Two years ago, a nationwide prison strike on the anniversary of the Attica Uprising lead by prisoners behind the “Free Alabama Movement” put the inhumane conditions of America’s prisons in the national spotlight.
It’s clear now that was just the beginning.
On Martin Luther King Day this year, Florida inmates - part of the third largest prison system in the country - began a work stoppage and commissary boycott called Operation PUSH. Florida, like many other states, relies on prisoners to grow food, do laundry, cook, clean and handle maintenance in the prisons - work that would cost millions of dollars if contracted out to companies. Prisoners also do work outside the prison, performing 3.15 million hours of work valued at more than $38 million statewide in 2017, including cleanup work after Hurricane Irma. Just like workers in labor unions - which prisoners are not allowed to be part of - the prisoners are withholding their work to amplify their value and get Governor Rick Scott’s attention.
The Operation PUSH campaign demands are simple:
- They want payment for prison labor, rather than the current slave arrangement;
- an end to outrageous canteen prices;
- and reintroduction of parole incentives to lifers and those with parole or release dates unimaginably far in the future, also called “Buck Rogers dates.”
In addition to the three primary demands, the prisoners are also fighting to stop overcrowding and acts of brutality by prison officers; expose dangerous environmental living conditions; stop the state from executing prisoners by using a legal loophole to get around the execution moratorium, and restore voting rights as a basic human right regardless of criminal convictions.
It’s been two months now and this campaign is still active, despite retaliation on both the prisoners and their families. In response to the protest, the Florida Department of Corrections cancelled weekend visitations at several state institutions and have excused this act by claiming family members are bringing contraband into the prisons. Family members and activists have been rallying outside the public visitors entrance this week in response.
For more information on Operation Push and details on how you can support it, visit the Industrial Workers of the World's Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee website at incarcerated workers dot org. There you will find out how to attend or organize an upcoming event, have your organization officially endorse the campaign, write to a striking prisoner to show your support, and donate to the fundraiser to support the prisoners during their strike.
You can also follow Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee on Twitter at @IWW_IWOC and use the hashtag #OperationPUSH on social media to spread the word.
Whenever this strike ends, the fight will still be far from over. You can help carry the torch and raise awareness about the shameful state of American incarceration and the modern slavery it condones by joining the Juneteenth 2018 Call to End Prison Slavery.
This call to action for international organizing and solidarity on or around June 19th, or Juneteenth, a day commemorating the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas three years after it was actually signed, comes from a prisoner activist in Texas, Keith ‘Malik’ Washington. Washington, along with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and the New African Black Panther Party’s Prison Chapter, asks for “mutual aid in raising the public’s awareness in regard to the movement which seeks to abolish prison slavery and Amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Currently, he is advocating for organized viewings of Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” which if you haven’t seen, you must. You can learn more about this action by going to the Fight Toxic Prisons website.
So, if fighting mass incarceration and modern day slavery in America is important to you, be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about Support #OperationPUSH and Join the Juneteenth 2018 Call to End Prison Slavery via social media so that others in your network can spread the word too.
Tell them to recognize the human rights of prisoners:— IWOC (@IWW_IWOC) March 8, 2018
Oppose the plan to cut visitation
Stop price gouging families for goods and services
Pay prisoners a fair wage for their labor
Bring back parole
End repression against prisoners organizing to improve conditions
Support Operation PUSH - Incarcerated Worker’s Organizing Committee
Support Juneteenth 2018 Call to End Prison Slavery - Fight Toxic Prisons
Both Red and Blue States Rely on Prison Labor (via The American Prospect)
Enlisting Prison Labor to Close Budget Gaps (via The New York Times, 2011)
Posted March 16, 2018; Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman
Hear the segment in the context of Best of the Left Edition #1171: Debt, profit and modern-day slavery (Injustice System)