Strait_v1n11_1972-03

expected to join. The warden, however, refused to recognize the union. The union , affiliated with the sixty- fifth district, is a militant union that represents salespeople, office workers, and people working in the garment industry. In fact , one of the inmates involved in the formation of the union, is Earl Smoake , Jr. , a former member of District 65. According to the union 's constitution the members will try to ,"advance the economic, political, and social welfare of all prisoners." The union also seeks to present to the prison ;,d,ouQWarti.on the grievances and demands of the union and its members and to seek the just res- olution of such grievances and demands. As a union that represents the majority of the people in a "shop", or prison, it can serve to act as a bargaining agent in collective bargaining with the prison. Whether Correction Commissioner Russell G . Oswald recognizes the Prisoner's Union as a legal bargaining agent is unsure, but one thing is evident• that at Creenhaven, as with Attica, the " solution is unity. " For more information on the Union at Greenhaven contact Richard Greenberg at the Prisoners' Law Project of the Legal Aid Society, 119 5th Avenue, New York, New York.

Greenhaven Inmates Form Union

"Believing that persons are not islands of exile, but an integral part of this society; believing that prisoners are human beings and retain their human rights and social responsibilities; and believing that prison labor is part of labor in general and consequently part of the general economy" we "hereby form the Prisoners' Labor Union at Greenhaven." On 7 February inmates at Greenhaven Prison in New York state formed is the first prisoner labor union. The announcElment of the union's formation was made .by a group of lawyers from the Prisoners ~ghts Project of the Legal Aid Society, the Lawyers Guild, and the Urban Coalition representing the prisoners.

"Just by its existance alone, it's significant," said one of the lawyers, Richard Greenberg. At present there is a prisoners Union in California but it stands as an organization for the prisoners and their families, not as a labor union for the inmates. A maximum security prison near Poughkeepsie, average about $.35 a day. The inmates, sixty percent of which are Black or Puerto Rican, ma~e license plates, matress covers, hospital gowns and bathr()bes for men, women, and children, slips, sheets, pillowcases, aprons, baby bibs, doctor's jackets, men's tee shirts, and long underwear, and American flags. They also work in the prison as porters, tailors, barbers, janitors, and on the prison farm itself. The work is designed specifically as an important part of the the prison system's rehabilitation program. This system is suppoaed to prepare the men for life out- side the prison after they are released. However, the prilDners learn their skills on outdated machinery that has long since been discarded by outside industry. As things stand the convicted felon is prohibited by law from obtaining licenses to practice some of the jobs, like bar~ bering, when they get out. Eberthing produced in the prison shops is sold to other branches of the state government. It is not unusual for a prison guard to sell some of the products to distributers outside the state govern- ment for a personnal profit. At $.35 a d,Jy, ~hough, the state manages to use the ".slave labor of prisoners" while there is still unemployment outside.

The union was organized against this backround. Two days after the formation of the Prisoners Labor Union at Greenhaven was formally announced at a press conference, as well as by a letter to the warden, 1500 of the 1800 inmates joined. Greenberg predicted that before long 90 percent of the prisoners could be

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,, LITTLE DIFFERENCE''

16

STRAIT Z3 MARCH 1972

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