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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Liberia, a small country on the west coast of Africa, the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) oversaw all public schools in the capital city of Monrovia. Its three main high school campuses were William V.S. Tubman, G.W. Gibson, and D-Tweh High School. As of 2013, enrollment in MCSS schools totaled over 20,000 students.
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.
On 14 October 2007, citizens of El Alto, Bolivia demanded that all bars and brothels facilitating sex work be located at least 3,200 feet away from schools, because they believed that the establishments were facilitating crime in the area. They then began a three-day rampage of the bars and brothels in the impoverished red-lights district of El Alto. These El Alto citizens, primarily parents and students, burned or destroyed at least 50 brothels, burned sex workers’ belongings, and beat sex workers.
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 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.
By 2009, the global financial crisis created high unemployment rates
throughout Spain. For many homeowners who borrowed money, the inability
to pay their mortgages meant that they risked eviction while continuing
to pay back their loans, creating the combination of homelessness and
growing debt. Social movements of recent years had worked to secure
housing and employment for all citizens in the turbulent times, such as
the “V de Vivienda” (“H for Housing”) campaign. Out of that particular
campaign grew “Platforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca” (“Mortgage
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.
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.
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.
The Empire Zinc Company owned a company town and zinc mines in Silver City, New Mexico, a part of Grant County. On 17 October 1950, the area's Local 890 chapter of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers decided to strike, demanding an end to discriminatory working conditions and the dual wage system of two-tiered pay, different for Mexican and Mexican American workers as compared to white workers.
Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, had only one landfill, which was 500 meters from the Suhodol neighborhood. The residents of Suhodol claimed that the landfill polluted the area and was a danger to the health of their children. In 2001, the mayor of Sofia promised to close the landfill by the end of 2004.
In 1981, a poorly coordinated attempt to privatize waste collection services left the neighborhood el 23 de Enero, the site of Venezuela’s largest public housing project, and other neighborhoods in Caracas without waste collection for weeks. El 23 de Enero was filled with piles of rotting trash that threatened a public health crisis.
The United States has a visa program called the H-2B visa. It allows employers to hire foreigners and let them come temporarily to work in the United States, usually for a one-time or peak load basis. This program has repeatedly been criticized for allowing employers to take advantage of guest workers, and in response, the U.S. Congress passed the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act in June of 2011.
After 10 months of negotiations with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education, the Chicago Teachers Union declared a strike on Sunday night, September 9, 2012, that would go into effect that Monday morning. Chicago was home to the third largest public school system in the United States, teaching 350,000 students.
On 29 September 2011 about 1,200 miners at Freeport’s Cerro Verde mining site began a 75-day strike. The participants were scheduled to walk off their jobs at 8:30 am Eastern Time. At midnight on the same day, 8,000 miners at Freeport’s Grasberg mine planned to begin a one month strike. The workers at both of these mines were part of the same miners union, all working towards the same goals.
The strikes began after wage talk attempts had failed. The union’s general secretary said, “Freeport’s offer was insufficient. There was no chance of reaching an agreement”.