Service & Solidarity Spotlight: Labor, Civil Rights Organizations File Explosive Lawsuit Challenging Discriminatory, Unconstitutional Forced Labor in Alabama State Prisons

There is an epidemic of illegal, forced labor in Alabama’s prison system.

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our Service & Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

On Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW), AFL-CIO and the Union of Southern Service Workers (USSW) (the latter affiliated with SEIU), joined incarcerated workers and a local community organization to file a class-action lawsuit in response to the systemic exploitation and forced labor of Alabama’s incarcerated population. The suit alleges that the Alabama Department of Corrections denies Black Alabamians parole at twice the rate of their White counterparts in order to maintain a cheap labor force through wrongful detention. And though Black Alabamians are only a quarter of the state’s residents, they make up over 50% of the incarcerated population. 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and state Attorney General Steve Marshall are named as defendants in the lawsuit and are accused of acting as knowing architects of a “modern-day form of slavery” that generates $450 million annually for the state, all on the backs of unpaid, incarcerated workers. In a virtual press conference, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said, “Fighting to abolish forced labor is a priority for the AFL-CIO and the American labor movement. And we won’t rest until this corrupt, immoral scheme ends for good.”