Prisoners affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union have announced plans to enact major work stoppages in Texas on Monday April 4th if their demands are not met.
Inspired by a growing wave of prison strikes in Alabama, Georgia, and California to end prison slavery and vastly reduce the prison population, Texas prisoners say it’s their turn to “take a stand.” These prisoners are part of the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the first widespread effort for union recognition among prisoners in decades, with over 750 members in prisons across the country.
“This story is nothing new,” said Nicholas Onwukwe, former prisoner, and Co-Chair of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee, “Texas is running a slave plantation. They work with companies to take advantage of slave wages, and keep expenses as low as possible by forcing people into inhuman conditions. But prisons can’t run without inmate labor. Change is coming because prisoners are growing a mass movement in prisons, one that won’t stop until prison slavery is abolished.”
IWOC prisoners in Texas have issued demands for their strike and a call for support. They demand better living and working conditions within the Texas penal system, an end to extortion in the form of large copays for medical treatment, meaningful good/work time to require re-entry at the “earliest release date” unless there are “objective reasons” against it, an independent committee to review inmate grievances and an end to human rights abuses.
Jocelin Johnson, the fiance of a Texas prisoner and herself a former prison guard has seen these abuses first hand. “An officer ‘accidentally’ cut off the tip of my fiance’s finger month’s ago, yet the grievances go nowhere,” she says. “These changes are past due, it’s time for all of us to stand up for justice.”
The IWW is an industrial union open to all workers, including prisoners. The IWOC is working with the families of prisoners as well as union members across the country to coordinate support for the strike in the form of public pressure and social media support.
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