Michael Bloomberg Admits To Having Incarcerated People Make Campaign Phone Calls On His Behalf
"We didn’t know about this, and we never would have allowed it if we had."
December 26, 2019 at 7:05 pm
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg enlisted incarcerated people at an Oklahoma prison to make presidential campaign calls to California, according to a report by The Intercept.
The report showed that the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a minimum-security women’s prison with a population of more than 900 incarcerated people, was used through a third-party vendor to make calls for the Bloomberg 2020 campaign. The report was only confirmed after the campaign announced that it cut ties with the vendor.
"We didn’t know about this and we never would have allowed it if we had,” Bloomberg spokesperson Julie Wood said to The Intercept. “We don’t believe in this practice and we’ve now ended our relationship with the subcontractor in question.”
Earlier today, a news outlet accurately reported that a subcontractor for one of our vendors was using prison workers to make phone calls on behalf of my campaign. After learning this, we immediately ended our relationship with that company.
Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/0KJ8y8Iqxj
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 24, 2019
In an explanation given by the vendor ProCom, co-founder John Scallan said the company pays $7.25 per hour to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, who is then responsible for paying the incarcerated people individually. Despite the amount that may have been agreed to, the maximum monthly wage for incarcerated people in the state is $20, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections website. Scallan denied that the wages of the incarcerated individuals were capped, arguing to The Intercept that workers who made calls with his company were able to make much more than that.
"The use of prison labor is the continued exploitation of people who are locked up, who really have virtually no other opportunities to have employment or make money other than the opportunities given to them by prison officials,” Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, said to The Intercept.
Bloomberg, during his tenure as mayor of New York City, sparked controversy with the implementation of "stop and frisk" police practices. The practice gave police authority to detain people they suspected of committing a crime, which disproportionately affected communities of color.
According to NBC News, Bloomberg apologized for his support of the practice while addressing a Black church in Brooklyn, though his words were not well received.
“It is convenient that Bloomberg suddenly apologizes but has done nothing to undo the immense damage he has caused on countless lives,” said activist DeRay Mckesson. “His apology is not accepted.”
Prison labor has been used in this way before, with late Washington state Republican congressman Jack Metcalf using incarcerated people to make campaign calls before being elected to Congress in 1994.