by Karen Smith and Jeremiah Tattersall

An old tradition, especially in the Deep South, is the contracting out of unpaid state prisoners to work for local governments and institutions. Although the workers are called prisoners, not slaves, the work they do is slave labor. The county commissioners in Alachua County are breaking that tradition. – Photo: Alan Youngblood, Gainesville Sun

Gainesville, Fla. – On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the Alachua County Commission unanimously voted to become the first elected authority in Florida to end the use of slave contracts from the Department of Corrections (FDOC).

The Gainesville branch of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC) applauds Alachua County for leading the state in ending the use of slave labor and calls on the City of Gainesville and the University of Florida to follow suit.

“Slavery being wrong is something that is almost universally accepted but there is a disconnect between the use of slavery by government agencies and fundamental human rights,” a member of IWOC offered at the meeting.

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the Alachua County Commission unanimously voted to become the first elected authority in Florida to end the use of slave contracts from the Department of Corrections (FDOC).

The Alachua County Commission voted to end their $496,294 a year FDOC contract. This contract was for up to 35 individuals to work on County projects at a time. IWOC looks forward to working with the Alachua County Commission in the passage of an ordinance banning the use of slave labor by the commission and affirming the humanity of carceral individuals.

“Slavery being wrong is something that is almost universally accepted but there is a disconnect between the use of slavery by government agencies and fundamental human rights,” a member of IWOC offered at the meeting.

The City of Gainesville and UF also directly engage in the use of slave labor. The City holds contracts with FDOC totaling $220,000, according to the Gainesville Sun, and UF’s investment in slave labor is estimated to be in the millions of dollars. These jobs could and should go to community members for a living wage.

“One of the Florida AFL-CIO’s guiding principles is “to abolish the competition of convict labor with the labor of free workers” said Jeremiah Tattersall with the CLC. “The ending of this slave contract will lead to some 22 new living wage jobs for our community,” he said.

IWOC was founded in 2014 in order to support incarcerated working class people by engaging in collective action through work stoppages within prisons and solidarity actions outside. Karen Smith, with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, can be reached at GainesvilleIWOC@gmail.com. Jeremiah Tattersall, with the North Central Florida Central Labor Council, can be reached at jtattersall@flaflcio.org.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Slave labor??? That is the biggest bunch of bullcrap I’ve heard in a while!! Inmates rather have something to do to fill their time. It’s the pansy ass cry babies that thought they could call it “Slave labor” and get paid…lol!! Instead the state backfired on them and took it all away!! 🤔😂😂😂

  2. Great job, using inmates to fuel a prison labor system is not what our system of justice is about.

    Tax dollars should not be used to prop up private companies who out compete other enterprises through free labor. It’s a goofy system that is ripe for corruption and nepotism.

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