1 Whole Foods. The costly organic supermarket often nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” purchases artisan cheese and fish prepared by inmates who work for private companies. The inmates are paid .74 cents a day to raise tilapia that is subsequently sold for $11.99 a pound at the fashionable grocery store.
2 McDonald’s. The world’s most successful fast food franchise purchases a plethora of goods manufactured in prisons, including plastic cutlery, containers, and uniforms. The inmates who sew McDonald’s uniforms make even less money by the hour than the people who wear them.
3 Wal-Mart. Although their company policy clearly states that “forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart”, basically every item in their store has been supplied by third-party prison labor factories. Wal-Mart purchases its produce from prison farms where laborers are often subjected to long, arduous hours in the blazing heat without adequate sunscreen, water, or food.
4 Victoria’s Secret. Female inmates in South Carolina sew undergarments and casual-wear for the pricey lingerie company. In the late 1990’s, 2 prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for telling journalists that they were hired to replace “Made in Honduras” garment tags with “Made in U.S.A.” tags. Victoria’s Secret has declined to comment.
5 Aramark. This company, which also provides food to colleges, public schools and hospitals, has a monopoly on foodservice in about 600 prisons in the U.S. Despite this, Aramark has a history of poor foodservice, including a massive food shortage that caused a prison riot in Kentucky in 2009.
6 AT&T. In 1993, the massive phone company laid off thousands of telephone operators—all union members—in order to increase their profits. Even though AT&T’s company policy regarding prison labor reads eerily like Wal-Mart’s, they have consistently used inmates to work in their call centers since ’93, barely paying them $2 a day.
7 BP. When BP spilled 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf coast, the company sent a workforce of almost exclusively African-American inmates to clean up the toxic spill while community members, many of whom were out-of-work fisherman, struggled to make ends meet. BP’s decision to use prisoners instead of hiring displaced workers outraged the Gulf community, but the oil company did nothing to reconcile the situation.