Justified on redemptive and rehabilitative grounds, prison industries in the United States are thriving. It is hardly surprising that as federal and state prison industries have grown, so have prison industries that rely on prison labor for private sector profit, and that such labor is primarily performed by minorities, particularly African Americans. In a new, Orwellian twist, the prison industry has also managed to hitch itself to the populist, anti-international trade wave that has reinvigorated economic nationalism. Add “Buy American” and “Made in the USA” to the purported benefits of prison labor for yet another layer of rhetorical flourish.
This Article provides a general overview of the prison labor industrial complex and examines the relationship between big business and prison labor in both state and federal systems. It also provides necessary historical background, particularly the racial dimensions at the root of state and private exploitation of prison labor, arguing that race and incarceration in the United States cannot be separated. The Article further explores the structural complexity intrinsic in prison labor because it embodies both economic and rehabilitative objectives and thus does not fit neatly into the conventional categories of market or non-market work, creating conceptual difficulties in both analysis and proposed solutions. As a result, prison workers are not deemed employees and, therefore, are not eligible for the minimum wage afforded other workers. The last part of the Article examines the wildly inconsistent case law that addresses the application of the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and argues that the profit-making, economic character of prison work makes it a market activity that entitles prison workers to the minimum wage mandate of the FLSA.
Labor organizing privilege is not a magic bullet that will secure the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain. Employers will continue to resist the efforts of their workers to organize.
This is the second in a series of interviews with attorneys who are pursuing social change through their work. This conversation is between Social Change staff editor Mallory Cooney and NYU School of Law alumnus Susan Shin, an attorney with
Stephen M. Nickelsburg, Adam C. Goldstein, Emily Maw, and Keith Nordyke∞ By ruling in January that “Miller announced a substantive rule that is retroactive,” the Supreme Court ensured that individuals previously sentenced to mandatory life without parole for crimes
Peter Leasure & Tia Stevens Andersen∞ Abstract Upon completion of their sentences and when attempting to ‘reenter’ society, offenders face large barriers, often referred to as the ‘collateral consequences’ of conviction. One of the largest barriers, given the stigma of
Michael M. Oswalt∞ Organizing is risky. Some workers join in and get fired, others face intimidation and drop out, while most—sensing the tension between legal rights and remedial realities—simply opt out. And more and more, the campaigns—and the campaigners—are getting
Immigrants face long hours, low pay, poor working conditions, and deportation threat. Evidence of immigration enforcement involvement in labor disputes in NYC