Most of us in the radical labor movement are well aware of the historical bait-and-switch pulled with May Day and the modern American holiday established by the state known as Labor Day. Despite this many anarchists still take Labor Day as an opportunity to spread the message of worker liberation and freedom from capitalism. In fact, that’s just what the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World is encouraging people to do. Specifically IWOC is asking folks to celebrate Labor Day this year by standing in solidarity with incarcerated laborers and demanding an end to prison slavery.
IWOC has recently put out an official statement urging outside supporters of the ongoing prison strike to take things to the next stage. While we should not stop writing letters, participating in phone zaps, donating to the strike fund, supporting boycott and divestment efforts, and organizing solidarity protests and noise demos, there is a call to escalate tactics in tandem with the actions taken by those behind bars.
Inspired by the recent actions of another wing of the prison abolitionist movement, Occupy ICE, as well as by our inmate comrades holding it down on the inside, IWOC and others have chosen to put themselves on the line and even risk arrest to disrupt business as usual for those who profit from prison slave labor.
We are being called upon to not only protest at the local prison, jail, or work camp, but to blockade prison labor facilities, refuse to let prison work vans get to their destinations unhindered, and establish occupation encampments outside their operations. We must stand strong and refuse to budge until our demands are met or we are forced out. And if we are forced out of our physical blockades and occupations then we promise to come back even bigger and with more refined tactics. It is through solidarity and direct action that we will get the demands of these prisoners met.
Their demands are simple:
- Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
- An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
- The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
- The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
- An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
- An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
- No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
- State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
- Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
- The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
So as Occupy ICE inspires yet another Occupy movement against prison slavery, we must gather our camping supplies and put them to good use, whether by going out there ourselves or by donating to those who can. Let’s make this year’s Labor Day something to remember by using it to launch the next stage of the movement to end prison slavery. This Labor Day we celebrate ALL workers.