In a historic action, members of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) inside Texas prisons announced rolling prison strikes beginning this morning. As of 9:30 AM we have confirmed that Robertson Unit is on lockdown.
— IWOC (@IWW_IWOC) April 4, 2016
Prisoners are striking for better living and working conditions, objective timelines for release on good/work time, and an end to a $100 medical co-pays that prevents access to health care and a vast array of human rights abuses. Texas prisons lead the nation in sexaul assault of inmates and have seen a spree of overheating deaths due to lack of air conditioning. Texas prisoners are paid slave wages.
“Slavery is a horrifying institution,” said Nicholas Onwuke, IWOC Co-Chair and former prisoner. “Violence is the last gasp of an evil system against people standing up, demanding their dignity. It took mass struggle to end historical slavery and Jim Crow, so will it to end prison slavery today.”
— IWOC (@IWW_IWOC) March 30, 2016
The prison administration will do all they can to conceal and oppress the strike. According to a March 23rd letter from an IWOC organizer in a Texas prison, prisoners organizing there were given “reliable information” that authorities would use lockdowns “to create the public perception that we are locked down for administrative purposes and not because of the Texas Work Stoppage.”
In lockdown situations “authorities will try to starve, harass, and intimidate us to go back to work” even as prison administration is preparing for a prolonged struggle. The letter states that the prison may be attempting to use other workers to break the strike, “we [in prison] are being asked to write instructions on how to run the washing machines and [industry equipment] so that an alternative workforce can take over the functioning of the prison”.
But there is power in solidarity. Prison organizers believe they can advance with grassroots reporting and outside support. From the March 23rd letter: “If we know the free world is watching and supporting us this will go a long way to making our action worthwhile.”