It becomes meaningful to add a conceptual dimension to Harry Bernstein’s article of Feb. 7, “Deukmejian’s Prison Job Plan is a Threat to Free Labor.”
Simply stated, this addition would focus prison labor on the manufacture of consumer items from domestic industries that have been driven out of business in our country by foreign imports. In the face of a threatening trade deficit, we have little to lose and much to gain.
There is an abundance of items to select. For instance, the production of umbrellas in the United States is almost non-existent. Over half of our baby strollers are made abroad. Our market share in our own country for television sets made by a domestic company is down to 12%.
A great deal of planning would be necessary by a panel or commission of experienced businessmen along with labor representatives. Some of the areas that must be thoroughly investigated are:
- In order to avoid causing any disruptions, the prison items should be sold into the channels of distribution in much the same way the imported items are.
- Parts should be sold to the few existing manufacturers to give them the edge that is needed against foreign labor.
- A line of demarcation should be established for selecting products. The amount of market control by the foreign items would be a factor. The cost of tooling and getting into production is another.
It is obvious that prison labor is not going to solve our national problems in this area, but perhaps a step can be made in the right direction. This sort of effort could illustrate to manufacturers that there are ways in which they can meet foreign competition.