ACA 8 Coalition Secures California Democratic Party Endorsement of the End Slavery in California Act

San Diego – On Sunday, May 19, the California Democratic Party endorsed the End Slavery in California Act by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (ACA 8). This historic legislation will give incarcerated workers the dignity and autonomy to prioritize education, vocation or rehabilitative programming over forced exploitation. ACA 8 places a constitutional amendment before the voters in November to remove the last vestiges of slavery from our state constitution. 

Representatives of the ACA 8 Coalition, a coalition of more than 30 organizations working to end involuntary servitude in California, attended the 2024 California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting in San Diego over the weekend. They presented ACA 8 to the Resolutions Committee, the Progressive, Black, and Chicano Latino Caucuses before it was heard at the general session of the Executive Board. Ultimately, the Executive Board, made up of 300+ activists, elected officials, and party leaders, voted unanimously to support ACA 8. 

U.S.Representative Maxine Waters talking with members of the ACA 8 Coalition
at the 2024 California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting in San Diego on Friday, May 17.
U.S. Representative Maxine Waters talking with members of the ACA 8 Coalition
at the 2024 California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting in San Diego on Friday, May 17.

U. S. Representative Maxine Waters, who testified on behalf of the ACA 8 coalition said this “is an issue we’ve been talking about for a long time.” Telling party leaders, incarcerated people “are subjected to new-aged forced labor that must be outlawed. The issue is so obvious and so right. And I join them in saying ‘let’s move this ACA so we can deal with this issue.’”

This overwhelming show of support for ACA 8 affirms that forced labor and prison slavery are contrary to the values of the governing party in California whose platform includes promoting a fair and just criminal justice system, opposing involuntary servitude, and opposing public spending that leads to exploitative and unfair employment practices. 

“In the wake of the California Democratic Party’s resounding endorsement of ACA 8, it is imperative that we maintain this momentum and act with the urgency this moment demands. We must move mountains to rewrite a historical wrong and finally banish the last remnants of slavery from our state constitution. Let’s keep pushing forward, ensuring that incarcerated individuals have the dignity to choose rehabilitation over exploitation,” stated Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

After the legislature passes ACA 8, voters can remove the “exception clause” that allows prison officials to force incarcerated people to labor and punish workers for calling off sick, taking a day to grieve, or declining a work assignment that does not serve their rehabilitation needs. 

“Legal Services for Prisoners with Children urges every state senator to stand on the right side of history to eradicate the vestiges of slavery for good in California,” said Dr. Tanisha Cannon, Managing Director. Before the Progressive Caucus, Dr. Cannon called upon Senator Pro Tem McGuire to “follow the lead of the Democratic Party and take urgent action to place ACA 8 in front of the necessary committees and Senate floor before June 27, 2024.”

“Slavery didn’t end with the Civil War; it’s still active in the form of forced prison labor. If we truly want to set people up for success after incarceration, let’s stop punishing them for prioritizing education or therapy over scrubbing floors during their sentences, and give them the agency to choose jobs or classes that provide a trade that will help them find better employment after release,” stated April Grayson, Senior Policy Manager for Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition.

“We are grateful to the California Democratic Party for endorsing ACA 8 (Wilson), the End Slavery in California Act. ACA 8 will end involuntary servitude in California prisons and give people the freedom to choose how to spend their time so they can be their best selves and be prepared to come home. When incarcerated people are forced to work, they miss out on attending positive self-help and educational programming that will lead to successful reintegration. Slavery has no place in California’s Constitution, and now the California Senate has the historic opportunity to help end this racist legacy and put ACA 8 on the ballot for voters to decide,” Sam Lewis, Executive Director at Anti Recidivism Coalition.

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The ACA 8 Coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations across California fighting to end slavery in all its forms. The coalition includes the 10P Program, A New Way of Life, Abolish Slavery National Network, ACLU California Action, Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign, All of Us or None, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Anti-Violence Safety and Accountability Project, ASCRIBE, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Bend the Arc, Black Power Network, CA Native Vote Project, Cast LA, Catalyst California, California Lawyers for the Arts, Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, East Bay Community Law Center, EDIFYE, Ella Baker Center, FICPFM, Freedom 4 Youth, Freedom United, GLIDE Foundation, Homies Unidos, Impact Justice, Indivisible: State Strong, Just Cities, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, Legal Aid at Work, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, March On, Norcal Resist, Pride In Truth, Prison from the Inside Out, Represent Justice, Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, Starting Over Inc., The Love We Don’t See, TimeDone, Underground Scholars, Village Advocates, and the Youth Leadership Institute.