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The ongoing disgrace of legal slavery in this country

Slavery is still legal in the United States.

There's an exception in the 13th Amendment. It prohibits slavery "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

In other words, people in our prison system – disproportionately poor and disproportionately Black – are subject to legal enslavement. In the United States. In the 21st century.

Not only is our nation failing to address the poisonous legacy of systemic racism, we haven't even outlawed slavery.

Let's end it. Sign the petition to tell Congress, "No slavery. No exceptions."

This isn't some obscure legal loophole. Private interests – and the state itself – have been exploiting prisoners since the amendment was ratified in 1865. Today, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in this country, and almost all of them are used as cheap or free labor.

US Senator Jeff Merkley just proposed a new amendment that closes the loophole. It's simple, clear, and above all, it'll bring state-sanctioned slavery in this country to a long-overdue end:

''Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude may be imposed as a punishment for a crime.''

That's it. It will be unconstitutional for slavery or involuntary service to be employed by the federal government or any state government. No exceptions.

But here's the awful part: passing this amendment should be a given, but it likely won't be. There are powerful people who will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to outlaw slavery in this country – 155 years after the end of the Civil War and the passage of the amendment that many of us were taught in school bans slavery.

Here in Oregon, members of the legislative BIPOC Caucus, including Senators Lew Frederick and James Manning, have led the effort to amend our state constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude. This coming regular session, I will vote to refer this constitutional amendment to Oregon voters, and I will ask my fellow legislators to urge Congress's support of Senator Merkley's proposal.

Are you with me? Add your name to demand Congress outlaw all slavery in the United States!

I don't know when our efforts in Congress and the Oregon Legislature will finally break through, but I know that one day, they will. And when they do, you can know that your support helped make the difference.

Onward to justice,

Posted on December 11, 2020.