Merkley pitches Constitutional amendment to ban forced labor


13th Amendment outlawed slavery 'except as punishment for crime'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Noting that the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for a crime,” Sen. Jeff Merkley is preparing to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to end forced, unpaid labor.

Merkley, who spoke with KOIN 6 News from his office in Washington, said the incarceration of prisoners who are forced to work for little or literally no pay is an abuse that has to end.

His amendment would “end the ability to essentially enslave people through forced labor.”

Merkley said he’s in the stage of putting the amendment together and then will work to get bipartisan support to move this forward.

It takes 75% of the states — 38 of 50 — to ratify an amendment before it is adopted. Though thousands of amendments to the Constitution have been discussed since its adoption in 1787, only 27 amendments have been approved and 6 have been disapproved.

Constitutional Amendment Process

The Oregon Democrat also provided an update on the lack of progress HEROES Act coronavirus relief bill — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking it from coming to the floor for a debate — and discussed the need for the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act.

Merkley said more research shows the inaccuracy and bias issues involved in facial recognition technologies.

He will travel from DC to Oregon for the 4th of July weekend and be in the state for some time after that.

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