Hightower: Prison Labor

Psssst. Hey you... Big Shot. Yeah you, you corporate honchos. Want a source of really cheap labor? No worker's-comp to worry about, no health benefits to pay, no uppity attitude from workers? Have I got a deal for you. Let me whisper one word to you: "Prisons." You heard me right. More and more companies are kissing-off their regular employees and going inside the Big House to tap into America's growing pool of Prison Labor. Reese Erlich, a documentary producer for the TV program "We Do the Work" reports that an Ohio subcontractor for Honda paid $2.05-an-hour to get state convicts to assemble parts for the Japanese car maker. The prisoners get to keep 35-cents of this hourly pay -- the rest goes to the state. So Honda profits, the state prison profits ... but the use of convict labor takes more jobs from us law-abiding Americans, it artificially depresses everyone's wage level, and it competes unfairly against small businesses. Honda's not alone in profiteering on prisoners. Call TWA and Best Western motels for reservations, and there's a chance you'll be talking to an inmate ... giving him or her your credit-card number, by the way. And several telemarketing firms now use prisoners -- including one in Washington State that had prisoners making campaign calls last fall for a Republican congressional candidate. Some prison-systems are even more direct profiteers. As in China and other repressive regimes, Oregon and California have set up prison enterprises making clothing, paying prisoners as low as 28-cents an hour. Since Federal law prohibits such goods from being shipped in the U.S., this convict-clothing is exported to Asia. At last... U.S. officials have figured-out how to compete with prison-made goods from Asia! For more information on this use of prison labor, call "We Do the Work": 510-547-8484.

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