In 1933, granite workers in the city of Barre, Vermont (VT), United States labored under nation-wide economic distress. The Great Depression was in its fourth year — a monumental stock market crash throughout much of the world in 1929, combined with a massive drought in the US, placed strain on the capitalist system, putting millions out of work and causing wages and job growth across the country to reverse. Granite companies began cutting staff and offering lower pay raises.
On 11 March 2013, SLAM and 70 percent of the approximately 112 nonmanagerial workers at the DoubleTree (housekeepers, banquet servers, front desk agents, van drivers, and Scullers Jazz Club employees) filed a petition stating their desire to be able to decide without the influence of hotel management whether or not to join Unite Here, which already represented Harvard’s dining hall employees.
The St. Albans Cooperative Creamery was a farmer/member-owned milk-processing plant in St. Albans, Vermont (VT) in the United States with a supplying base of 360 farms. Ray Brands owned one of these farms—called Deer Valley Farm—and on 15 May 2014, two immigrant workers at his farm quit due to poor living conditions and Brands’ withholding of paychecks. Earlier that May, another worker quit for the same reasons.
Vermont Migrant Farmworkers picket and march for Ben and Jerry’s to sign pledge for Milk With Dignity
Migrant Justice conducted a survey of Vermont farm workers in June 2014 to find potential areas of concern. The group found that businesses paid 40 percent of workers less than the state minimum wage of $8.73, 40 percent worked every day each week, and 28 percent consistently worked shifts or 7 hours or more without breaks.
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.
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.
On 19 September 1990, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the city of Atlanta the contract to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) believed that by hosting the Olympics, Atlanta would be able to reinvent itself as an international city, and investment in the Games would help fuel urban development. The Committee leaned on the city of Atlanta’s strong civil rights history to secure the bid.
PT Kizone, an apparel factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, held major contracts with Nike and Adidas. In September of 2010, the factory started to withhold its workers’ severance pay. In January 2011, the factory failed to pay its workers their monthly compensation. At the end of the month, the owner of PT Kizone, Jin Woo Kim, fled to his home country of South Korea. The factory declared bankruptcy and closed on 1 April 2011. PT Kizone fired all its workers, to whom the factory owed $3.4 million in severance compensation.
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.
The Lusty Lady was a strip club in San Francisco. Opened since 1976, this North Beach club featured exotic dancers “Lusties” in a peep show on a stage and in individual booths. While being one of the most popular spots for nightlife in the city, the Lusty Lady was infamous among the dancers for its random firings and pay cuts, racist and ambiguous shift policies, and no-sick-day rules. According to Antonia Crane, a former stripper at the Club, “[the Lusty Lady] is playing the notoriously exploitative game in the adult entertainment world.”
Between 1970 and 1976, Russell Bliss used a toxic mixture of motor oil and dioxin to spray the unpaved roads in Times Beach, MO. The community hired Bliss, a career waste disposer, to reduce its dust problem. Unbeknownst to residents of the small town, Independent Petrochemical Corporation (IPC) paid Bliss for the disposal of its hazardous dioxin waste. Under the auspices of Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO), IPC generated dioxin through its production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The Taxi Drivers Alliance of Philadelphia (TDAP) and the Philadelphia Limousine Association (PLA), major labor unions in Pennsylvania, United States, represented the majority of taxi and limo drivers in the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. With the rise of ride-sharing services such as UberX and Lyft since 2012, the taxi and limo industry in Philadelphia felt increasingly threatened, as more and more people opted for their cheaper counterparts.
From 1943 to 1982, Escambia Treating Company (ETC) operated in Pensacola, Florida. Located in an industrial/residential zone, the location of a wood treatment facility threatened the health of Escambia County residents, who were primarily Black. Until the mid-1950s, ETC dumped creosote and pentachlorophenol (PCP) into an uncovered pit. In March 1992, community members founded Citizens Against Toxic Exposure (CATE) and launched a five-year campaign for relocation of the 358 households closest to the Escambia plant.
In the early 1950s, Royal Dutch/Shell purchased land in the community of Diamond, Louisiana and built a chemical plant. Margie Richard, a Black resident of Diamond, founded Concerned Citizens of Norco (CCN) in 1989 after two large-scale accidents at the Shell/Motiva Chemical plant. A pipeline explosion in 1973 killed two Diamond residents, while another event in 1988 killed seven workers.
In 1978, Chemical Waste Management Inc. (CWM), a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. (WMX), bought 300-acres of land near Emelle, Alabama for a hazardous waste landfill. Residents did not have the opportunity to protest the landfill prior to its construction because CWM was not legally obligated to disclose information about land use.
In 2014, Brown University, a private research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, enrolled nearly 9,000 students and employed over 1,500 workers, more than a hundred of whom worked in the school’s libraries. The United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island (USAW-RI) is the workers union that represented nearly half of these library workers in addition to the school’s dining employees, parking officers, service responders, and mailroom drivers.
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.”
When Bill Clinton began his first term as President of the United States in 1993, the cumulative number of individuals affected by the AIDS epidemic stood at 360,000 cases. By his second term, this count had grown to over 580,000. Although the number of AIDS deaths saw its first dip in 1996, likely due to the development of anti-HIV combination therapies, the number of new cases remained constant at about 40,000 annually since 1992 until 2003.
From 1997 to 2000, students at the University of Virginia held a campaign to raise the living wage from the lowest pay of $6.10 to $8.19. In June 1996, a year before the campaign began, the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity Employment Programs commissioned an investigation, called “The Muddy Floor Report,” that published statistics on racial bias in hiring and pay at UVa’s employment office. The report revealed that housekeeping staff had some of the lowest wages, a third of them qualified for food stamps, and most of them were women and/or African-American.
Texas has consistently ranked poorly among other states with regard to education. In 2010, Texas ranked dead last in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas and ranked very low in spending per student in public schools, a problem that became exacerbated in 2011. During the Great Recession in 2007, Texas was able to avoid the housing industry meltdown and soaring unemployment rates that plagued the rest of the United States due to its booming oil and gas industries.
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.
In 2012, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) voted to “phase-out” Walter Dyett High School, the only open-enrollment high school in the African-American south side neighborhood of Bronzeville, due to poor academic performance. Opponents of the closing said that CPS and Mayor Emanuel had caused this poor performance by cutting Dyett’s funding. The decision to shut the school came amidst a series of closures throughout the CPS system that disproportionately affected poor, black neighborhoods.
On 6 June 2013, developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman asked
Florida’s Manatee County Commission for environmental exceptions and
zoning changes to Long Bar Pointe, a 523-acre area of land along
Sarasota Bay. In 2012, Lieberman, the land’s owner, as well as the
president and founder of Sarasota’s Barrington Group, partnered with
Beruff of Medallion Homes to complete the development project. Beruff
and Lieberman aimed to build a 300-room hotel, two retail centers, a
convention center, 1,086 single-family homes, 1,587 low-rise multi
On 1 June 1966, growing disputes between farmworkers and the owners of
melon farms in the Rio Grande valley in South Texas culminated in a
strike. Four hundred farm workers had voted in favor of a strike against
their employers at La Casita melon farm. It was the height of melon
season. Eugene Nelson, who had worked as a farm worker and author as
well as an organizer with the National Farm Workers’ Association, led
these workers to strike and organized them into the Independent Workers’
Association. Their organization, based in Rio Grande City in Starr
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.