s financial dilemmas. His son is 40, married with children and was laid off from an oyster shucking factory shortly after the BP leak started. He now walks around with a lawnmower, looking for grass to cut. When asked if his son would be applying for a clean-up position, he responded, “Maybe, no, I don’t think so…that would be hard for his pride, you know? For that little money? No.”

Work-release programs are nothing new. From the businesses’ perspective, you have a group of employees that will always show up and are never late. BP’s use of inmate labor in a potentially hazardous situation, though, smacks of prisoner exploitation.

At the same time, it also forces us to examine our lives in the context of a bad economy. How large a role does pride and entitlement play with regards to the jobs we will and will not do? People say that many immigrants do the work that Americans will not do, and frankly, I always thought that was a load of crap. Now, I’m not so
sure…