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Prison slavery: We are not loving it

Published on Nov 08, 2016 Tags: ,
On Saturday 5th November FAU Berlin did a flyer and banner action outside a McDonald's, in solidarity with the prisoners' strike in the United States (USA) that has been going on since September 2016.

Why McDonald’s?

Because McDonald’s, like many other US-based businesses (Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks, the list goes on...) uses the “insourced” and highly exploited forced labour of the USA’s 2.4 million prisoners in its everyday business. The Oregon inmates who sew McDonald’s uniforms, for example, make even less money by the hour than the people who wear them.

But these are interesting times...

For almost two months, prisoners in the US have downed tools in the country’s first ever attempt at a national strike of prison labour. The extent of involvement is difficult to assess, but at least 15,310 prison labourers have been on lockdown in facilities where organizing or strikes have been confirmed. The date chosen for the strike’s launch, September 9th, is the anniversary of the famous “Attica Riot” of 1971 in which prisoners rose up in the name of prisoners’ rights and rebelled against their inhumane living conditions.

This time round, prisoners have had enough of legally-sanctioned slave labour. They work an average of 8 hours a day, with no union representation, and make between 20c and €1 per hour, over 6 times less than federal minimum wage. Low wages and cutbacks in educational programs and job training mean massive debt and little hope of a future, which helps to ensure that released inmates are soon dragged back into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Meanwhile, big businesses like MacDonald’s receive giant profits and tax credits for employing prisoners in excess of millions of dollars a year – all sanctioned by the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution (which banned slavery... except as “punishment for crimes”).

Τhis strike is about much more than just wages and inhumane and overcrowded living and working conditions in prisons. Events surrounding the actions have grabbed global attention: a 400 strong rebellion on the eve of the strike at Florida Holmes prison, acts of civil disobedience (notably involving 40 prisoners in another Florida-based Institution), a hunger strike, workstoppages and demonstrations in many other prisons nation-wide. Not only has the strike brought the issue of wage/slave labour in prisons to the forefront of public consciousness, but it links these to recent protests against mass incarceration, police repression, and systemic racism (the African American minority makes up 60% of inmates in the US!).

“When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released.”

Free Alabama Movement, involved in organising the 2016 actions.

Support the prisoners' strike against slave labour!

Expose companies who profit from slave labour of incarcerated workers!

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Open FAU office: Every Friday, 5–8 pm.
Labour rights help desk: Every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month, 5–6 pm. Please write in advance to faub-beratung@fau.org.
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Advice for worker and business collectives: See the advice page (german) of the union coop // federation.
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