I’m excited to announce the release of an excerpt from a forthcoming book that I’ve been working on in a small collective for several years now. The book is a guide to the criminal legal system for radicals and revolutionaries, with an emphasis on handling serious criminal charges in ways that strengthen radical social struggles instead of allowing the state to demolish them.
This chapter-length excerpt covers the heart of the book: setting and balancing your personal, political, and legal goals for criminal charges. Continue reading →
Waupun Correctional Institution inmate Cesar DeLeon is shown being force fed June 20 in this screen grab from a video Thursday in Dodge County Circuit Court. DeLeon, who along with several other Wisconsin inmates is hunger striking to protest long-term solitary confinement, was unable to convince a judge to withdraw the force-feeding order.
A Dodge County Circuit Court judge on Thursday rejected a request by Waupun Correctional Institution inmate Cesar DeLeon to stop force feeding him after DeLeon testified that he would continue hunger striking if the court’s force-feeding order were lifted. Continue reading →
In the early 2000s, the small but militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) launched union drives at Starbucks and Jimmy John’s. At the time, many in the mainstream labor movement scratched their heads. Traditionally, labor groups believed that the high turnover of fast food workers would make them impossible to organize.
Nearly a decade later, fast food workers and the Fight for $15 are a central focus of the mainstream labor movement. And, given IWW’s ability to unionize workers who once seemed out of reach, many labor organizers now look to them as an incubator of new organizing strategies.
Now IWW faces one of the biggest challenges in its history: convincing the broader labor movement to embrace the approximately 400,000 Americans employed as prison labor across the United States.
This spring, the IWW and allied community groups organized prison labor strikes of thousands of incarcerated workers in Alabama, Wisconsin, Texas, Mississippi, and Ohio—all demanding the right to form a union. The IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee has called for a nationwide prison strike on September 9 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising and claims it has the support of thousands of prisoners throughout the United States.
“It could really shake things up,” IWW organizer Jimi Del Duca told me. “A lot of working-class people are afraid to organize because they have a few crumbs to lose. [Many] prisoners have nothing to lose and that gives them courage. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
However, the barriers to organizing prisoners are high. Communication between prisons is difficult, as most prisoners are not allowed access to e-mail. Even within prisons, inmates are limited in their ability to meet face-to-face. While they are allowed to assemble routinely for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or religious activities, the 1977 Supreme Court case Jones v. North Carolina Labor Prisoners’ Union denied them their First Amendment right to assemble if a warden feels a gathering is a threat to prison security. As a result, wardens block most prisoners’ union meetings.
However, Elon University Labor Law Professor Eric Fink says that prisoners may have another option. The right of prisoners to form a union has never been challenged in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union certification case, and Fink believes that prisoners could use the NLRB process to push for the right to meet regularly and form collective bargaining units. He argues that prison workers—employed by private contractors in 37 states—should have the same right to form a union as other workers employed by those contractors. According to Fink, if the IWW were to bring a case before the NLRB, then the board could declare that prisoners are employees who are eligible to join a union.
“I think the Board is capable of saying there are issues that [incarcerated people] have the right to bargain for—such as hours and wages—as any other worker would have the right to do,” said Fink.
As for prison workers who are employed directly by the state, Fink feels they could organize more easily. Under federal labor law, each individual state has a Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) which governs how labor law is applied in the jurisdiction. Often, the leadership of the PERB is heavily influenced by local labor leadership. So, if a public sector union such as AFSCME were to endorse the right of prisoners to form unions, state-level PERBs might be inclined to extend that right.
However, there is a catch: Many public sector unions also represent guards, who may be lukewarm to the idea of prisoners forming unions.
Prisoner supporters across the country are keeping up the pressure on prisons!
In New York people gathered for a fundraiser on the 3rd, and a noise demonstration on the fourth. They gathered outside a federal prison in Brooklyn which houses federal pretrial, federal sentenced, and a lot of immigration cases. Also at this prison are a number of the 120 people arrested during a raid of public housing project in the Bronx a couple of months ago.
“Outside we chanted “brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make this prison fall” and inside, over the fence, we saw fists raised and heard others banging on their cell windows.”
The demo was co-organized by mothers and organizers up in the bx at the houses, iwoc, and abc. Here is video and pictures, from the facebook event.
In Wisconsin, folks turned out lots of solidarity for their comrades on hunger strike. They held banners over the freeway all week, and spent from 8 am to 1 pm at busy intersections outside the WI DOC central office, creating a very visible presence, then they delivered a letter, including new rules for solitary confinement, written by the hunger strikers, as a way to move toward resolution.
You are invited to Bend the Bars 2016, a Midwest convergence in support of prisoners’ struggles.
When: August 26-29
Where: Columbus, OH
What: A weekend of workshops and discussions on prisoners’ resistance, the national prison strike starting September 9, and broad opposition to prisons, along with a public demonstration in solidarity with ongoing prison struggles.
Who we are: a group of individuals involved in prisoner solidarity work in the Midwest.
Who it’s for:
We hope to assemble a diverse group of individuals, groups, and organizations that are united by a desire to work against prisons, in support of our friends and family members who are locked up, and prisoners who are organizing themselves and acting up on the inside. Long-term supporters, former prisoners, prisoners’ families as well as those who are just starting out and wanting to learn more are all encouraged to attend. (Party-based organizations and politicians are discouraged from attending.)
If you plan on attending:
1.If you want to come to Bend the Bars, please RSVP with how many people will be attending and what kinds of accommodation you will need. The website will be updated as more details of the convergence come together, but feel free to contact us with any questions.
2. The organizing process for the convergence is ongoing, so we want to hear from you! What activities, structure, and content do you want to see? Specifically, we will have several slots for workshop sessions throughout the weekend. What discussions do you want to be a part of? Do you want to talk about the work that you’re doing? What projects and initiatives do you want to learn more about? Some topics we are interested in are supporting prison rebellion and prisoner organizing, support for individual prisoners, resistance to maximum security units, resistance to solitary confinement, prison publications, and literature distribution. Let us know if you would like to put something together! Continue reading →
Depuis différents états des USA, des prisonnier.e.s viennent de lancer cet appel à un arrêt du travail des prisonnier.e.s contre l’esclavage carcéral. Cet arrêt du travail aura lieu le 9 septembre 2016 et sera coordonné à l’échelle nationale.
Ceci est un appel à l’action contre l’esclavage aux USA.
D’une seule voix, qui s’élève des cellules des quartiers d’isolement, et qui résonne dans les dortoirs et les quartiers des prisons depuis la Virginie jusqu’à l’Oregon, nous, prisonnier.e.s dans diverses régions des USA, faisons le serment d’enfin éradiquer l’esclavage en 2016.
Le 9 Septembre 1971, les prisonniers ont pris le contrôle et fait fermer Attica, la plus célèbre prison de l’état de New York. Le 9 septembre 2016, nous allons entamer un mouvement pour faire fermer les prisons à travers tout le pays. Nous n’allons pas seulement exiger la fin de l’esclavage carcéral, nous allons cesser d’être nous-mêmes des esclaves.Continue reading →