Thursday, October 15, 2009

Question Authority - Labor Pt. 2

It is true that we employ inmates from 7 to 3 everyday. I am not sure whether they get paid (it'd be roughly around a dollar an hour if they were), but the conditions are not nearly as hazardous as the federal prison recycling plants. They even get burritos and pizza catered by local establishments from Thursday to Saturday. It is certainly not that comfortable of a community service assignment, nothing like the University of Maryland food Co-op, but it gets them out of the cell for the day. From what I can gather, these are all minimum security inmates with domestic violence charges or one too many DUIs. Most of the sentences can't be longer than a month or two, since there is high turnover in who the jail brings. None stretch longer than a year. Granted any time spent behind bars is time robbed from someone's life, and I oppose incarceration for nonviolent crimes in general. Community service could still be performed here at the recycling center, and jails would not have to be involved.

The saddest tale in my eyes are the four or five hired workers who have to work alongside the inmates on the same co-mingled containers line. They get to enjoy their freedom at the end of the day, but have to do the same work that the chain gang does, taking the same breaks, and working under the scrutinizing eyes of the crew boss. Their opportunities to socialize and mobilize with other co-workers are limited, their dignity reduced to that of a prisoner. The crew boss, who rotates every day, gets to sit behind a window in a heated passage surfing the internet and watching movies, like a modern day overseer. Who gets to say that this man or woman has more of a right to sit on their ass all day and not do any of the hard work? When I walk past and occasionally exchange small talk, their attitude is one of resignation and resentment to the task at hand, as if their lot in life was unfair, as if they'd rather be out in a patrol car laying down the law, excitedly persecuting youths and minorities.

In reflecting on this situation (and others in general), I have to be careful not to be the accuser, for that is a role the devil plays. I can't let my assumptions judge the situation, and must put my faith in Jah to rectify any injustice. People don't like when you assume too much, as a rule. In the words of early Bob, "Judge not before you judge yourself. Judge not if you're not ready for judgment...So while you talk about me, someone else is judging you." To be fair, I also sit at a desk with a computer for extended periods of time during the work day. However, being a person thats been in handcuffs four times in my life, and who has seen several comrades fall beneath the blows of the justice system, my love for the authorities extends only so far. Jail should not be used for nonviolent offenders, and yet 2/3rds of prisoners in this country are, making me question the motives for keeping so many locked up. The more time deliberates, the more days one can bill you for. The legal system is a self-sustaining industry just like any other.

I thought to myself what would a world look like without police or militaries, and I have to say, it wouldn't be all that bad. Implementing such anarchy would have to be a step-by-step process, but after the initial chaos and looting, I'm confident the world would enjoy a decrease in crime and war. This confidence comes from the belief that humans are inherently good, the opposite of original sin, and the fact that no one wants to live in a world where violence reigns supreme. Peace, truth, love, beauty. This true sense of anarchy could only be accomplished with the abolishment of money, of course, eliminating unnecessary labor and profit-driven ambition. Only the work that needed to be done to eat and live simply would be done by those that wanted and needed the work to be done. This would be an ideal setup, from a labor standpoint, but who would do all the jobs that no one wanted to do? Who would be responsible for picking up the trash and operating recycling plants? The workers here would sure as hell not want to do this work for free. Barter systems would work for essential goods, but whose water and electricity am I going to use for my hot tub and whose biodiesel fuel is the bus going to use? Who's going to drive the bus? The point I'm trying to make is that order needs to be maintained, property protected and competitive wages handed out for shit to function properly, from a production standpoint. This is a realization I'm reluctant to make, but is essential in understanding labor relations. Feel free to argue this point as I always enjoy debate on interesting subjects.

The strange thing is that, from a production standpoint, inmate labor isn't cutting it. The quality of the baled product would be improved by a better trained workforce. It'd be easier to scale up production with fewer lost days, less break times, no inmate stigma or problems. There'd be no personal safety problems here at the plant or back at the jail. We're constantly worried that a sharp object may appear on the lines and be smuggled back to the jail for shenking purposes. Financially, the cost of the inmate program is about 60% that of a regular work crew, which isn't that much of a setback and isn't taking into account the new revenues from a better baled product. Jerry and Lou have begun petitioning the county to remove the inmate program from the recycling facility and replacing it with hired workers.

No comments:

Post a Comment