The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, moved to counteract the shrinking union strength and the ever growing corporate power via legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act. Andy Levin and Stewart Acuff, two veteran union organizers, spearheaded the effort. In the summer of 2003, Acuff and Levin agreed on what the act would entail.
In the early 2000s, as technological advancements expanded media
sources, media writers faced challenges receiving compensation for their
work that producers redistributed online and through television reruns.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), comprised of the Writers Guild of
America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE)
represented the interests of over 12,000 “writers in the motion picture,
broadcast, cable, and new media industries in both entertainment and
news.” On 18 May 2007, the WGA released a “Pattern of Demands” to the
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.
In the 1960’s, San Francisco was a center of the youth counterculture that was spreading across the United States. The civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the Red Power movement, the Feminist movement, and LGBQT movement had all been challenging the dominance of the governing political elite.
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.
In 1919, the United Textile Workers and Central Labor Union, in
a rush of union activity, managed to shorten the work week from 54 hours to 48
hours. The unions negotiated this reform by making a concession of an overall
cut in wages, which were already below the cost of living. Immigrant workers at
textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts welcomed the change in hours, but
could not afford a decrease in wages. Aware of a successful strike involving
immigrant workers in Lawrence back in 1912, the mill workers decided to use the
same tactic to combat the wage decrease.
From the mid-1990s into the early 2000s a wave of economic justice activism swept through college campuses in the United States, spurred in large part by the global justice movement’s spotlighting of corporate malfeasance in the United States and especially in the global South. Seeking to fight in solidarity with underpaid and unprotected laborers, a number of college campuses launched campaigns demanding their universities end the purchasing of apparel produced in sweatshops. Between 1999 and 2000, 18 campus campaigns used sit-ins and building occupations in pursuit of this goal.
In 1974, workers at seven textile plants in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina owned by the J. P. Stevens company voted to be represented by the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA). However, the company refused to sign a contract with the new union. In 1976, the TWUA merged with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) to form the American Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (ACTWU). The new union immediately launched a campaign to pressure J. P. Stevens to sign a union contract.
After U.S. President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the battle for health care reform truly began to build in the United States of America. In fall of 2009, Mobilization for Health Care for All began a campaign for a single-payer health care system, soon known as “Patients Not Profits.”
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory is best known for the unique fashion blouse they produced and the horrific fire that killed 146 workers, women who might have lived if the owners had been forced to ensure safety standards in the factory. Historically, the 1911 tragedy defined the Triangle workers as the victims of disaster.
By spring 1967 some of the legal barriers to racial equality in the U.S. had been struck down. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities and women, in workplaces and in facilities that serve the general public. The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited discrimination in voting.
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.
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 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.
In 2006, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) began what would become a 6-year campaign against Chipotle for fair food and farmworker rights. The CIW, “a membership-led farmworker organization of mostly Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida,” had been organizing in Immokalee since 1993. Over time, they have won historic campaigns.
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
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 1934 it had been a successful year for strikes in Milwaukee, which emboldened retail clerks at Sears, Roebuck and Company, and the Boston Store to demand higher wages. At the time most clerks earned below $14 a week, which they called “starvation wages.”
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
In most of United States history cloth was manufactured largely in the North while cotton and other fibers were grown largely in the South. In the early twentieth century textile manufacturing workers formed unions to increase wages and safety, reduce working hours, and gain dignity. As the labor unions grew in strength, textile mills moved to southern states to avoid the need for collective bargaining, along with factories where clothing apparel was made from the cloth.
In 2006, non-unionized janitors at the University of Miami earned as little as $6.40 an hour and received no health insurance. Demanding higher wages and better working conditions, these janitors of mostly Haitian and Cuban descent began a campaign against the University of Miami with leadership from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
African American residents of Chester, PA, demonstrate to end de facto segregation in public schools, 1963-1966
In November 1963, African American parents in the small city of Chester, PA organized and demanded better conditions at their local elementary school, Franklin School. They picketed the school and blocked its doors, successfully shutting it down for several days. The protesters also staged sit-ins in the City Hall, municipal building, and the Board of Education's offices. After several weeks of protest, the campaign grew to encompass desegregation efforts of 10 of Chester's public elementary and middle schools.
African Americans campaign for reopening of public schools in Prince Edward County, Farmville, VA, 1959-1964
Rather than comply with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on
Madison Wisconsin was one of the first communities in the United States to recognize apartheid in South Africa as a serious and international issue that could potentially be addressed in part through American activism and solidarity. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was a focal point for this activism, due to the dedication and engagement of its students and professors.