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Tag: Labor

Texas Activists Protest Modern-Day ‘Slavery’ in Prisons

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and The Texas Observer

While prison inmates launched a nationwide strike last Friday — the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riots — a small but vocal group of activists gathered in Austin to support their cause.

Hundreds of inmates have joined the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee(IWOC), a division of the Industrial Workers of the World union and a major motivator of the strike. Inmates at 40 facilities in 24 states were expected to take part, and some Texas prisoners have been engaging in work stoppages since April.

Prisoners say they want their work to count toward time off their sentences, improved living conditions in prisons, better access to attorneys during disputes, and an end to an annual $100 copay on medical services.

From Bathroom Bills To Islamophobia: It’s All Connected In America’s Anti-Diversity Backlash

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

From anti-Muslim legislation to violence targeting mosques and those who worship there, it’s clear that Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States.

While opponents of Muslims’ religious freedom often cite terrorist attacks carried out by religious extremists to justify their bigotry, analysis of the sources of Islamophobia reveal ties to broader, national issues of systemic racism and xenophobia in the U.S., and the people who stand to profit from fomenting hate.

A November poll by the Brookings Institution showed that 61 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam and 46 percent hold an unfavorable view of Muslims.

And compared to other forms of hate speech, anti-Muslim speech remains surprisingly acceptable. Saeed Khan, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, told MintPress News, “When it came to the rhetoric against Muslims … it was one of the few communities or groups by which politicians and opinion makers could speak with impunity against without facing any kind of repercussions either politically or economically.”

Domestic Workers Remain Enslaved In Saudi Arabia: ‘I Thought They Would Kill Me’

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

Despite reassurances by U.S. government officials that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to end slavery within its borders, human rights experts believe the problem is still widespread, especially among the Gulf kingdom’s domestic workers.

“I thought they would kill me. I had to escape. I wasn’t given enough to eat. They had my wages, my passport, my phone,” said Kasthuri Munirathinam, a domestic worker from India who escaped imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, in an interview with Thomas Reuters Foundation.

“She had been in Saudi Arabia for just two months, one of thousands of Indians heading to the Gulf states every year for work, but was terrified she would never see her family again,” Anuradha Nagaraj reported on May 3.

Last September, news of Munirathinam’s daring escape from a second floor apartment went viral. Her employer chopped off her hand during her efforts to free herself, an injury that would ultimately require the amputation of her arm.

Cobalt: Mined By Children For Use In Your Favorite Gadgets’ Rechargeable Batteries

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

In recent years, activists and independent media have brought attention to “conflict minerals,” key components in technology that are often sourced from war-torn countries. And a recent report from a major human rights group sounds the alarm on a largely overlooked metal that’s being mined by thousands of children and underpaid adults in Africa.

Amnesty International issued the results of its detailed investigation into the sourcing of cobalt, a rare metal that forms a crucial ingredient of lithium-based rechargeable batteries, in a Jan. 19 report. According to the authors, more than half the world’s cobalt comes from Congo, including at least 20 percent which comes from so-called “artisanal miners” in the southern part of the country.

“These artisanal miners, referred to as ‘creuseurs’ in the DRC, mine by hand using the most basic tools to dig out rocks from tunnels deep underground,” according to the report, “This Is What We Die For.” “Artisanal miners include children as young as seven who scavenge for rocks containing cobalt in the discarded by-products of industrial mines, and who wash and sort the ore before it is sold.”

4,000 Prison Inmates Fighting California Wildfires For $2 Per Day

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

With wildfires blazing throughout the parched Western United States, the state of California has found a novel, though ethically questionable, way to save money on the state’s safety budget: Send state prisoners to work on the frontlines fighting forest fires for $2 per day.

“More than 100 wildfires are burning across the West — destroying dozens of homes, forcing hundreds of people to flee and stretching firefighting budgets to the breaking point,” wrote Tim Stelloh for NBC News on Monday. For California, he reported, that means some 14,000 firefighters combating 19 forest fires, including the “Jerusalem fire,” which covered over 25,000 acres before being mostly contained as of Saturday. “[T]he blaze — along with six others — was still sending smoke south across the San Francisco Bay Area,” Stelloh wrote.

About 4,000 low-level felons from California’s state prisons are fighting the fires, operating out of so-called “conservation camps,” according to Julia Lurie, writing on Friday for Mother Jones. “Between 30 and 40 percent of California’s forest firefighters are state prison inmates,” she reported. Inmates who committed certain offenses, like sex crimes or arson, are blocked from entering the firefighting program. Prisoners work in 24-hour shifts during forest fire season, followed by 24 hours off. Prisoners earn $2 a day just by being in the program, plus an additional $2 an hour when they are actively fighting fires.

Disabled Texans Depend On Personal Care Attendants Paid Poverty Wages

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

On May 19, about two dozen disabled Texans and their personal care aides gathered at the entrance to the governor’s office chanting: “Greg Abbott, come on out! We’ve got something to talk about!” Others were inside, refusing to leave. They’d come from around the state to demand better wages for personal care attendants, the helpers on whom their independence depends.

The disabled activists at the governor’s office represented ADAPT of Texas, and the aides were from an ADAPT subgroup, Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT). At issue in Texas are the wages for a type of aide known as community attendants, who are not hired by home care services that are paid by private insurance. Instead, community attendants’ wages are paid through federal Medicaid dollars and the Texas General Revenue fund.

At the time of the protest, the base wage for community attendants was $7.86 per hour, just slightly higher than the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. By comparison, the city of Austin enforces a living hourly wage of $11 for city employees and at construction projects supported by tax incentives.