Some American factory workers have a hard time competing against slave labor. It is clear that something should be done about this.
Some Americans think there should be tariffs imposed on goods produced by slave labor.
It won’t work here. The slave labor here is hired by the U.S. government.
Have you heard of Unicor? The company sells goods produced by Americans who are in jail. It employs 13,000 inmates. Some are paid 23 cents an hour.
Example: military uniforms. Private firms find it hard to compete.
It is not clear if China could compete. China doesn’t get a chance to make bids.
An American firm has complained. It just laid off 150 workers.
“We pay employees $9 on average,” Wilson said. “They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.”
Unicor, also known as Federal Prison Industries, is part of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. It has been preparing inmates for jobs after they get out since 1934.
The program has 83 factories and makes goods in seven industries — apparel being the biggest ticket. Unicor made over $900 million in revenue last year and faces more heat from businesses and lawmakers as the economy takes a toll on small manufacturers.
Unicor pays 23 cents to $1.50 an hour. There are no taxes on its profits. It is not under OSHA regulations. It pays no unemployment insurance premiums to the state.
The prison system gets the profits on Unicor’s sales.
The victims of crimes receive no restitution. They pay their share of the $25,000 a year it costs to house one inmate in an American prison.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Governments prefer prisons to restitution paid to victims by convicted criminals, which is what the Bible requires (Exodus 22:1, 4). Government prefers to build up government.