Monday, March 05, 2007

Slave Labor

In yesterday's (3/4//07) NYT there was an article inside the first section that is very worrisome: "Inmates Will Replace Migrants in Colorado Fields."

Seems that Colorado's immigrant migrant farm workers are disappearing due to stringent laws being enforced, and farmers need this labor--for all aspects of crop to market work. So the Corrections Department is suggesting that the farmers pay the agency a fee, low risk inmates would volunteer, and get paid 60 cents --sixty cents-- a day. Other states are also looking towards the prison population to supplement field labor. As it is migrant farm workers are the lowest paid in our labor force--on average being paid much less than minimum wage-- not to mention without benefits, and they have highest incidence of injury of all workers according to a Cornell report (2001)

Not only is this slave labor and wages underwriting the cost of growing crops--which we would enjoy at the supermarket with lower prices for these crops--but begs for a continual supply of this very cheap labor.
Angela Davis identified this as the Prison-Industrial Complex in 1998. She also spoke that fall at Colorado State University on this. Here is a link to all the prisons using prisoners as labor forces within the systems and hiring them out to corporations, with articles and links: (Prison labor has undercut union labor, and non-union labor...but it helps make corporations more profitable, and prisons entrepreneurial cost centers).

Using prison labor in the fields not not solve any of agriculture growers problems in the long term but perpetuates the incarceration of low level criminals so that prison population has enough labor to sell. It does not solve the problem of immigrant workers. It does not make our streets safer. It does not help to rehabilatate prisoners. It does not really cut the costs of our prison system when you look at the impact on keeping those prisons stocked with labor. The only good that comes is that farmers get even cheaper labor, and can turn a profit, and we the consumer will supposedly get cheap food. (Use this same construction for all prison labor--the owners of the business get to reap the biggest profit.)

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