January 21, 2021
Resolution on Solidarity with Incarcerated Workers
PASSED JANUARY 20, 2021
PROPOSED BY AFT LOCAL 1789
WHEREAS, there has been a COVID-19 outbreak at the Bishop Lewis work release site in October 2020, which was the sixth major outbreak at a Department of Corrections (DOC) facility. The numbers have skyrocketed since then.
WHEREAS, our fellow workers who reside at Bishop Lewis have suffered extremely dangerous housing conditions under COVID-19 due to DOC negligence, including over half of the residents testing positive for the virus, inadequate supplies for cleaning shared spaces, and alleged retaliation against residents who whistleblow about negligent COVID 19 precautions.
WHEREAS, work release (i.e., Graduated Reentry Status), provides an important avenue into reentry, the conditions of work release can be exploitative, and whereas the dangers of these conditions have been life-threateningly exacerbated by the DOC’s mishandling of workers’ exposure to COVID-19.
WHEREAS, many of the workers who reside at Bishop Lewis belong to unions that are members of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.
WHEREAS, all workers under DOC custody face increased pressures of labor exploitation–and the workers who reside at Bishop Lewis are under work release which is contingent on employment–workers under DOC custody are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, loss of pay, loss of work status, and potentially being sent back to prison for any activities that could be perceived as whistleblowing or organizing.
WHEREAS, the workers who reside at Bishop Lewis hold jobs in the community, their unsafe housing conditions and the restrictions on their ability to seek remedy and/or whistleblow endangers the health and safety of their co-workers, and ultimately the collective health of all King County residents.
WHEREAS, the MLKCLC is committed to improving and protecting safe and fair workplace conditions for all workers, this should include workers under DOC custody who are at increased risk for retaliation, as a show of solidarity for working-class people, regardless of union membership.
WHEREAS, the spread of COVID-19 in DOC facilities disproportionately impacts BIPOC workers because they are disportionately incarcerated in Washington State prisons, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council must support all workers under DOC custody as a commitment to racial justice.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Martin Luther King County Labor Council will release a public statement on all of its social media platforms, as well as the MLKCLC website, that outlines a) what has happened at Bishop Lewis, b) the demands put forth in the letter, c) raises awareness about the COVID-19 outbreaks threatening all workers under DOC custody, as well as the public health of King County residents.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Martin Luther King County Labor Council commits to offering its resources to strengthen all workers’ ability to whistleblow around COVID-19 conditions, including those workers under DOC custody.