The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a subsidiary of Industrial Workers of the World, organized a prisoner work strike, first announced on April 1, calling for inmates across America to refuse to participate in forced labor starting Friday, Sept. 9.
In a “Call to Action Against Slavery in America”, IWOC acknowledges the 45th anniversary of the Attica, N.Y., state prison shutdown, where inmates held 39 prison guards hostage for four days in protest of inhumane conditions, unbridled violence and unpaid labor.
State prisoners in Texas, Georgia and Arkansas are still mandated to work for free and federal inmates are only compensated 12 to 40 cents per hour. Most inmates in the U.S. are required to work under the penalty of law, with punishments including extended jail sentences and solitary confinement.
Indeed, such uncompensated, mandatory labor is legal under federal law, as the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution 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”.
In a testimony to the hellish conditions of America’s prisons, IWOC organizer, Phillip Ruiz, imprisoned for almost 10 years in California, said he had a job baking bread that paid nine cents per month, while a can of soda cost $2 at the commissary.
“Work is good for anyone,” said Melvin Ray, member of the Free Alabama Movement and an Alabama state prisoner in Jefferson County. “The problem is that our work is producing services that we’re being charged for, that we don’t get any compensation from.”
While it is unclear how effective IWOC’s organizing effort will be, word is spreading of the deplorable conditions in many U.S. prisons and the vicious cycle such an environment breeds for its inmates.
Shown below is state prisoner testimony about food contamination not reported to the public by the Alabama State Department of Corrections.
There are currently 900,000 prisoners who are mandated to perform physical labor at incarceration facilities across the United States.
[Mother Jones] [Business Insider] [Photo courtesy wagingnonviolence.org]