Syracuse University students protest sweatshops, USA, 2000-2001

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
After the initial events that took place in late March, the campaign slowed down until October
March
2000
to
27 March
2001
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Syracuse, New York
Location Description: 
Activities took place on the Syracuse University campus
Goals: 
The micro-level goal of the Syracuse campaign was for Syracuse University to sign onto the Worker Rights' Consortium. The macro-level goal was to increase wages and improve worker conditions for the workers who manufacture college apparel.
 

In 2000, students around the country protested sweatshop-manufactured college apparel. Students at Syracuse University (SU) protested using a variety of different tactics, including a naked bicycle ride through campus. In their yearlong campaign, Syracuse students wished to convince SU’s Chancellor, Kenneth A. Shaw, to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). Their ultimate goal, along with students nationwide, was better wages and better working conditions for workers who manufactured college apparel.

Shaw was apprehensive to join the WRC because SU was already a member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a non-profit organization with similar goals and with members such as Nike. Because the FLA was associated with Nike (a company that utilized sweatshops) and other corporations, the students wanted to switch membership to the WRC. The Consortium advocated for full disclosure of factory locations and factory conditions, as well as random inspections and independent monitoring.

The student organization, Student Coalition on Organized Labor (SCOOL), with approximately twenty members, led the campaign. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) supported all of their efforts. While specific names of leaders in SCOOL are unknown, some students stood out as taking on leadership positions, such as Marika Wissink (only student member of SU’s Trademark Licensing Advisory Board). Major activities for the campaign at Syracuse University began in late March of 2000 when twelve Syracuse students biked nude across campus. Their message was non-verbal but clear: if their clothing was made in a sweatshop, they were not going to wear it, or anything at all for that matter. UNC’s nude-optional party titled “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Sweatshop Clothes” had a great degree of influence on the SCOOL members (see University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students campaign against sweatshops, 1999). After this event, SU’s Student Government Association joined as partners in the cause.

On March 30, members of SCOOL and other students marched to the administration building in protest. They chanted and carried signs that read, “Keep SU Sweatshop Free, Sign on to the WRC”. At 2:30 p.m., the students entered the administration building and approached the secretary with two petitions, with a total of 1,200 signatures. Public Safety officers would not allow the students to speak directly with Shaw. Later that night, the students in SCOOL held a candlelight vigil in honor of their cause. Despite their efforts, Shaw still refused to join the WRC at this time.

For the next several months, members of SCOOL created enormous banners and held some low-key events to try to get their message across. On October 29, 2000, SCOOL held a rally at the SU School of Law campus. Their goal, once again, was for Syracuse University to join the WRC. This rally initiated SCOOL’s “Sweatshop Awareness Week”, which ended on November 3. Throughout the entire week, students camped out on the campus Quad and held candlelight vigils, a mock sweatshop, and various theater shows.

After these events, Shaw and the Trademark Licensing Advisory Board voted on whether to join the WRC; they struck it down. Other outside groups then joined with SCOOL to achieve this Syracuse University membership with the WRC. On December 7, the New York Public Interest Research Group protested outside New York City’s Niketown store in support of SCOOL.

Finally, on March 27, 2001, Chancellor Shaw announced his decision to sign onto the Worker Rights’ Consortium, a huge victory for SCOOL. Shaw changed his mind based on the new direction of the WRC and its new leader, Scott Nova. The campaign proved itself fairly successful. Shaw did, however, decide for Syracuse University to remain a member of the FLA as well.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The Syracuse University students were influenced by University of Pennsylvania's anti-sweatshop sit-in (see University of Pennsylvania students campaign against sweatshop-produced apparel, 1999-2000) and UNC's nude-optional party titled "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Sweatshop Clothes" (see University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students campaign against sweatshops, 1999)(1).

Sources: 
Bender, Daniel E., and Richard A. Greenwald. Sweatshop USA: the American Sweatshop in Historical and Global Perspective. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Auer, Holly, and Magin McKenna. "Syracuse U. Students Press Chancellor with Anti-sweatshop Battle." University Wire [Syracuse] 31 Mar. 2000. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 6 Feb. 2011.

Rezsnyak, Eric. "SU Joins Anti-Sweatshop Consortium." Syracuse New Times. . 2001. HighBeam Research. 6 Feb. 2011 <http://www.highbeam.com>.

Rezsnyak, Eric. "Shaw Not Sweating SU's Sweatshop Decision." Syracuse New Times. . 2000. HighBeam Research. 6 Feb. 2011 <http://www.highbeam.com>.

Sharon Foldes. "Group encourages Syracuse U. students to 'smack down' their vote." University Wire. 2000. HighBeam Research. 6 Feb. 2011 <http://www.highbeam.com>.

Additional Notes: 
There is not a known specific leader for this campaign, but rather the entire student organization, SCOOL.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Samantha Bennett, 06/02/2011