cj#372> Prison Labor — a final solution?


Richard Moore

The report below talks about the increasing use of prison labor for the
benefit of private corporations.  When you combine this with the massive
prison construction agenda, planned unemployment, the widespread lock-em-up
mentality (3 strikes your out for pizza theft), you get a picture of a
systematic slave-labor operation on a big scale.  One effect is to boost
corporate profits, directly by use of the cut-rate labor, and indirectly by
the downward pressure on wages.  From a more fundamental perspective, slave
labor provides an underpinning to America's plans for a downward-spiraling
economy: increasing living costs, decreasing wages, increased unemployment:
slave labor is the carpet under which can be swept those who fall out the
bottom of the system, and it's a profit center as well!

Especially in low-employment ghettos, it seems we could expect an
increasingly common "career track" starting with petty crimes and dealing
CIA-marketed drugs, and ending up as a lifetime labor serf in some
corporate-operated prison/factory.

Did you know that hundreds of Germany's concentration camps were privtely
owned, and provided slave labor?  There may have been one Schindler who had
good intentions, but most were like Krupp: he sold Hitler on the idea of
the slave-concentration camp combo (over emotional opposition), saying
(essentially) "we might as well work them to death as waste bullets."

We've all heard about slave labor today in China, but there are other
examples as well, including in Brazil, of outright slavery -- where work is
compelled under threat of death.  But conditions in many Third-World areas
really aren't much better.  Yes, the jobs might be taken "by free choice",
but with sub-survival wages, and military suppression of the labor
movement, what's the difference between that and outright slavery?  In some
cases, whole countries (Guatamala?) are being turned into "free
exploitation" zones, at least for some segments of the population,
typically those referred to as indiginous.

Just as fascism wears a different face in the old US of A, so does the
slave labor industry.  We don't haul people away to camps because we don't
like them (as in Nazi Germany), nor because we're openly exploiting them
(as in Brazil) -- no, we are "dealing with repeat offenders" and "teaching
a trade".  It sounds better that way.

Few would say publicly that prisons are a planned final solution to the
"black problem".  But it does seem to be the only government-sponsored
program that "deals with" inner-city unemployment on a significant scale.


Date:         Tue, 19 Dec 1995
From: Bob Witanek <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      Prison Labor, Prison Blues
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <•••@••.•••>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 1995
To: Multiple recipients of list <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Prison Labor

Here is information on use of prison labor from recent issues of the AFL-CIO
Label Letter.
PRISON.LBR -- w/Photo

Prison Labor, Prison Blues

     Tens of thousands of state and federal prisoners being paid
minimum or sub-minimum wages generated more than $1 billion a
year in sales last year for private businessmen -- often in
direct competition with private sector workers.

     And it's getting worse.  By the year 2000, according to the
Correctional Industries Association, a full 30 percent of the
state and federal inmate population will work, yielding $8.9
billion in sales for those who control their labor.

     An investigative report on the scandal, Prison Labor/Prison
Blues, was put together by the We Do The Work television show.
Airing on Public Broadcasting Corporation stations beginning in
March (see listing, p. X), the show cites union and business
leaders' concerns that the cheap source of labor undercuts other
business and is unfair competition for job seekers on the

     The report describes some personal nightmares for workers
who find themselves in competition with what could fairly be
termed slave labor.  And with Republicans pushing for $10 billion
in new prison construction, things are likely to get even uglier
than they already are.

     Some horror stories from Prison Labor/Prison Blues:

     * Most of the workers at Michigan's Brill Mfg. Co. furniture
plant lost their $5.65 an hour jobs when state prison inmates
getting 56 cents to 80 cents an hour were hired in their stead.

     * Some 100 Texas state prisoners being held at a privately
owned jail in Lockhart are now doing jobs taken from computer
circuit board assembly workers in Austin, Tex., whose plant was
closed.  The prisoners get the federal minimum wage and no
benefits.  The work is for computer industry giants such as IBM,
Dell and Compaq.

     * In Ohio, before the United Auto Workers was able to stop
it, prisoners in the Ross County jail were assembling auto parts
for Honda.  To this day, prisoners are making toys and rakes,
doing data entry and other tasks.

     * Prison inmates have stocked shelves at a Toys 'R' Us
retail store outside Chicago.  Juvenile offenders take phone
reservations for TWA near Santa Barbara.  San Quentin convicts do
data entry work for private companies.

     * Prison officials in Pendleton, Ore., run the Oregon
Corrections Industries trade company, Unigroup, which
manufactures convict-made designer jeans labeled, of all things,
"Prison Labor," and other clothing.  A recent ballot initiative
in Oregon would force all prisoners to work -- presumably in
competition with honest citizens.

     While supporting opportunities for prisoners to learn useful
trades,  organized labor has condemned the use of convict labor
in private sector jobs.

     The TV report also documents how things can be done right --
like the story of San Quentin prisoner Casey Hayhurst, who
participated in a training program administered by International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 551 and landed a good job
in a union shop ten days after his release.


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 •••@••.•••  | Cyberlib=http://www.internet-eireann.ie/cyberlib
    Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.