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US: Texas Prison Labor Union

Prison Legal News
May 1st, 1998

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