AMEND THE 13TH AMENDMENT!

AMEND THE 13TH AMENDMENT!

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Committee To Stop Police Terror & End Systemic Racism - Seattle started this petition to State and federal governments in the US All state and federal legislators in the U.S.

AMEND THE 13TH AMENDMENT!

Dear Lawmaker,

We, the undersigned living and breathing persons, do hereby petition you to enact an amendment to the constitution of the United States, forever and completely banning from the United States, and any place subject to its jurisdiction, the existence of slavery and involuntary servitude in any form whatsoever.

(This petition is also available in pamphlet PDF.)

11 X 17 Trifold

8 page 8.5 X 11 with references and signature line page included

 

What is the 13th Amendment?

The thirteenth amendment was ratified at the end of the Civil War in 1865 and is commonly thought of the amendment which enshrined the end of slavery in our constitution. But it didn’t! The thirteenth amendment states:

"Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This language has made it legal to “employ” incarcerated people in prison labor. This is modern day slavery, and is currently completely legal.

We, as members of The Committee to Stop Police Terror and End Systemic Racism Seattle, propose to change the 13th Amendment to redact the sentence “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. We call upon all workers and members of the labor movement to support this change.

 

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT ME?

Any division among the workers can help no one but the employer.

The 13th Amendment is the only US labor law that applies—even in paper legal theory—to every workplace and every toiler laboring within "the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction", whether private or public sector, agriculture or city, domestic service or heavy industry, documented or undocumented, "employee" or "contractor", railroad or non-railroad.

It’s loophole of “except for punishment of a crime…” literally threatens ALL of us with involuntary servitude—if we do or say anything that makes our bosses mad enough to accuse us of a crime and call the cops on us.

The constant threat of being jailed and enslaved is like a silent thumb on the back of every toiler’s neck, reminding each of us to be afraid, keep our noses to the grindstone and not demand better wages, treatment or dignity.

Incarceration also disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous communities, who are incarcerated at much higher rates than white workers, reinforcing the economic disparities and racial division amongst us as workers. This division is then exploited when we attempt to come together and stand up for our rights. An example of this is that prison laborers are utilized as scabs when unionized workers are striking (as happened for the first six days of the 2020 New Orleans Garbage Hoppers Strike).

The labor movement has a long history of calling out the abuse of fellow workers who are not afforded the voice we have fought for. Examples of this include the organizing campaigns to end child labor and to close the gendered wage gap.

Besides standing up to the obvious inhumanity of the working conditions that prison labor allows, we must see that our struggle is inherently intertwined with prison laborers. To allow others to be exploited only gives the bosses somewhere to turn as an alternative when we stand up against them, and something to threaten us with as a potential punishment for standing up.

 

ABOUT PRISON LABOR

Approximately 1 out of every 145 people in the US are incarcerated, a higher rate than any other country on Earth. Of this country’s approximately 2.3 million prisoners, it is estimated that about 900,000 are performing labor while under incarceration.

Each US state has a different set of policies regarding inmate labor and convict leasing, but all 50 states use a significant number of prison laborers in both public and private industry. California, for example, uses prisoners as rural firefighters, paying them $1 an hour over twelve- or twenty-four-hour shifts. Some have died doing this work.

Likely the largest single user of contract prison labor is Federal Prison Industries which goes by brand name UNICOR. UNICOR handles such arrangements for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and pays inmates roughly $0.90 an hour to produce everything from mattresses, spectacles, road signs and body armor for other government agencies.

However, prisoners don’t just work for the upkeep of the prison system.  Prisoners also work to create products sold in the US for the profit of the prison system.  Prisoners work for private companies at facilities and factories within the prison, and are even “hired out” to firms outside the prisons.

A 2017 study found that on average, incarcerated people earn between 86 cents and $3.45 per day for the most common prison jobs. In at least five states, those jobs pay nothing at all.

Even though the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIE), requires private employers to pay the equivalent of the prevailing minimum wage per hour for inmate labor, net wages to inmates still skim the surface of slavery because of the many deductions.  “LFOs,” or—legal financial obligations, such as taxes, restitution, room and board, and other costs associated with the prisoner’s criminal processing and incarceration which prisoners are made to pay — can eat away as much as 80 percent of an inmate’s paycheck.

Employers using prison labor also, of course, do not have to pay unemployment insurance claims; and leased convicts are not qualified for unemployment benefits when laid off—whether upon or before their release.

Inmate laborers deserve a safe workplace and a living wage. However, unlike “free” workers outside prison, inmates can’t quit a job they do not like, legally complain or even legally refuse unsafe work.

In spite of this, incarcerated laborers struggle to organize unions and conduct strikes in defense of their most basic human rights.

 

RACIAL COMPOSITION

EVEN THOUGH AFRICAN-AMERICANS make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, African-American males make up 37 percent of the male U.S. prison population.

Put another way, 2.7 percent of African-American males were sentenced to more than one year in a state or federal prison at the end of 2014. The figure for white males was just 0.5 percent, making African-Americans five times more likely to be behind bars.

Given the recently resurfaced interview with a top aide to President Nixon explicitly claiming that the War on Drugs was actually a war, in part, on African-Americans, it’s not hard to see how prisons, private prisons in particular, might be just the newest system for forcibly funneling African-Americans into an infrastructure in which they can be controlled and exploited — how this might simply be American slavery, reinvented.

However, even with this disproportionate imprisonment of laborers with melanin, over a third (more than ¾ million) of US prisoners are Caucasian, illustrating that the threat of being condemned to involuntary servitude is very real for every laborer in this country, including those with lighter skin.

 

WHAT TO DO?

AMEND THE 13TH AMENDMENT!

Join us in launching this US-wide petition to both our state and federal legislators, demanding the full and unconditional abolition of all slavery and involuntary servitude in this country. Sign this petition. Get your union or community organization to endorse and circulate this petition. Join this committee to help coordinate the work of circulating it, or build a similar committee in your own workplace and/or neighborhood.

 

THE TIME IS NOW!

Some states have already begun to amend their constitutions to finally outlaw slavery entirely.

In 2018, Colorado overwhelmingly passed Amendment A (by 66%), which amends the Colorado state constitution to prohibit slave labor. In 2020, Utah even more overwhelmingly passed Amendment C (by over 80%), amending its state constitution in the same way.

Consider joining our Committee to Stop Police Terror & End Systemic Racism, to help build this and other relevant campaigns.

This petition has been endorsed by Bayan Seattle and APRI Seattle.

What is the Committee to Stop Police Terror & End Systemic Racism?

The Seattle Committee to Stop Police Terror and End Systemic Racism organized the 2020 Juneteenth march and rally on the Seattle Waterfront, spearheaded by rank and file longshoremen of ILWU Locals 19 and 52. The Oakland committee under the same name, which came before us, organized the 2020 Bay Area march and rally with longshoremen of ILWU Locals 10 and 34. Both committees have continued work in the community, as police terror and systemic racism are still prevalent. In addition to amending the 13th amendment, this committee has short term goals and plans. We believe in having boots on the ground at local marches and rallies, if you are not immunocompromised in this Covid-19 era. This is a BIPOC led movement and we believe in lifting those voices up. We believe in education about the labor movement. We also support other unions and organizations, both locally and internationally, in their strikes, pickets and struggles with racial injustice.

Follow us @stoppoliceterrorseattle on instagram

 

LINKS

https://paydayreport.com/replaced-by-prison-labor-nola-garbage-workers-form-union-to-fightback-2/

www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/09/prison-strike-inmate-labor-work/

www.prisonpolicy.org/prisonindex/prisonlabor.html

www.economist.com/united-states/2017/03/16/prison-labour-is-a-billion-dollar-industry-with-uncertain-returns-for-inmates

www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/prison-labor-in-america/406177/

https://allthatsinteresting.com/private-prisons-us-stat s

https://blog.globaltel.com/companies-use-prison-labor/

www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/10/wages/                                                                        

National Correctional Industries Association survey
2020 1st Quarter list of private companies at prisons:  https://76d0e188-7f8c-4f55-a951-cf7e3562b04d.usrfiles.com/ugd/76d0e1_51b2f79551464fd0a25784a9f187dca1.pdf

https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/01/prison-labor-laws-wages/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/colorado-votes-abolish-slavery-all-forms-180970764/

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2020/07/27/slave-labor-prison-lawsuit-minimum-wage/

https://ballotpedia.org/Utah_Constitutional_Amendment_C,_Remove_Slavery_as_Punishment_for_a_Crime_from_Constitution_Amendment_(2020)

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