After Georgia’s new immigration law chased away many of its farm laborers, the state launched a dubious plan to fill the void with probationers, who lack the experience needed to do harvesting work, especially in the current heat wave. The program drew limited participants.
It’s just a bump in the road toward “normalizing labor exploitation,” however, as the article below argues. Georgia’s labor policymakers can look to Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker’s recent trashing of collective-bargaining rights for union workers could give previously compensated work to prisoners in exchange for reduced sentences, rather than pay. —ARK
Black Agenda Report:
In the state of Georgia, a recently enacted law targeting undocumented workers was deemed insufficiently evil and needed the addition of greater exploitation of people of color. The new legislation allows police to profile brown skinned people and also makes it illegal for the undocumented to work, to be housed, or even to be transported. But as in the rest of the country, Georgia’s agricultural work force is comprised almost completely of undocumented migrant workers. Having chased these people away, the state was at a loss as to how to keep its farms afloat after their labor force fled.
The solution to the conundrum was simple but leads to a slippery slope which invites further abuse in an already inherently abusive situation. The state offered to pay probationers to do the farm work instead. The experiment drew a few desperate people, who did not have the wherewithal, knowledge or training needed to harvest crops in the midst of a heat wave.
The plan may have initially failed, but the setback is surely only temporary and the trend towards normalizing labor exploitation is being perfected and honed to make it more successful in many parts of the country. In Racine county, Wisconsin, the evisceration of public employee union rights has spawned an effort to give jobs that were once reserved for union employees to prisoners instead. These prisoners would not be paid with money, they would only earn the right to reduce their sentences. The public union collective bargaining contracts that are now null and void had barred the state from this practice. The right wing have figured out how to kill two birds with one stone. In one fell swoop, public unions were decimated and prisoners will be subject to greater exploitation.