Prisoners across the United States have called for a strike on September 9, 2016 against the continuation of slavery in jail under the guise of rehabilitation. This strike is the fruit of several years of deep organizing by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, the Free Alabama Movement, and many other prisoner rights organizations.
15 Now New Jersey wholeheartedly endorses this call to action, because we recognize that prisoners are workers and their fight is our fight. Prisoners, who often work for as little as 25 cents a day, place downward pressure on wages. Wages are often used for purchases from the prison commissary for snacks and other small goods at exorbitant prices. We must demand that any raise in the minimum wage include prisoners, so that we will not be forced to compete with our brothers and sisters in a race to the bottom.
We also support this movement because mass incarceration is a problem for many low wage workers. Most prisoners are poor and working class, especially workers of color, and as such we must see prisoners as members of our own class. The prison industrial complex is a storage house for members of our class deemed secondary to the needs of capital. Many have been convicted of petty crimes. We must resist because as workers, it is a threat to our lives and livelihoods.
15 Now was launched two years ago inspired by workers in Seattle who advocated for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Here in New Jersey, we’ve organized with the Industrial Union Council, the People’s Organization For Progress, the Latino Action Network, and many others to build a diverse organization with activists from all over the state. We’ve held rallies in Jersey City, distributed flyers in Atlantic City, and held public meetings in Newark. 15 Now NJ has pushed for successful resolutions in Essex, Hudson and Mercer counties, and in Jersey City, calling on the legislature to pass a statewide $15 minimum wage.
We look forward to opportunities to explore the connection, in conjunction with our coalition partner Decarcerate the Garden State, between the lack of employment opportunities, the lack of livable wage and conditions for those jobs that are there, and mass incarceration of those who are not afforded those limited job opportunities. Through education and action, jointly organized with our partners, we can make those connections and build a stronger system challenging movement.
For those looking to get involved in the struggle against mass incarceration in New Jersey please contact Decarcerate the Garden State on there website.
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