Prison Jobs are Racist: a Labor Day Reportback

Composite of three pictures: first depicting a black man in shorts holding a poster that reads "prison jobs are racist". Center photo is two white bicyclists holding posters that say "prison jobs are wasteful" and "prison jobs are corrupt". The third photo is of a black houseless man holding a poster that says "prison jobs are racist".

some MKE anarchists

Ten minutes before the Labor Day parade in Milwaukee WI, a group of jubilant anarchist trouble-makers walked the route with posters calling out AFSCME, the union that includes prison guards. This union relies on dues from, supports, and seeks to expand state jobs, including the toxic job screws do.

AFSCME members and other workers on parade saw spectators holding up the posters all along the route. The back of each poster is printed with compiled statistics showing the racial disparities, sadistic treatment, toxic workplaces, and wasteful expense of prison in Wisconsin alongside a graphic advocating ways to shrink the state's prisons. The information comes from a recent report by Forum for Understanding Prisons (FFUP) which compiled five years of data received through records requests from the Wisconsin Department of Corruptions.

Parade attendance was (as every year) low, so even though nearly half the people took our posters, we had hundreds left by the end of the route. They didn't go to waste, though, because we doubled back near the end of the parade and handed the rest of the 500 posters out to marchers.

Many had seen the posters and were eager to have one and learn more. When AFSCME's contingent marched through we waded into their crowd with smiles on our face and posters at the ready. Many AFSCME members took the posters, some muttered angry things at us, but others smiled back and nodded approval. Even rank and file AFSCME people know that representing guards is fucked.

A few party poopers were less pleased. One lady called us unionbusters (we told her we prefer unions that protect GOOD jobs). Someone said they would sue us. Another grabbed a stack of posters and said "I'll take ALL of them, you know you aren't supposed to be here after last year."

She was referring to the 2018 labor day parade, when we took action at the parade in solidarity with incarcerated people and against those who abuse and torture them. That year, labor day landed in the middle of the nation wide prison strike, so we marched against the strike breakers in AFSCME. Unfurling a huge banner and following directly behind them, we recited the strike's ten demands and chanted anti-prison slogans, including: "No class traitors in our movement, kick COs out of your union!"

Retaliation by AFSCME's allies on the Milwaukee Area Labor Council got the local IWW (who we'd marched with) banned from labor fest, and then, unfortunately, cowards in the local IWW won a vote to throw their incarcerated members and allies aside by apologizing to the guard union. After that great disappointment, it was good to go back this year with a different tactic and having severed ties with unreliable wobblies. We want to be sure AFSCME doesn't forget us. As individual anarchists in Milwaukee, we're going to keep fucking with them until they recognize protecting guards is a liability that sets them against the people and for a society of racist control.

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Love this! Screws have a big presence here in the labour scene here in Kingston, too. Thanks for your efforts to drive that wedge.

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