Thursday, September 17, 2015

Colorado Judge Swats Down GEO's Motion to Reconsider Class Action Lawsuit Brought by Captive Labor Force, New Evidence of GEO Labor Violations


GEO claims paying people fair wages "will result in manifest injustice," and claims that ordering a trial by jury, i.e., the rule of law, "should be corrected before litigation in this case and other cases grows in scale."  (Menocal et al. v. GEO, Doc. 29, Motion to Reconsider, 2, August 4, 2015).

Federal District Court John Kane disagrees. (Doc. 31, Order, August 26, 2015).

In the latest round of motions from a lawsuit last October, GEO whined that laws designed to prevent exactly GEO's exploitation of labor had some other purpose, and that it would be absurd to follow their plain text.  One new argument was that the Plaintiffs had no expectation of fair payments for their labor.  And, GEO argued, it would really suck for them and other prison firms if the lawsuit were to proceed per the judge's previous order.

The judge's response, in two pages of text: the arguments either were the ones he already found unpersuasive from the first round, or a new argument that the Court will not consider "for the first time on a motion for reconsideration." 

New Documents Further Contradict GEO's Defense


Reimbursement invoices for the work program being released in dribs and drabs responsive to my FOIA lawsuit further document that GEO is making up its own pay scales and not just acting as a pass-through for ICE's $1/day payments last authorized by Congress in 1978.  Note that for GEO's Pearsall, South Texas facility, there is one column for the reimbursements from ICE and another for their own outlays.  This is consistent with other documents on which I reported in the working paper "One Dollar Per Day: The Slaving Wages of Immigration Jail, 1942 to Present," soon to be published in the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal.  (I'll fill in the link once it's published.)

This release further illuminates the conditions of a labor force compensated well below the minimum wage.  Excluded from these positions is the local community, once again highlighting GEO's violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2008), codified in part in the statute prohibiting Forced Labor. 

According to18 U.S.C. 1589 (a) "Whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of, the following means— (1) by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person ... shall be punished as provided under subsection (d)."

The variation in wages suggests a rudimentary labor market, one with radically depressed wages because of captivity, and not people chipping-in because of boredom to help keep GEO in business.  This is more evidence that GEO is basing its business on forced labor -- were GEO not operating on a business model that assumes they can physically control their workforce, they would need to be paying wages of more than one dollar per day or even three.

Section (d) states: "Whoever violates this section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from a violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both."

While President Obama's rounding out his term by using his executive authority to enforce labor rights, maybe he should call up the Department of Labor and send out a few inspectors to check out GEO's cleaning, kitchen, and laundry employment practices in Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere, and charge them with violations of the FLSA and the TVPA.  Or, they could visit facilities run by the Correction Corporation of America or any of the other ICE facilities that use the same business model.
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