Cuomo unveils New York-made hand sanitizer...made by prison ‘slave labor’ not allowed to use it themselves
New York’s governor has put prison inmates to work making gallons of hand sanitizer to combat alleged “price gouging” by mass-market brands, but what many see as slave labor doesn’t quite square with the state’s progressive image.
Andrew Cuomo debuted a state-branded hand sanitizer in a showy press conference on Monday, touting the prison-made formula as a way to fight skyrocketing prices on the dwindling supplies of mass-market hand sanitizer flying off the shelves. After pretending to solicit solutions from his audience, the second-generation statesman staged a cheesy curtain-opening reveal on an eye-catching display of multiple size bottles of ‘New York State Clean’.
Governor Cuomo speaks at a press conference. https://t.co/6LzwiDWUs3— WNYT NewsChannel 13 (@WNYT) March 9, 2020
Channeling an Amway pitchman crossed with a plantation overseer, Cuomo presented NYS Clean as a “superior product” to Purell and its brethren. Unlike those mass-market brands, which contain the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended 60 percent alcohol, New York’s contains 70 percent – plus a nose-pleasing “floral bouquet,” he said. But Cuomo tellingly downplayed the “prison labor” component, merely mentioning the brand – Corcraft – as one that also makes glass cleaner, floor cleaner, degreasers, laundry detergent, vehicle fluids, hand cleaner, “and now they make hand sanitizer.”
The prisoners, who receive approximately 16 to 65 cents per hour for their labor, have apparently been busy churning out the vital fluid: Cuomo said that current capacity is 100,000 gallons per week, and that they’d be “ramping up,” providing the liquid to government agencies, schools, prisons, and the like “because you can’t get it on the market, and when you get it it’s very, very expensive.”Also on rt.com Does labor in US prisons amount to modern day slavery? RT’s Boom Bust investigates
“To Purell and Mr. Amazon and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging we’ll introduce our product which is superior to your product, and you don’t even have the floral bouquet! So stop price gouging,” the governor said, trying to squeeze some laughs out of the situation. “This is also much less expensive than anything government could buy,” he added, explaining that it’s “much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market.” Cuomo thanked Corcraft for their good work – not that the prisoners had a choice.
A coalition of prisoners rights advocacy groups slammed the move. “We are disgusted at Governor Cuomo’s decision to exploit prison labor to push back the imminent public health crisis presented by Covid-19 while doing absolutely nothing for incarcerated people across the state,” they said in a statement.
Twitter wasn’t fooled by the governor’s efforts to dance around the topic of what was essentially prison slave labor. The whole project represented a “layer of dystopian hell,” one user tweeted.
Absolute brain melting moment at 1:30 where Gov Cuomo goes in hard on describing the “floral bouquet” of this state approved hand sanitizer made by prison labor. Everything is great! https://t.co/PseJJe3Uhk— Jabroni And The Air-rifle (@DanBoeckner) March 9, 2020
you can learn everything you need to know about America by reading some history books or, if you don't have that kinda time, reading the sentence "Andrew Cuomo has an army of prison slaves making Purell to fight the coronavirus pandemic"— Law Boy, Esq. (@The_Law_Boy) March 9, 2020
Some clarified that despite making the product for pennies on the dollar, inmates in some prisons are barred from actually using it – the alcohol used to manufacture the liquid is considered contraband, and many prisoners have limited access to any kind of hygiene products.
Wow. Considering that many incarcerated men & women are subjected to inhumane conditions, including no hand soap, & hand sanitizer is banned in most prisons, this is especially demeaning, ironic & exploitive. https://t.co/LnYHP0QbFb— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) March 9, 2020
As of today people in NY jails & prisons are not allowed to use hand sanitizer. Alcohol content means it’s contraband. Can’t use it. Loved ones can’t send it. But those same people incarcerated by NY are getting paid 65 cents per hour to manufacture it! https://t.co/ewDLhhFT8z— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 9, 2020
Others noted that coronavirus had exposed more than a few cracks in the state’s progressive facade.
it pairs nicely with this https://t.co/xQxe2MKPs5pic.twitter.com/d83pW7pq4K— psychic soldier (@bijanstephen) March 9, 2020
so blessed to live a Progressive State™️ where the governor proudly uses prison slave labor to produce hand sanitizer in the midst of a global pandemicanyway in conclusion, fire to the prisons. https://t.co/yXQqLq4szt— 𝕁𝕒𝕟𝕦𝕤 ℝ𝕠𝕤𝕖 🥀 (@zenalbatross) March 9, 2020
And some pointed out that if China – or even President Donald Trump – had announced a similar initiative, they’d be pilloried in the media.
Letting prisoners make hand sanitizer to fight corporate sanitizer gouging during a pandemic would be the most 2020 dystopian plot turn if it happened in China or North Korea. That it’s happening in New York State is just the icing on the cake as they say— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) March 9, 2020
Imagine if Trump suggested using prison labor to make hand sanitizer. https://t.co/wRvV1XCodG— Greg Pollowitz (@GPollowitz) March 9, 2020
Though some managed to find a silver lining – at least making hand sanitizer was better than phone-banking for billionaire Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg, who as mayor likely oversaw the imprisonment of many of the inmates who ended up making campaign phone calls for him.
Better for public good than phone banking for @MikeBloomberg tbh— JonathonSnyder (@JonathonSnyder) March 9, 2020
And it sure beats digging mass graves – another project convicts may find themselves assigned to if coronavirus deaths overwhelm the systems currently in place to store and dispose of infected corpses.
As New York State debuts a branded hand sanitizer made with 65-cent-an-hour prison labor, read @GrimKim on New York City's plan to have Rikers inmates dig mass graves if things come to that https://t.co/mb5xtSMxwk— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) March 9, 2020
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