By Huey Dessalines
December 24, 2019
NEW YORK CITY: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was exposed today for his campaign’s exploitation of prison labor to make calls. In a statement to the Intercept, Bloomberg’s campaign stated: “We didn’t know about this and we never would have allowed it if we had. We don’t believe in this practice and we’ve now ended our relationship with the subcontractor in question.” Of course, the campaign run by the man who pushed stop-and-frisk policing in NYC and whose terms in office are remembered with scorn by working class New Afrikan and Latino people in the city is probably not the one to be taken at face value when they issue such glib and boilerplate denials.
The use of unpaid or miserably paid (cents or less than $3 an hour) prison labor is a standard for a variety of corporations, ranging from Whole Foods to Wal-Mart. The super-exploitation of prison labor is essential for the bottom lines of some of the world’s biggest corporations, along with that of third world labor. It is no accident that internal colonies comprise a disproportionate share of those serving long prison sentences. 2.3 million people were incarcerated in the United States as of 2016. In New York, many of this number are directly attributable to the criminal injustice policies pushed by Bloomberg during his time as mayor of the nation’s largest city.
Revolutionary New Afrikan theoretician James Yaki Sayles correctly identified processes such as gentrification and mass incarceration not as accidents but as incidents in the centuries long warfare against New Afrikan people in North America. These processes are population removal processes, as were the gutting of public housing and the continuing removal of Black people in cities such as Saint Louis to inner ring suburbs such as Ferguson. With this in mind, it’s only fitting that one of the major supporters of mass incarceration of working class colonized people would exploit prison labor to shore up his campaign.
The subcontractor that Bloomberg hired, ProCom, used prison labor at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Oklahoma to make calls to California on behalf of the campaign. These workers are paid, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, between $20.00 and $27.09 per month, maximum. The contractor pays the ODC the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The state pockets the majority of the wages for itself and pays incarcerated workers cents an hour. This is simple superexploitation and wage theft which is legal due to the Constitution prescribing slave-labor for incarcerated people. This was with the intention of allowing former slaveholding states a loophole for exploitation after chattel slavery was ended post Civil War.
Oklahoma has a high percentage of Indigenous peoples, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Indigenous people are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average. The original inhabitants of this land (US Indigenous and Chicanos alike) along with those who were forcibly imported to work the land colonizers stole are currently continuing to be super-exploited through mass incarceration. We adhere to the principle established by revolutionary leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh – “When the prison doors open, the real dragon will fly out!”
Prisoners are a critical part of the proletariat, the class which has nothing to lose but their chains. Prisoners organizing for revolution and linking up with those outside will sweep away once and for all the system that could produce one such as Michael Bloomberg. Once again, we see how the Democratic Party is not a venue for class struggle for Communists. It allows prosecutors (Kamala Harris), gentrifiers (Buttigieg), imperialists/neoliberals (Biden/Booker), and other ideological filth (Yang) to ride over the head of the masses, hence declining voter turnout and interest in this circus. The image of people who legally can not vote, prisoners, being forced to work for a Democratic Party candidate who gained notoriety for sending Black and Brown people to prison where they are forced to work for cents an hour is a perfect one for late stage capitalism-imperialism within the belly of the beast.