US: Texas Prison Labor Union

The Texas Prison Labor Union (TPLU) was established in 1995 by Texas prisoners and outside supporters. The state had just completed a $1.5 billion prison expansion program, and it now incarcerates close to 150,000 prisoners in a vast network of more than 100 prisons. One-hundred percent of Texas prisoners are forced to labor for the state and none are paid. Not a cent.

The TPLU seeks to organize Texas prisoners and their supporters into a single body to promote social justice, human rights, and workers' rights. Among their basic goals are:

  • Repeal all State and Federal legislation which acts as a barrier to prisoners' rights to vote in State and Federal elections.
  • Enforcement of State Workers' Compensation Laws relative to prisoners.
  • Formation of a (3) person committee on each of the [Texas prison] units... that house prisoners in involuntary servitude... so as to produce a system of arbitration wherein prisoners may assert their collective wills in day-to-day living and working conditions.
  • Equal application of minimum wage pay scale for all prisoners who perform any labor within the [Texas prison system].

The editors of Prison Legal News have been in contact with TPLU for two years. They are a dedicated, committed, well organized (and brave) bunch. They seek to not only organize Texas prisoners into a labor union, but to offer technical assistance and guidance to those in other states who have an interest in organizing along similar lines.

The TPLU is self-funded and relies entirely on members' dues and financial contributions from outside individuals and organizations. Contact: Dwight L. Ralinson; Office of Operations; T.P.L.U.; 2121 So. 4th; Waco, TX 76706

AMP Section Name:Human Rights
  • 184 Labor

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