Prison Labor in Washington - Bill Gate's Chain Gang
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 97 15:05:29 -0800
Subject: Prison Labor in Washington - Bill Gate's Chain Gang
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Subject: COUNTERPUNCH: Gates Uses Prison Labor
This article appears in the current (March 15, 1996) issue of CounterPunch,
a six-page newsletter, edited by Ken Silverstein and Alexander Cockburn.
Counter- Punch reports about Washington twice monthly, except August, 22
issues a year: $40 individuals, $100 institu- tions, $25 student/low-income.
All rights reserved [per- mission WAS granted to post this article.]
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BILL GATE'S CHAIN GANG (article, page 3)
In promoting Windows '95, Microsoft mounted one of the most expensive
advertising campaigns in American history. Microsoft understandably failed
to mention that at least some of the company's new software was packed by
prison labor. This news comes to us from Paul Wright and Dan Pens, two
inmates from Washington state who edit "Prison Legal News." It was Wright
who last year alerted us to the use of prison labor by Rep. Jack Metcalf,
a fierce crime buster whose 1994 campaign telemarketing operations were
partly staffed by prisoners.
According to people incarcerated at the Twin Rivers Correctional Center in
Monroe, Washington, Microsoft hired a packaging company, Exmark to ship
Windows '95. Exmark used prisoners for at least part of the job and also
had inmates package tens of thoudsands of units of Microsoft Office, another
software product, as well as hundreds of thousands of Microsoft mice. Other
companies making use of inmate labor in Washington state include
telecommunications giant US West and Redwood Outdoors, Inc., which produces
clothing for Eddie Bauer.
Washington is a pioneer in the use of prison labor, a true boom industry in
the US. in 1993, the state legislature passed a bill to increase the number
of prison laborers by 300 per year until the year 2000. The next year the
state built a 56,000-square feet factory near the Monroe prison.
Companies employing prisoners pay $4.90 an hour, the minimum wage in
Washington, of which some- where between $1.80 and $2.80 ends up in the
prisoners' pocket. The rest is deducted for the "cost of corrections", a
victims' compensation fund, and to pay state and federal taxes. The
companies don't offer benefits to the inmates/workers -- though Pens, who
has written about the story in "Prison Legal News", notes that Washington
is one of many states that offers what he calls the "Three Strikes
retirement plan" -- and pay little or nothing for factory and office space.
© 1997 Peter Langston