Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign used prison labor of incarcerated women to make phone calls on behalf of the billionaire’s campaign, according to a report from The Intercept on Tuesday. ProCom, a New Jersey company, runs two call centers in state prisons in Oklahoma, with incarcerated women in minimum-security women’s prison Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center making calls to California on behalf of the campaign, according to The Intercept. “The people were required to end their calls by disclosing that the calls were paid for by the Bloomberg campaign. They did not disclose, however, that they were calling from behind bars,” the report by John Washington read.
The campaign ended the contract on Monday after being contacted by The Intercept. The campaign claims it didn’t know about the campaign vendor contracting ProCom until The Intercept reached out.
“We didn’t know about this and we never would have allowed it if we had,” campaign spokesperson Julie Wood told the outlet in an email “We don’t believe in this practice and we’ve now ended our relationship with the subcontractor in question.”
Perhaps worse than a mega capitalist exploiting prison labor for a presidential campaign, it’s unclear if the incarcerated people contracted to make campaign phone calls were even paid a minimum wage. Bloomberg has said he will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 and “indexed to growth in median earnings” in the years after. ProCom cofounder John Scallan says the company pays $7.25 per hour (the Oklahoma minimum wage) to the state’s Department of Corrections, which is then responsible for paying the incarcerated people working.
Yet, the Oklahoma DOC, on a site for frequently asked questions about incarceration, says that incarcerated people can make up to $20 each month, with those with “special skills and good behavior” earning more by working for Oklahoma Correctional Industries. The Intercept reported that an incarcerated person could max out at $27.09 each month in Oklahoma.
Scallan says those people they employ are making more. “Some of them are making that much every day,” Scallan told The Intercept.