Defense Contractors Using Prison Labor to Build High-Tech Weapons Systems
Prison labor seems like a win-win to many, but a closer look reveals a race to the bottom for skilled workers.
[img]Traditionally these types of defense jobs would have gone to highly paid, unionized workers. However the prison workers building parts for these missiles earn a starting wage of 23 cents an hour and can only make a maximum of $1.15 an hour. Nearly 1 in 100 adults are in jail in the United States and are exempt from our minimum wage laws, creating a sizable captive workforce that could undercut outside wage standards.
"It's no different than when our government allowed a United Steelworkers-represented factory of several hundred good jobs in Indiana called Magnequench to shut down," United Steelworkers Public Affairs Director Gary Hubbard told AlterNet. "This was the last high-tech magnetics production plant in the U.S. that made guidance components for missiles and smart bombs. The factory was sold to a Chinese state enterprise that moved all the machinery to China. And now we depend on prison labor to build our defense products?"
As the governments look to cut costs and trim deficits, they are giving more and more contracts for skilled work to prisons, whose workers often make 1/15th of the wages they would earn in the private sector. Whereas in the past prisoners made license plates and desks for state offices, they are now being trained for skilled work doing everything from assembling cable components for guided missiles to underwater repair welding. Even the much heralded green jobs aren’t immune to being outsourced to prison -- the solar panels being used to provide electricity for the State Department’s office in Washington, D.C. are constructed with prison labor.[/img]