Wal-Mart & ALEC Scandal: Company Subjects Female Prison Laborers to 'Slave-Like' Conditions

Editor's Note: See the longer version of this article here, for more facts, links and information.

We’ve learned that Wal-Mart and ALEC have been involved in trying to weaken federal laws prohibiting acts of bribery of foreign officials, while Wal-Mart actively tried to cover-up a bribery scandal in Mexico.

I believe that when an unfavorable or potentially public pattern of harm emerges, regardless of excuses or public denials, the culprit needs to be publicly exposed.

Wal-Mart claims they will not tolerate prison or forced labor in the manufacturing of products sold in their stores through a “Standards For Suppliers” mandate. This represents the “public face” of Wal-Mart – leading consumers to believe the company is against such exploitation, refusing to “profit” off of forced labor.

Wal-Mart uses ALEC’s Prison Industries Act. Under federal legislation, private companies have access to prisoners as a workforce. Thousands of products are made for consumers; from produce to aftermarket auto parts, the list is endless. This allows companies to attach labels reading “Made in USA.” Wal-Mart has tried to hide their use of prison labor for more than two decades by using sub-contractors and cut-outs.

Since 1991, Wal-Mart has been buying produce from a corporation out of Arizona, Martori Farms.

A recent Huffington Post article clearly documents how Martori Farms has been using female prisoners from Arizona’s state prisons as farm workers – for the past 20 years.

“Martori Farms pays its imprisoned laborers two dollars per hour, not including the travel time to and from the farm.” Women from the Arizona state prison complex at Perryville Unit are assigned to work at Martori Farms … These women are “forced” to labor long hours in the blazing sun sometimes without sunscreen, water or adequate food …”

This policy, and the conditions and involvement of Wal-Mart in this kind of slave labor operation is reprehensible and should be criminal. Criminal in that Wal-Mart helped write the laws allowing this kind of exploitation possible. They helped ALEC pass legislation now being used in states that are turning to prisoners to solve labor shortages stemming from the Right to Work and immigration laws. They’ve created a new form of legalized slavery in the U.S.

In several states, such as Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, and Washigton, use prisoners to replace workers.

In Arizona, Lbj Farms uses male inmates to harvest watermelons and perform other farm chores.  Again, inmates working for Lbj are paid $2.00 per hour.

This is so shocking, that U.S. farmers and Wal-Mart would take advantage of prisoners, especially women, and do it in such a clearly abusive manner by forcing them to work under “slave-like” conditions.  

Worse yet, both Martori and Lbj are recipients of federal subsidies. ($7,136,972 to Martori and $558,543 to Lbj Farms).

In 2005, Wal-Mart was taking advantage of a different kind of prison labor – using prisoners in place of private sector workers in Wisconsin as they built a huge distribution center in Beaver Dam.

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Bob Sloan

Prison Industry research and investigations. Author, Journalist and contributor to The Nation magazine. Leading researcher on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

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