Although Barnard College was part of Columbia University, the two institutions maintained separate endowments. As a result, BCD split into Columbia Divest for Climate Justice and Divest Barnard in the Fall of 2014. Next semester, in the Spring of 2015, Divest Barnard formally launched their campaign for Barnard College to divest from fossil fuels.
In 2015, student activists took action against New York University, a prestigious 4-year research university in New York City, United States, to increase the minimum wage of part-time student workers employed by the University. The campaign began on 18 September 2015, when members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) gathered to conduct a sit-in at 726 Broadway inside the office of Beth Haymaker, the director of NYU’s Global Programs. SLAM members organized the sit-in to protest the mistreatment of Niza Mirza, an international student from Pakistan.
In January of 2009, subcontractors of the multinational sports apparel giant, Nike, forcibly shut down two of their major factories, Vision Tex and Hugger, in the Honduras. This left more than 1,800 laborers unemployed and without their legally entitled severance payments. The Workers Rights Consortium, an independent labor auditing organization, reported these concerns to over 100 universities in order to generate awareness of these issues, resulting in the formation of the nationwide student campaign, “Just Pay It.”
The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) was founded at the University of Oregon in December 1975 as a union to represent the interests of graduate students employed by the University. In 2014, during an era of weaker unions, the University hired an outside law firm to negotiate its labor relations, though in it's 39 years of existence, the GTFF had never engaged in a strike to negotiate a labor relations dispute.
After 8 years of negotiation and organizing, the New York University (NYU) Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) won voluntary recognition from NYU on 26 November 2013, partially in response to a letter signed by 1300 graduate student employees in support of unionization. The NYU administration withheld formal recognition until after 98.4 percent of graduate students voted in favor of the union on 11 December. This made NYU the first private university in the United States to recognize a graduate student union.
Since its founding in 1859, Cooper Union had operated as a tuition-free art, architecture, and engineering school. However, after years of financial troubles, the College announced on 24 April 2012 that it would begin charging graduate students tuition beginning in the fall of 2014. Large numbers of students, faculty, and alumni strongly opposed this announcement; many blamed the shortfall on poor management of the endowment, expensive building construction, and over-reliance on poorly performing hedge fund investments.
Lehigh is a university of 5,000 students located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The University provides campus food services, maintenance of facilities and campus grounds through contracts with corporations Sodexho, One Source and Brickman respectively.
On 23 April 2005 an organizer for United Students against Sweatshop, Dawn Liberto, gave a speech at Lehigh, in which she encouraged students to take increased interest in campus workers. Liberto called for a campus living wage, suggesting that students begin with appreciation lunches and then pursue contract previsions.
Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Virginia began the first of a series of campaigns to improve the wages and working conditions of the University’s lowest paid employees in 1997. In 2006, students and faculty who identified themselves as members of the Living Wage Campaign conducted a year-long nonviolent struggle to raise the wages of the lowest paid University workers, which culminated with 17 students staging a sit-in in the President of the University’s office for four days before being arrested.
Students and staff at the College of William and Mary campaign for higher wages for housekeepers 2010-2011
Beginning in 1999 and lasting into 2001, students at William and Mary and members of the Tidewater Labor Support Committee (TSLC) carried out what they called a "Living Wage Campaign," during which they protested and petitioned the school’s administration to raise the salary for housekeepers employed by the college. The campaigners declared victory after the administration conceded to raising wages of the housekeepers to $8.29 per hour, which was far from their original goal, and ceased their campaign in 2001.
On 12 February 1960, nearly two weeks after sit-ins at Greensboro, North Carolina (the Greensboro Four) began, over 100 students at the historically black school Barber-Scotia College started sit-ins in the lunch counter at Belk’s department store and three other lunch counters in Concord, North Carolina. In addition to sit-ins, the students organized pray-ins, where they gathered for prayer in public areas and places reserved for whites. Aside from white teenage hecklers, the students did not face much initial repression.
On 18 February 1960, the High Point Biracial Committee was formed to ease racial tensions in High Point. As the group gained more legitimacy, more facilities desegregated thanks in part to negotiations between the committee and city officials. By 1963, nearly all government and public institutions were integrated. The remaining stronghold of segregation was privately-owned buildings such the town theaters.
High Point, North Carolina was a city viewed as progressive on racial relations, but the black community felt alienated as nearly all of High Point’s public institutions were segregated.
On 1 February 1960, a group of four college students began a sit-in at a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. News spread quickly to High Point, about 16 miles away.
Arizona State University students win better wages and working conditions for food service workers, 2006-2007
In 2006, Arizona State University was one of the larger schools in the United States of America, and employed over 12,000 people. However, many employees at Arizona State University, including the food service workers, made the federal minimum wage of $5.15/hour, well below the “Living Wage” of Tempe calculated to be $10.46.
Since the late 1990’s, students at many different colleges across American had held campaigns to raise the wages of low-income workers. (See this database for other campaigns.)
In 2004, Western Michigan University outsourced its custodial labor to a private company called Commercial Sanitation Management. The contract cut costs for the university by $1.1 million dollars a year and eliminated 58 positions. Commercial Sanitation Management did not pay what the national living wage movement deemed a living wage: $9.50 an hour with health insurance or $10.50 without health insurance.
Undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison founded the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) in 1994 after watching a video in a sociology course about the lockout of 700 workers at A.E. Staley, a sweetener company in Decatur, Illinois. They formed the organization to support the workers’ campaign there, and later spread to university campuses across the country.
In the fall of 1998, Harvard students began a Living Wage Campaign that would last for almost four years. The Campaign was headed by the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) and aimed to help all Harvard employees receive a “living wage”. The demands of the LWC were that each Harvard employee (janitors, security guards, cafeteria workers, etc.) receive a wage of $10 per hour or more. Most workers were receiving the minimum wage at the time, which was around $6.50. In 1998 Cambridge, MA, this was not enough to get by individually, let alone to support a family.
Beginning in late 2005, students at the University of Vermont (UVM) were involved in a movement to increase the wages of school employees such that workers could be given a "living wage." Primarily focused on food-service employees contracted by Sodexho, the nonviolent campaign sought out and acquired support from local officials, faculty, and even state legislators. The students believed they needed in intervene in order to secure a wage that was equal to the state standard of a living wage as established by the state legislature.
In 2006, University of Virginia students launched an intensive campaign to raise minimum wages at their institution. Discontented with the minimum $9.37 an hour, these students urged the school’s administration to provide fairer wages, wages that they determined to start at $10.27 an hour.
Students at University of Notre Dame started a living wage campaign at their school in September 2005 after learning about similar campaigns happening at Harvard University and Georgetown University. A living wage was defined as a family of four being able to live above the poverty line on the working parent’s salary. The Notre Dame students campaigned to raise the minimum pay wage from $8.25 up to $12.10 per hour. The group felt that it was the responsibility of the institution as social Catholics to understand the importance of achieving a living wage for workers.
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.
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.
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.