Swarthmore College is a small liberal arts college close to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the spring semester of 2006 campus workers at Swarthmore began to organize a union. For the union to be established a significant number of the workers had to vote in favor. However, some workers felt that the election method at the college, the standard National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) method, did not support a safe environment for the workers to freely express themselves.
In 1961 the United States government created the J-1 exchange visa program that allows for people, including students from other countries, to visit the USA for cultural immersion and work-study. In what is typically a four-month program, thousands of students come to the USA and go to work in jobs provided for them by contractors of the visa program. The program has been critiqued in the past for failing to provide adequate cultural immersion and for using contractors that provide visa holders with poor work placement.
When Dr. Jerry Lee, the sixth president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. announced his plans to step down from the position on August 24, 1987, the Board of Trustees at the University quickly arranged a Presidential Search Committee that would begin looking for candidates to become the new university president. Ultimately, the Search Committee submitted the names of three finalists to the Board of Trustees on February 28, 1988. The Committee had selected: Dr. Harvey Corson (a deaf superintendent of the Louisiana School for the Deaf), Dr. I.
The year 1997 marked the start of a nation-wide anti-sweatshop movement led and fueled by college and university students from over 200 campuses. Inspired by early movements on Georgetown and University of Pennsylvania campuses and enraged by Bill Clinton’s attempt to mollify the public’s anger with the creation of the corrupt Fair Labor Union (FLA), University of Iowa students established a Students Against Sweatshops (SAS, or UISAS) chapter in 1999.
Beginning in January of 2000, Tulane University students formed a student organization on campus as a result of distress about sweatshop-made Tulane Apparel. The students were unhappy with the school’s membership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a sweatshop monitoring organization. They believed that the FLA was an organization that indirectly helped to preserve low wages, long hours, and unhealthy working conditions, like the ones found in sweatshops.
The University of Texas admitted black graduate students in 1955 and undergraduate students in 1956, but conditions on campus remained unequal. Admission was limited to an educationally elite section of black students. Facilities, such as dorms, were still segregated and of worse quality than the equivalent dorms for white students. Black students were not allowed to participate in athletics or drama. Protests emerged in the early 1960’s to improve these conditions, but after 3 days of picketing, students decided to focus on other ways of addressing discrimination.
On 1 March 2000, 400 Yale University students rallied to demand that their administration withdraw from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and join the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) instead. Both organizations focused on monitoring sweatshop labor and apparel companies overseas to ensure that the workers in these companies receive fair treatment; however, universities across the country began to oppose the FLA and argue that it did not actually monitor the companies properly or ensure good working conditions for employees.
In Crystal City, Texas, 87 percent of high school students in 1968 were Chicano, or Mexican American, and nearly half of these were children of migrant farm workers. But the high school principal, five of the seven school board members, and 75 percent of the teachers were white. During the summers, local government and school officials, all white, selected candidates for the fall elections. In doing so, the minority population maintained a majority white school board with just one or two Chicanos they believed to align with their views.
By 1964, a handful of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field workers had endured three years of continued repression as they challenged Mississippi’s racial discrimination. Only 6.7% of black Mississippians were registered to vote in 1962, the lowest percent in the country. In 1963 SNCC’s Mississippi operation was facing a stalemate. Since arriving in 1961 they had few concrete victories to show for their hard and dangerous work in the state. They had gotten few people to attempt to register, and even fewer were successful.
In 2001, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Howard Berman of California introduced a piece of proposed legislation named The DREAM, (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. Under the proposed Dream Act undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally under parental supervision, would have an opportunity to obtain conditional U.S. citizenship with the possibility of achieving full citizenship upon completion of the process and by finally completing either two years of college or two years in the military.
When the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) hired Chancellor Denice Denton in 2004 the transition entailed her earning a salary of $282,000 a year and $600,000 of renovations made on her future house of residence, including a controversial $30,000 dog run. This became a topic of debate; students as well as media critics quickly brought these details to light and demanded accountability for the choices of spending at the University. Under these circumstances, employees at the University began to call attention to the fact that they earned a less than living wage
Students at Washington University of St. Louis formed the Student Worker’s Alliance (SWA) in November 2003 after 36 Nicaraguan campus workers were fired and deported to Nicaragua. SWA aimed to “begin a living wage campaign” for all workers at the university.
Along with many student activists in United States universities in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the University of Buffalo Students Against Sweatshops (UBSAS) ran a campaign to pressure their university to join the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). After years of student protests and demonstrations, the University of Buffalo (UB) announced that they would join WRC and the Fair Labor Association (FLA). The group of student activists feared that their university’s decision to also join the corporate-sponsored FLA would compromise the efforts and aims of workers’ rights groups.
In 1999, Students at Bucknell University formed a group called the Bucknell Caucus for Economic Justice (BCEJ). They took on research and conducted interviews to demonstrate the inferior conditions under which staff at Bucknell worked. In their research, the BCEJ consulted with the staff members at Bucknell University and discovered many incidents in which managers and supervisors infringed upon the rights of the staff members, often those in the lowest wage bracket.
Beginning in the 1970s anti-apartheid campaigns in the United States began to gain momentum as the governmental situation in South Africa grew increasingly worse. Across many fields there was a push to divest from South Africa in order to make the point that the United States did not support the actions of the South African government. The belief was that if the South African government was not receiving the large amounts of financial support that it did from the United States it would be forced to change its behavior.
This campaign was part of a greater movement of international opposition to Apartheid in South Africa. The divestment from South Africa was advocated in the United States in the 1960s, but support for divestiture did not reach full scale until the 1980s. The Stanford student solidarity sit-in campaign of 1977 came early on in the rise of this economic pressure.
Beginning in 1948, the white “apartheid” government of South Africa forced the black majority to live as second-class citizens, condemned to poverty and restricted in their freedoms by a system of legalized oppression. On the other side of the globe, in the 1970s, progressive activists in the United States found themselves absent a cause after the end of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. The blatant atrocity of apartheid seemed a good target. Activists realized that American corporations were supporting the apartheid regime by operating subsidiaries in South Afric
In 2000, students at the University of California-Berkeley began to consider the use of divestment as a means of showing their dismay with the Israeli occupation of Palestine. On February 6, 2001, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) formed and officially launched their campaign for divestment from corporations that supported the Israeli occupation. The group’s decision to launch a divestment campaign inspired colleges and universities nation wide to launch their own campaigns.
Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) formed at Georgetown University in 1996
to support workers' rights. In the fall
of 2001, a group of students, headed by the GSC, formed the Living Wage
Coalition (LWC) in order to guarantee University workers an income to meet their
subsistence needs. The students held meetings on how to take action and organized
breakfast events with workers to hear their grievances and concerns. By 2002, the administration agreed to raise
the minimum wage of workers directly employed by the university to $10.25 per
Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had long been respected as an institution with a strong commitment to social justice. While the College had pioneered such practices as co-education and comprehensive financial aid, by 2000 many College staff—including those in the environmental and dining services departments—were paid just above poverty levels for Delaware County, where the College and the majority of its workers reside. In the fall of 2000, a group of students began to talk with staff about the College’s employment practices.
Chestertown, situated in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was one of the few northern parts of the U.S. still segregated in the early 1960s. Most African Americans could not vote. Only three black students were enrolled in the local Washington College. Moreover, the only school in Chestertown that accepted black students from the 1st grade to 12th was the Garnett School.
Like students at many other colleges and universities at the turn of the millennium, students at Macalester College began to react against sweatshop and anti-union corporations that supplied the school store with apparel in 2000. Inspired by student activism at Duke University the previous year and a highly publicized sit-in at the University of Pennsylvania the previous month, Macalester students escalated their campaign on Monday morning, March 6, with a sit-in on the steps of the President’s office.
Johns Hopkins University community demand a living wage for campus and health system employees, 1996-2000
In December 1994, the city of Baltimore passed a city ordinance mandating that employees of companies receiving city contracts be paid a living wage (defined as a wage that keeps a family of four above the federally determined poverty level adjusted yearly for cost of living increases and inflation).
In the late 70s and 80s, American colleges and universities were engulfed in a heated debate over the ethical implications of financial investments. Educational institutions had invested billions of dollars in financial institutions and corporations with holdings in South Africa. Since the mid 1900s, the South African Nationalist government had implemented apartheid – a form of institutionalized racial segregation that had forced over a million South Africans to move out of urban spaces to designated rural areas. Many saw U.S.
There are several noted origins of the South Africa divestment movement in the United States. Students and activists protested the 1948-implemented system of apartheid in South Africa throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s, but the movement failed to gain much momentum. In 1962, the United Nations issued Resolution 1761 which called for economic and other sanctions on South Africa, but it received very little support from Western governments.