Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during an event to open a campaign office at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan, on December 21, 2019. (Photo: Jeff Kowalski/AFP via Getty Images)

Bloomberg Says Explosive Report on His Campaign's Use of Prison Labor Is 'Fundamentally Accurate'

"It's honestly one of the most evil things we've ever seen from a presidential campaign, and hopefully Bloomberg's campaign will end with him paying out unimaginable sums to the people he exploited. In a just world it would."

Jake Johnson

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement late Tuesday that The Intercept's explosive report on his presidential campaign's use of prison labor to make phone calls is "fundamentally accurate" but insisted he was not aware of the practice, which prompted a torrent of outrage from rights advocates.

"Earlier today, a news outlet reported that prison workers were being used by a subcontractor to make telephone calls on behalf of my campaign," said Bloomberg, the wealthiest individual in the Democratic presidential field. "I'm not attacking the news: the story was fundamentally accurate."

"Use of prison labor is the continued exploitation of people who are locked up, who really have virtually no other opportunities to have employment or make money other than the opportunities given to them by prison officials."
—Alex Friedmann, Prison Legal News

"We only learned about this when the reporter called us," Bloomberg added, "but as soon as we discovered which vendor's subcontractor had done this, we immediately ended our relationship with the company and the people who hired them."

The Intercept reported Tuesday morning that Bloomberg's presidential campaign contracted the New Jersey-based call center company ProCom through a third-party vendor. ProCom runs call centers in New Jersey and Oklahoma.

"Two of the call centers in Oklahoma are operated out of state prisons," The Intercept reported. "In at least one of the two prisons, incarcerated people were contracted to make calls on behalf of the Bloomberg campaign."

An anonymous source told The Intercept that people incarcerated at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, an Oklahoma women's prison, were making calls to California for Bloomberg's campaign.

"The people were required to end their calls by disclosing that the calls were paid for by the Bloomberg campaign," according to The Intercept. "They did not disclose, however, that they were calling from behind bars."

Bloomberg's campaign said it ended the arrangement with ProCom Monday after The Intercept inquired about the use of prison labor.

Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, told The Intercept that "use of prison labor is the continued exploitation of people who are locked up, who really have virtually no other opportunities to have employment or make money other than the opportunities given to them by prison officials."

Friedmann said that while it is "entirely possible" Bloomberg was not aware that incarcerated people were making calls on behalf of his campaign, "that's like saying department stores making clothes in southeast Asia don’t know that 5-year-olds are stitching together their soccer balls."

David Klion, news editor at Jewish Currents, said the billionaire presidential candidate's use of prison labor "shouldn't be seen as just a fuckup or a moral failing."

"There should be legal and civil consequences for it. Compelling political speech from incarcerated people should be considered unconstitutional," Klion tweeted. "It's honestly one of the most evil things we’ve ever seen from a presidential campaign, and hopefully Bloomberg’s campaign will end with him paying out unimaginable sums to the people he exploited. In a just world it would."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

World Awaits as US Supreme Court Prepares to Drop Carbon Bomb on the Planet

One Democratic senator warned the high court's right-wing majority "could unleash a new era of reckless deregulation that will gut protections for all Americans and the environment."

Jake Johnson ·


'Massive Betrayal': Biden Cuts Deal With McConnell to Nominate Anti-Abortion Judge

"At a time when we are fighting to protect human rights, this is a complete slap in the face."

Jake Johnson ·


Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo