Prison Labor Exposed: From Starbucks to Microsoft - A sampling of what US prisoners make & for whom
May 21, 2013
Tens of thousands of US inmates are paid from pennies to minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation—for everything from grunt work to firefighting to specialized labor.
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the UnionCorrectional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
And Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens).Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup “entirely consistent with our mission statement.”
Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips.
In Texas, prisoners make officers’ duty belts, handcuff cases, and prison-cell accessories. California convicts make gun containers, creepers (to peek under vehicles), and human-silhouette targets.
A stitch in time: California inmates sew their own garb. In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria’s Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace “Made in Honduras” labels on garments with “Made in the usa.”
Open wide: At California’s prison dental laboratory, inmates produce a complete prosthesis selection, including custom trays, try-ins, bite blocks, and dentures.
Constructive criticism: Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. (Company policy says, “Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart.”)
On call: Its inmate call centers are the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” Unicor boasts. In 1994, a contractor for gop congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew.
Federal Prison Industries, a.k.a. Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers’ uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have “produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)” and “wiring harnesses for jets and tanks.” In 1997, according to Prison Legal News, Boeing subcontractor MicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.
Walmart opts out of Bangladesh safety agreement
May 15, 2013
Walmart has confirmed it will not sign up to a legally binding agreement on worker safety and building regulations in Bangladesh supported by retailers including H&M, Zara, Primark, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Next, C&A and several others.
However, the US retail giant has created its own agreement, which it claims goes beyond the current accord that was drafted by labour groups and campaigners.
The company, which also owns the UK’s third biggest supermarket, Asda, said the deal signed by its rivals was “unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals” and questioned the “governance and dispute-resolution mechanisms”.
Instead, Walmart has agreed its own deal to inspect all 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh within six months, and has promised to publish the findings immediately.
Bosses claim this goes beyond the UNI Global Union and IndustriALL deal, pointing out the agreement requires 65% of inspections instead of 100% inspections taking place and argue its own deal means results are published straight away rather than within 45 days.
However, the Walmart deal is not legally binding, does not require the company to offer financial support for fire and safety regulations and blacklist factories unwilling to comply.
The agreement has been criticised by campaigners as a “business as usual” approach, which fails to address the core problems that led to the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
Sam Maher from Labour Behind the Label, said: “Walmart’s so-called new programme is simply more of the same ineffective auditing that failed to prevent the Rana Plaza disaster, or the deaths of 112 workers at Tazreen, who were producing Walmart goods.
“The changes demanded by the IndustriALL accord, include ensuring that factories are provided with the incentives and investment needed to actually make factories safe and are essential for any real change to occur. What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone.”
Walmart has also refused to clarify whether it sourced clothes from the Rana Plaza building, saying only that it had no “authorised” production at the site.
A statement from Walmart said: “The company, like a number of other retailers, is not in a position to sign the IndustriALL accord at this time.
“While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriALL plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals.”
Several major UK retailers have declined to sign the agreement, including Arcadia group, the company behind brands including Topshop, Bhs and Dorothy Perkins; Debenhams; River Island; Matalan and Peacocks.
However, late on Tuesday night Next, the UK’s second biggest clothing retailer, did agree to sign.
Walmart’s decision leaves George at Asda, the supermarket’s clothing brand, at odds with its own position as a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.
The ETI, the UK’s biggest alliance of businesses, trade unions and voluntary organisations, has recommended its members sign up to the accord.
Once more: “What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone.”
As my Dad would say, “First up against the wall when the revolution comes!”
Today in history: May 7, 1907 - “Bloody Tuesday” during the San Francisco Streetcar Strike of 1907, when police and strikebreakers opened fire on striking workers. The workers were striking for an 8-hour day and $3 per day.
The strike was among the most violent of the streetcar strikes in the U.S. between 1895 and 1929, as workers repeatedly disrupted streetcar service and armed guards and strikebreakers tried to defend streetcars and attack striking workers. Before the end of the strike, thirty-one people had been killed and about 1100 injured.
(image: police escort a scab streetcar to protect it from the conflict that erupted repeatedly during the 1907 streetcar strike)
Via Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back!)
Two brothers from Chechnya. That was the official word early morning on Friday April 19th, 2013 as to who were behind the Boston marathon bombings. “Chechens.”
So, naturally, who do some brilliant citizens of the United States of America blame? The CZECH REPUBLIC, of course!
Here are those…
Undocumented youth infiltrates another immigration detention center: Read what she discovered
April 19, 2013
When I spoke with Claudia Muñoz two weeks ago, she said she was tired of fearing the moment when authorities might arbitrarily place her in detention. Because she arrived in Texas from Mexico at the age of 16, the 27-year-old is ineligible for Obama’s deferred action for students—and that means it might be easier for her to be deported. So Muñoz decided to take the matter into her own hands, and infiltrate a detention facility. “I’m the one who’s going to determine the moment when I’m detained, and the moment when I’m released,” she said.
Muñoz was apprehended a week-and-a-half ago by customs agents near the US-Canada border, and has been working to document the stories of immigrant women housed at the Calhoun County Correctional Facility near Detroit, Michigan. She works with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), which has infiltrated detention centers in the past with the aim of organizing with detainees on the inside. The facility holds just thirteen undocumented women—among non-immigrant inmates held for more serious charges.
Since her detention, Muñoz has managed to call me collect several times to explain what she’s found. Each of those collect calls costs $9.99—paid to a private contractor that specializes in jailhouse communications services—and ends at exactly five minutes, with several precious seconds lost in the one-minute warning message. Muñoz says she was prepared for the rather deplorable conditions: it’s often cold, and the food is often inedible, so inmates and detainees go hungry.
What she didn’t expect were the daily lockdowns. Two or three times daily, immigrant detainees and inmates accused of varying crimes are locked into cells for a few hours at a time. Early on, Muñoz says her cellmate explained the solicitation charges she was facing, and asked her why she was in. When Muñoz told her it was because she didn’t have papers, her cellmate didn’t seem to get it. “But what did you do?” she questioned. Muñoz says she had to explain that simply being undocumented has landed her in jail.
Since her arrival at Calhoun, she’s been in contact with NIYA, which last week highlighted the imminent removal of Everlida Calvo Sanchez—a woman who is the primary caretaker of three children who feared being deported to Guatemala, where her own sister was murdered just two years ago. Although she was set to be deported last Friday, immigration authorities opted to allow her stay after a barrage of phone calls and petition emails demanded a halt to her deportation.
Now, NIYA is focused on more cases. Wanda Rivas Rivas was detained after a traffic stop for a broken taillight revealed she had an expired driver’s license. Rivas does have an old deportation order, but fears returning to El Salvador because of extreme violence there. Members of her entire family in the US have temporary protected status to shield them from such a circumstance.
Muñoz met Gustavo Vargas when she was first detained, and although the two are now housed in a separate facility, NIYA is brining attention to his case. Vargas, a local entrepreneur and the father to four US citizen children, was deported more than a dozen years ago but returned in order to take care of his family. The group hopes that phone calls and petition emails will make immigration authorities reconsider all of these cases.
Muñoz has had little face-to-face contact with the outside world—undocumented immigrants are not allowed to visit her in jail. But a visit from Steve Pavey changed that last week. Pavey, an applied anthropologist who works with the One Horizon Institute, become involved with undocumented youth in 2010 during a bus ride with some seventy undocumented youth from Kentucky to Washington, DC.
Pavey says he was surprised when he saw the jail—which he says looks more like a corporate business office complex than anything else. Once inside, Pavey and Muñoz shared horrific stories about women in detention. At Calhoun, nine of the thirteen women there have children under the age of ten at home. But Pavey says that what might seem like the last stop before deportation has changed with Muñoz’s presence. After Calvo Sanchez was released last week, women began to have hope about making their stories public. “Claudia Muñoz has come in on her own will, in one sense,” explains Pavey. “And that’s shining hope for other women in that space in the midst of the awful despair of family separation.”
Activists are now calling for an immediate investigation into Michigan Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Director Rebecca Adducci, and corrections officer J. Jolin, who acts as an ICE liaison. They say Adducci has willfully ignored federal directives to release those detainees with low-priority cases. Jolin, meanwhile, is a local deputy who Muñoz says has verbally harassed detainees—including threatening long prison sentences for those who don’t sign voluntary departure agreements. Jolin is also married to the federal deportation officer in charge at the jail, which may signal a conflict of interest.
Despite the conditions as she approaches two weeks into her detention, Muñoz says she’s doing fine, and it’s the other women and men being unfairly held that worry her the most.
Pictured: Claudia Muñoz at a news conference on the DREAM Act.
Weev got 3 years and a 5 figure fine for basically pointing out a massive flaw in AT&T’s server security
Matthew Keys is facing up to 30 years for “defacing” an online article
A homeless woman got 5 years for sending her kid to a better school.
Meanwhile the rapists got 1 year and the MAX they could have gotten was 4 years (cause they could only be held till they were 21)
Whistleblowing Wednesday: Children As Young As Six Harvest 25 Percent of U.S. Crops
Knowing the farmer who grows your food has become an important tenet of the modern food movement, but precious little attention is paid to the people who actually pick the crops or “process” the chickens or fillet the fish. U Roberto Romano’s poignant film, The Harvest/La Cosecha (2011), being screened across the country for Farmworker Awareness Week (March 24-29), informs us that nearly 500,000 children as young as six harvest up to 25 percent of all crops in the United States.
What’s illegal in most countries is permitted here. Child migrant labor has been documented in the 48 contiguous states. Seasonal work originates in the southernmost states in late winter where it is warm and migrates north as the weather changes. Every few weeks as families move, children leave school and friends behind. If you’ve had onions (Texas), cucumbers (Ohio or Michigan), peppers (Tennessee), grapes (California), mushrooms (Pennsylvania), beets (Minnesota), or cherries (Washington), you’ve probably eaten food harvested by children.
This isn’t a slavery issue, or an immigration issue per se. What’s remarkable is that most of the migrant child farmworkers are American citizens trying to help their families. This is a poverty issue and it gets to the heart of what we, as consumers, see as the “right price” to pay for food.
Children earn about $1,000 per year for working an average of 30 hours a week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. When you consider that the average annual pay for a migrant family of four is $12,500-$14,500, it’s apparent why some families feel they have no choice but to bring their children into the fields with them. Half of these kids will not graduate from high school because they’re always moving around, perpetuating the cycle of poverty that caused them to be day laborers in the first place.
April 17, 2013 - The President of the Republic, Nicolas Maduro, today criticized the interference of the U.S. government in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The president held a meeting Wednesday with the governors of the states, in which he described as “obscene” American intervention in the political process in the country, including the recent election of April 14.
The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, today demanded a recount of votes in Venezuela and questioned the legitimacy of Maduro.
Maduro was emphatic in rejecting the statements of Kerry. “What basis do you have to be talking about Venezuela, aren’t there enough economic, social and political burdens on the American people?” Maduro asked. ”Enough interventionism, get out!”
Of the U.S. refusal to recognize the results given by the CNE, he said: “We do not need your recognition: we decided to be free and we will be free and independent, with you or without you.”