We, as consumers, have the right to know where our products are coming from. Many large corporations use prison labor to manufacture, and package products. Companies like Victoria’s Secret make profit off of prison labor. Inmates make things for UNICOR, aka FPI (Federal Prison Industries Inc.) Unicor produces anything from office chairs to road signs and name plates.
Prison labor is a modern day form of slavery, inmates work for pennies and at most a $1.15 for a day of work. Corporations and the government save money by using cheap, almost free labor. This is not only an inhuman practice but also takes away job opportunities from the private sector.
People constantly criticize clothing companies for using overseas sweatshops, but to not put that same awareness on prison labor happening in ones own country makes us hypocrites.
Not all companies directly use prison labor, but instead through ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group has helped produce many infamous sentencing laws like mandatory minimums and the “three strikes” law. ALEC also has pioneered the original “Prison Industries Act” which allows inmate labor to manufacture products and other services. ALEC works directly with corporations, many of which you probably give money to. A few of them are:
- American Express Company, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan & Company, Allstate Insurance Company, GEICO, ExxonMobil Corporation, BP America, Johnson & Johnson, Sara Lee Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Communications, United Airlines, Wendy’s, McDonalds Corporation , Fruit of the Loom, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Quaker Oats and Microsoft. For a more extensive list click here.
So, what can you do? Being able to switch cell phone providers or insurance companies or going to a gas station that’s farther away out of boycott is not a simple or in some cases, cheap task. But, being aware of where your products are being made and where your money is going is the first step to real change.