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.
In 2015, when a number of maquiladora workers in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico took a stand for better working conditions, one of the companies impacted was CommScope, a manufacturer of telecommunications infrastructure. Based in North Carolina, the company employed 3,000 workers in its Ciudad Juárez factory.
Just across the US-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas in the Mexican state of Chihuahua lies Ciudad Juárez, where the wages of workers in the maquiladoras, export-oriented factories run by foreign businesses, are significantly lower than in other parts of the country. Among the many maquiladoras in the city is a 2,800-worker printer-cartridge plant owned by Lexmark, a multinational company based in Lexington, Kentucky.
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.
spersed the protesters via bullets, tear gas, and beatings. This led to rioting and violence between a small minority of protestors and the security forces.
Torres Strait soldiers stage stay-at-home strikes to demand full pay and an end to discrimination in the army, 1943
South of Papua New Guinea (PNG) lies the Torres Strait. The strait consists of 274 islands, 14 of which are inhabited by a predominantly Melanesian population. Based on the 2016 census, the total population of the Torres Strait is 4,514 compared to an estimated size of 1,800 in 1943. Torres Strait Islanders are an ethnic minority in Australia and, historically, have been discriminated against by the Australian government.
On 14 October 2015, student protests began at the University of Witwatersrand in response to an announcement by the university board that there would be a 10.5% increase in tuition fees. On 15 October, students barricaded the gates of the university. Over the next two days, both student and staff members held a sit in, causing the eventual lock down of the university as the blockades obstructed lectures and activities. On 17 October, the University of Witwatersrand agreed to suspend and renegotiate the fee increases.
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.
Cambodia’s garment industry, which is responsible for over 80% of the country’s total exports, is notorious for its frequent cases of labor exploitation and worker abuse. Garment workers, of whom 90% are female, are forced to endure intimidation tactics, bribes, and short-term contracts -- all of which work to prevent unionization.
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.
The city of Rio de Janeiro is home to 6 million people with approximately 1.5 million residents living in favelas. These residential communities, named after the favela trees native to the region, are commonly misunderstood by outsiders. Although 32% of favela residents belong to the lower-class, a 2013 study found that 85% of people residing in favelas like where they live. Some favelas have high crime rates, but many are high-functioning, self-governing communities.
Nigeria, the most populous African country, is filled with oil reserves, particularly in the Niger River Delta. Oil was the main national export, comprising 98% of Nigeria’s export earnings and 83% of government revenue in 2002. Starting in the mid-1980s, the Nigerian government subsidized fuel, letting Nigerians buy oil and gasoline at prices significantly below market levels.
In the 1870s, the Maharaja (prince) of Patiala, a small princely state in the Punjab region of northern India, implemented the Biswedari (big landlord) system, which appointed biswedaris as local authorities of agrarian villages. The biswedaris, mostly government officials and close kin of the Maharaja, gradually took full possession of lands and reduced the original owners to the status of muzaras (tenants). Muzaras had to pay batai (share rent) to their landlords, consisting of half of their crop, though landlords often overestimated the crop yield to justify taking a larger share.
As of 2014, about 168 million rural migrant workers traveled annually to China’s cities. This significant portion of China’s workforce consists of workers leaving rural areas to find employment in cities in other provinces in order to send wages to families left behind. As the average age of the migrant worker force has increased, workers have switched the focus of strikes and protests from demanding wage increases to pensions, healthcare, and unemployment insurance. As of 2013, only one out of six migrant workers had a pension.
In December 2009, 948 Burmese migrant workers who had entered Thailand legally began work at the Dechapanich Fishing Net Factory in Khon Kaen. Their employer confiscated the workers’ passports and personal documents, and for nine months, they worked in poor conditions. Additionally, the employer forced the Burmese workers to work without pay for an hour and a half each day to cover the cost of a recruiter for Burmese laborers.
Brazilian workers of Portland Cement Company (PERUS) strike for economic justice and better working conditions, 1962-1974
The Portland Cement Company plant at PERUS opened in 1925. Located on the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, the plant served as the main source of raw building materials for the city. In 1951, prominent Brazilian businessman, José João Abdalla, took over the plant, making it one of the thirty subsidiaries under his control. J.J. Abdalla showed serious disregard to the needs of the workers, neglecting to provide the proper maintenance and development of facilities, which hugely impacted production and quality and safety of working conditions.
In 2012, Swaziland was a small landlocked country in southern Africa ruled by King Mswati III. Sixty three percent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line. Government spending on education had continuously decreased since 2008. With the economy virtually stagnated, the International Monetary Fund had urged the government in February 2012 to reduce the size of its civil service.
On 11 September 1973, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinoche came to power and during the 1970s, he privatized Chile’s education system. The central government gave money to some private schools, while the public schools remained grossly underfunded. This commercialization of education began a legacy of educational attainment disparity along socioeconomic class lines—the poor received poor quality education, received jobs that paid meager wages, and remained poor, while the wealthy received high quality education, went on to university, and obtained well-paying jobs that increased their wealth.
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.
Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, South Africa, employed thousands of workers, composed mostly of migrants working for low wages. Lonmin, a British mining company, owned Marikana. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represented most of the workers at Marikana. NUM was one of the two largest unions in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an extremely powerful organization and a major player in South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
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
Cocoa was essential to the economy of the British colony in the Gold Coast, which is now Ghana. Cocoa accounted for over 60% of exports. However, the European-dominated trade and the exploitative patterns of trade they faced often frustrated the many Africans involved in the process. In attempts to achieve more equal relationships Africans held large “holdups” in the Gold Coast in 1924 and 1930-1931, during which they refused to sell their cocoa to European firms, but neither attempt succeeded.
In 1945 Kenya was a colony of Great Britain. Workers were paid low wages and a wave of complaints led to threats of a strike. The British created the Phillips Committee to investigate the workers’ complaints. Forming the committee pacified the workers for a time, but by the end of 1946, workers in Mombasa were upset with the lack of change.
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.