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Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, through a vendor, once contracted with a call center that used prison labor, according to the Intercept.
The former New York City mayor’s campaign contracted with the telecommunications company Procom to contact people in California through a third-party vendor, according to the news organization. Procom, which operates two call centers out of Oklahoma state prisons, was hired by the vendor to make the calls on the campaign’s behalf, according to the Intercept. The third-party vendor that hired Procom, meanwhile, hasn’t been disclosed, and it’s unclear whether the inmates were hired to conduct polling, canvassing, or some other task.
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“We didn’t know about this and we never would have allowed it if we had,” Bloomberg spokesperson Julie Wood said in a statement about the Intercept’s article. “We don’t believe in this practice and we’ve now ended our relationship with the subcontractor in question.”
Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the country, driven in part by punitive laws that punish women at an unusually high rate.
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One of the prisons that supplied labor for the Bloomberg campaign is a minimum-security prison in rural Oklahoma that holds more than 900 women. Procom pays the Oklahoma Department of Corrections the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for the women’s labor, and the state agency transfers some amount of that money down to the women for their work, according to the Intercept. It’s unclear how much of that money makes it to the women, but the state’s corrections website says it pays inmates up to $20 per month. Procom disputed to the Intercept that its workers were making that little.
While working in non-state owned industries, prisoners in Oklahoma usually make 54 cents per hour at best, according to the Prison Policy Institute.
Cover: Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks before taking part in an on-stage conversation with former California Gov. Jerry Brown at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)