Detained Immigrant Workers Formally Announce Labor Strike

Labor strikers issue demands for private prison operator to fulfill

By the Mesa Verde Labor Strikers Collective

Detained immigrant workers at the Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility in Bakersfield, Calif., have formally announced their labor strike.

This is the second labor strike launched within eight months at the facility owned and operated by The GEO Group. Workers enrolled in the “voluntary work program” – who earn $1 per day to clean the dormitories – coordinated a work stoppage due to the unsanitary and unsafe conditions the private prison operator has subjected them to throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t understand the hypocrisy: outside of detention we’re not allowed to work because of our immigration status, and here we’re told we can work but they only pay us $1 a day. We feel they’re taking advantage of us and our situation,” said a labor striker inside Mesa Verde. The labor strike is inspired by the mass labor movement and worker unionization taking place across the country, where workers are demanding a living wage, better working conditions, and better worker treatment.

Labor strikers in immigrant detention call on supporters to help amplify their demands:

  1. Detainee treatment: That all individuals detained are treated with respect and dignity by all Mesa Verde officers;
  2. Voluntary Worker Program: That the number of volunteer workers increase to 12 and the worker salary be in accordance with CA Labor Law minimum wage of $15 per hour;
  3. Facility issued linen and clothing: Per Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), detained individuals “shall be issued clean clothing, climatically suitable and presentable.” We’re constantly being issued old, torn and unserviceable or indelibly stained linen and clothing. We request this practice to cease. Furthermore, climatically suitable clothing issued: 1) shorts for the summer and 2) sweatpants and wool blankets for winter. Three days of laundry for jumpsuits and an extra pair of shoes to use for the recreational yard.
  4. Personal Hygiene Items: We request hygienic supplies including razors that don’t give razor burns, irritation or cuts to skin (preferably double-blade), shaving cream, deodorant, dental flossers and better quality toothbrushes.
  5. Food Service: We request that hot water be available during all meals. Per PBNDS “better quality food, proportioned servings, food (meals) cooked properly,” more access to and properly washed fruit given at every meal.
  6. Maintenance: Per PBNDS, “safe potable water shall be available throughout the facility”. We request that maintenance to fix and sustain livable conditions in the facility.
  7. Visitation: In accordance with the announcement by ICE regarding a new visitation guidance, we urge a full fledge and reinstatement of in-person visitation at the MV facility just like at GSA, by June 16, 2022. In addition, we request that free virtual visitation be made available so each person at MV has an equal opportunity to see their family members, friends and loved ones.
  8. Health Care: We request that proper health care be provided by MV to all detained individuals, e.g. hire a doctor to be on site and not shared with another facility, to be referred to outside specialists promptly, and offer preventative health care like providing sunscreen in the summer.

Requests to convene a meeting with the facility administrator has been met with hostility, nonetheless, the labor strikers welcome open negotiations with The GEO Group.

Many participants in the “volunteer worker program” rely on the $1 per day compensation to call their family members and loved ones or purchase items in commissary, which are often expired or moldy, as a new report has found.

A fundraiser has been launched to support the labor strikers’ efforts.

For more information contact: Esperanza Cuautle | 415-254-0475 | advocate[@]

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