United Students Against Sweatshops
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Members of United Students Against Sweatshops march outside the offices of Russell Corporation in Atlanta GA, during a protest against Russell's worker rights violations at its Honduras factories.
|Abbreviation||USAS (pronounced "you-sass")|
|Type||Student activist organization|
|Purpose||To work in solidarity with working peoples' struggles; to struggle against racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and other forms of oppression within our society, within our organizations, and within ourselves; to build a grassroots student movement that challenges corporate power and that fights for economic justice; and to strive to act democratically.|
United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a student organization founded in 1998 with chapters at over 250 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In April 2000, USAS founded the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent monitoring organization that investigates labor conditions in factories that produce collegiate apparel all over the world. The WRC exacts an annual membership fee from participating universities, which is used to fund its monitoring work.
The WRC works with NGOs, human rights groups, and local labor unions or federations, in countries where collegiate apparel is produced. At present over 180 universities and colleges have affiliated with the WRC. USAS is also proposing that universities sign on to the Designated Suppliers Program, or DSP, which would act to source collegiate apparel from factories that respect workers' rights to form unions and be paid living wages.
In 2000, Nike and other major clothing corporations renamed the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP) the Fair Labor Association (FLA), in large part to compete with the WRC. The AIP, an initiative of the Clinton Administration, had become a discredited organization, because all non-profit organizations and unions that had initially supported it, withdrew from it, with the exception of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), who subsequently withdrew their institutional membership on the FLA Board soon afterwards.
United Students Against Sweatshops is widely viewed as the largest anti-sweatshop community group in the United States and Canada. It was formed in 1997 as part of a broader anti-sweatshop movement increasingly popular in North America. This movement exhibited a great degree of skepticism of free trade practices, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
Focusing on domestic as well as international sweatshops, the group has built coalitions of students, labor groups, workers, and community members that focus on a range of campaigns:
- requesting that Russell Brands Athletic Brand significantly alter its labor policies in Central America
- supporting an anti-sweatshop policy called the Designated Suppliers Program, which would source collegiate apparel from factories that respect workers' rights to form unions and be paid living wages
- supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' campaign against Taco Bell to win higher wages for farm laborers ("Boot the Bell")
- protesting sweatshop working conditions at New Balance in New York and Forever 21 in San Francisco
- living wage campaigns for campus workers
- organizing student labor solidarity groups in high schools
- protesting Coca-Cola's repression of union organizers in Colombia
- supporting labor campaigns in local communities
- increased minimum wage campaigns in several states and localities
- protesting against Jessica Matthews, board member of Hanes and president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in relation to sweatshop conditions for Hanes workers in the Dominican Republic.
- Worker Rights Consortium
- International Labour Organization conventions
- 180/Movement for Democracy and Education
- Kimura-Walsh, Erin; Walter R. Allen (2008). "Globalization from above, globalization from below: Mechanisms for social disparity and social justice in higher education" 6: 201–230. doi:10.1016/S1479-358X(08)06008-7. ISSN 1479-358X.
- Brand Responsibility Project Records 2004-2012.0.84 cubic feet (2 boxes) of textual materials plus 83.8 GB of digital files.
- Mahoney, Jack (2008-03-13). "TOS Workers' Protest Hanes Boardmember Jessica Matthews". Georgetown Solidarity Committee. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- Students Against Sweatshops Book by journalist Liza Featherstone about USAS (ISBN 1-85984-302-6)
- Economist John Miller on sweatshops and USAS organizing in Dollars & Sense magazine
- USAS' website