Calling on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to divest from prison slavery - FreedomUnited.org

Calling on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to divest from prison slavery

  • Published on
    February 1, 2021
  • Written by:
    Freedom United
  • Category:
    Other slavery
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Are you an HBCU student, alumni, or staff member looking to take action? Add your name below to call on your university to divest from prison slavery!

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Call on HBCUs to divest from Aramark and forced prison labor.

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We are calling on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to divest from Aramark Company, a food service company that holds contracts with corrections departments across the United States and has well-documented links to reports of forced labor within prisons.

On July 21, 2020, we wrote to HBCU colleges that have contracts with the company calling on them to divest from Aramark. This includes 14 schools:

  1. Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University
  2. Alabama State University
  3. Delaware State University
  4. Fayetteville State University
  5. Meharry Medical College
  6. Morehouse College
  7. Morehouse School of Medicine
  8. Southern University and A&M College
  9. Southern University at Shreveport
  10. Southern University at New Orleans
  11. Spelman College
  12. Tennessee State University
  13. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  14. Winston-Salem State University

Today, we are reiterating our call to action alongside Be Better Belmont asking these colleges to divest and take leadership within the movement to end modern slavery in the United States.

For too long the United States public and private industry has gotten away with exploiting labor from inmates and immigrant detainees, often earning massive profits in the process, at worst under threat of penalty or punishment.

Our call to divest from Aramark does not seek to undermine the potential positive value of prison labor in rehabilitation when it is provided on a freely agreed contract by the prisoner. However, we are seeing a system of exploitation that disproportionately impacts black and brown communities, for cheap labor, that in some cases is tantamount to modern slavery.

In fact, Aramark, Alameda County, and Sheriff Gregory Ahern are being sued in federal court for forced labor, as well as violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and California law requiring companies to pay detainees fair wages. The plaintiffs, on top of not being paid for their work, allege that they were threatened with solitary confinement or longer sentences if they refused to work. Sgt. Ray Kelly, the sheriff’s office spokesperson, admitted that “The whole operation is run by the Aramark corporation,” adding that the county’s arrangement with Aramark is less expensive than paying wages and benefits to non-incarcerated employees.

It is clear that there is a growing, inspirational movement across the United States for divestment from the prison industrial complex. The New York Times has profiled the work of Robasciotti & Philipson, an investment adviser focusing on social justice and ending systemic racism, which specifically recommends divestment from Aramark due to its contracts with over 500 correctional facilities across the country. Furthermore, the American Friends Service Committee recommends divestment from Aramark due to its links to the prison and immigration detention industry. President Biden has also recently signed an Executive Order calling on the Department of Justice to no longer renew their contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.

Since our first letter, an increasing number of colleges and universities contracting with Aramark are now under pressure from students and alumni to sever ties with the food services company. We have seen students at Princeton UniversityGeorgetown University, and even Carleton University in Canada demand that their institutions divest from the prison industrial complex, starting with Aramark. Institutions of higher education should not be contracting with companies directly linked to documented cases of human rights abuses in the prison industry.

We urge HBCUs to end their contracts with Aramark, thereby divesting from modern slavery and standing up to abuses facilitated by the prison industrial complex.

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