US: Prison Labor Union Launches Boycott of Colgate-Palmolive

The Missouri Prisoners Labor Union (MPLU) announced today that it is initiating an international boycott against all products produced either
directly or indirectly by Colgate Palmolive.

This action is being taken in response to Colgate Palmolive's failure to
provide a letter of endorsement in support of the Missouri Prisoners Labor
Union and /or aims and objectives for three points which are summarized as

1.) The establishment of minimum wage pay for all Missouri Prisoners.

2.) Abolishing all forced labor and abuse perpetrated by the Missouri Department of Corrections in particular and the State Government in general.

3.) Colgate Palmolive's active involvement in persuading the State of Missouri Legislature to impose a Bill of Moratorium on all executions of Prisoners in the State of Missouri.

In a letter to Colgate Palmolive spokesperson Bill F. Shanahan, MPLU
National Communications Officer Michael Lee stated "Let me reassure you
that neither myself or anyone directly associated with the Missouri
Prisoners Labor Union has any intention of causing physical harm to either
you personally or Colgate Palmolive employees-property. Our tactic is to
simply fold our arms and turn a blind eye to your products."

The letter goes on to reiterate what MPLU elected leadership stated in their 06-04-00 letter to Colgate Palmolive "...we realize that your company didn't put us in prison. This is a matter of Colgate Palmolive reaping immense profits
for our incarceration and as the largest single consumer block you have a
social obligation to us. The situation I am outlining, is the same argument
organized labor has used to oppose sweat shop labor employed by Kathy Lee
Gifford, Nike, etc. I would also like to add that we are not asking for
anything from society except that we be treated in a fair manner as defined
by the United States Constitution and numerous legal cases. We are not
advocating for a cushy life style but simply a fair days pay for a fair
days work and a safe, non-abusive work environment."

The MPLU is a 500 member organization which was created by Prisoners and supporters. It was legally chartered by the State of Missouri on August 3, 1998. It is our desire to better the living and working conditions of Missouri Prisoners in particular and two million United States Prisoners in general. We provide Prisoners a much needed political forum from which to promote the principles of social justice, economic and political issues confronting Missouri Prisoners and workers. Our commitment to non-violence has been demonstrated continuously. One of the linchpin principles of the MPLU is that there is nothing more powerful then a worker with arms folded refusing to pick up tools or perform any labor.

Since our inception, members have been subjected to all forms of abuse and
harassment propagated by the Missouri Department of Corrections. On February 17, 2000 President White-Bey was finally released from Administrative Segregation (the hole) after being confined there for almost two years. His offense was simply to advocate that as workers we have the right to organize and the Human and Civil Rights of Prisoners must be respected . Presently several of our members still remain in the hole and are subjected to daily abuse. But the Union rolls on!

In this campaign we focus on calling for a moratorium on the continued use of the death penalty specifically in the State of Missouri and across the United States in general. It is our great concern that if the State has such tremendous power to execute someone then it has the power to perpetrate any abuse on our membership simply for demanding a fair days pay for a fair days work. Continual use of the death penalty is a human rights violation and an ineffective manner in which to combat anti-social behavior.

For the first time in history Prisoners who do not face the ultimate punishment are calling for a moratorium on its use. We do so as part of our social responsibility as an organization of economic self-defense and in defense of the Human and Civil Rights of all Prisoners.

As of July 1,200 we are requesting that all Prisoners and their family/friends, MPLU members and our supporters to non-violently decline to purchase Colgate Palmolive. In support of our efforts we have requested that all members of organized labor, peace and social justice activists and the NAACP to also refrain from purchasing Colgate Palmolive products until at such time our demands are met.

For more information, contact Michael Lee, National Communications Officer of the Missouri Prisoners Labor Union via email or at 2435 E. North St PMB 255, Greenville, SC 29615

AMP Section Name:Labor
  • 116 Human Rights
  • 187 Privatization
* indicates required