Prisoners across the United States are calling for a nationwide prisoner work stoppage against prison slavery on September 9th, 2016.
Their goal is to begin an action to shut down prisons, which are totally dependent on inmate labor, across the country. According to US Uncut, US prisoners are paid from 0 to 45 cents an hour for contract work for highly profitable corporations such as Whole Foods, Walmart, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, BP and AT&T.
September 9th is the 45th anniversary of the 1971 uprising in which prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York’s most notorious state prison.
Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines have greatly increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have drawn the most attention. There have also been large hunger strikes at Ohio State Penitentiary, Menard Correctional in Illinois, Red Onion in Virginia and elsewhere. The growing resistance movement includes inmates at immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities.
The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), created by the International Workers of the World (IWW), functions as a liaison to support prisoners in organizing and forging links between prisons and with fellow workers on the outside. IWOC, the only union representing prisoners, currently has 800 members.
As reported in the Nation, barriers to organizing prisoners are high. Most prisons deny inmates access to email, which makes communications between prisons difficult. Even within prisons, wardens block most prisoners’ union meetings. In 1977 the Supreme Court ruled prisoners have no First Amendment right to assemble if a warden feels a gathering threatens prison security.
In early 2015, the Free Alabama Movement published Let the Crops Rot in the Fields, laying out a new strategy –specifically tackling economic incentive – for ending mass incarceration. By refusing to work, prisoners directly attack the corporate profit motive underpinning mass incarceration. The IWOC has been sending copies of “Let the Crops Rot in the Fields” to prisoners all over the US.
According to the Nation article, the IWW were also instrumental in launching union drives at fast food restaurants in the early 2000s and the campaign for a $15 minimum wage.
For more information on IWOC and to help support the Sept 9 strike visit the IWOC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/incarceratedworkers/