The anti-sweatshop movement was the largest student activism movement in the United States since the South African divestment movement over ten years before. Students all around the country pressured college and university administrators to adopt strict labor codes that guaranteed that merchandise bearing the college’s logo was not made by people working under unacceptable, “sweatshop-like” conditions.
In the spring of 1985, campaigns against apartheid in South Africa mobilized on campuses across the United States. Students at University of California Berkeley became aware of these campaigns and were moved to act. On April 10, two student groups—the UC Divestment Committee and the Campaign Against Apartheid—began organizing daily rallies at Sproul Plaza, a main gathering place on campus. Nancy Skinner led the Divestment Committee and William Nessen headed up the Campaign Against Apartheid, but the student coalition made decisions through the consensus of all members.
During the 1700’s, Great Britain was a strong colonial power with extensive land holdings in the West Indies, India, and Africa. A key aspect of this colonial empire was the shipment of slaves from Africa to the sugar plantations in the West Indies.
In 1972, Matthew Coon Come, a young Cree student, happened upon a newspaper article that proclaimed Quebec’s ‘hydroelectric project of the century’. Looking at a map attached to the article, Matthew realized that his community’s lands in northern Quebec were to be submerged by the proposed dam. It was in this way that the Cree learned of the upcoming assault to their land that had been commissioned by the Quebecois government. The Cree are an aboriginal people that reside in northern Quebec, around the mouth of James Bay.
Residents of Junin faced the first assault on their land in the early 1990s, after the Ecuadorian government signed a contract with Bishi Metals, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi. The contract allowed the mining company to prospect in and around Junin, a community in the mountainous region of northern Ecuador. Junin and its surrounding region, Intag, have exceptional biodiversity and rich water resources. Junin also happens to be rich in metals—copper in particular. The arrival of Bishi Metals raised immediate concern among Intag residents.
The first wave of anti-sweatshop movements developed in the 1980s and focused on U.S. economic policy in South America. It was not until 1996 that the anti-sweatshop movement gained national media attention with the revelation that the actress Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line for Wal-Mart was sewn in Honduran sweatshops. The media coverage this received greatly increased awareness on U.S. outsourcing policies.
The political atmosphere in Japan in the 1950s was anything but calm. Still reeling from the Second World War, citizens were coming to terms with their newly democratic leaders—politicians who, before the war, had been ardently fascist. A growing nationalist movement was forming, as well as strong leftist political factions. These two movements opposed Japan’s strong ties with the United States, and disagreed with the American military presence in their country.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the political atmosphere in Kenya was characterized by brutal government repression and terror. Under the single-party rule of President Daniel arap Moi, any form of political dissension was swiftly met with government interrogation, detention, and torture. Many students, journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates were among those imprisoned for perceived anti-government statements, ideas, and actions.
The Dutch and British colonization of South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries brought a system of segregation to the region that remained in place well into the twentieth century. From 1948 to 1994 this took the form of apartheid, a system of legal racial segregation that ensured the continued rule of the country by the white minority.
In February of 1999, members of the Progressive Activist Network (PAN) at Penn joined with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) chapters at other Ivy League universities in an anti-sweatshop campaign by sending a joint letter to their university presidents. The letter requested a response by March 8, 1999, from University President Judith Rodin and seven other Ivy League university presidents, (excluding Dartmouth’s,) to four demands regarding the possible use of sweatshops in school-insignia apparel production.
Many women were put in great danger by abortions in the 1960s. Abortions were illegal, forcing many women to turn to back-alley abortionists, many of whom utilized unsafe techniques. A small group of determined activists had been campaigning for abortion law reform for decades, but to even mouth the word was controversial. The 1960s, though, saw the emergence of several revolutionary social movements, among them the civil rights movement and the women’s movement. This period of change and political involvement fostered the environment necessary for an abortion movement to develop.
Located inside the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, the Alta River runs through the reindeer herding grounds of the indigenous Saami people. In 1970, the Norwegian Water Resources and Electricity Board proposed a hydroelectric dam on the river. The proposed dam, which would have completely submerged the Saami village of Masi and interrupted reindeer migration routes, was only the latest affront in a long history of Norway’s marginalization of its indigenous peoples.
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.
In September of 1995, international negotiations began on a draft agreement called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The document was being negotiated by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The stated goals of the agreement were to establish a set of multilateral rules for foreign investment that would govern the process in a more structured, systematic way. Up until the draft, foreign investment agreements were established on a country-by-country bilateral basis.
At the turn of the century, student groups on college campuses across the country began campaigns to push university administrations to hold their apparel suppliers accountable to fair labor practices. Many students had realized that many of the licenses that their schools had with large clothing companies included those that relied on sweatshop labor for production.
East Timor, a portion of the Indonesian archipelago, was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century. It was not until 1975 that Portugal decolonized the area, at which point East Timor declared independence. Shortly after this, however, the Indonesian army, under the orders of Indonesian President Suharto, invaded and annexed East Timor. 60,000 East Timorese were killed or died of starvation during the invasion.
University of North Carolina (UNC) Sierra Student Coalition members and students created the Coal-Free UNC movement in an effort to end the University’s use of coal and close the on-campus coal plant. Its goal is to eliminate coal on campus by 2015. Coal-Free UNC also wanted the University to adhere to its green initiative EXPLAIN. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal national campaign to end dependence on coal and its use on campus, while encouraging the use of renewable sources of energy inspired UNC’s campaign.
Northern Mariana Islands foreign workers win United States federalization of immigration control, 2007-2008
Beginning in early 2007, foreign workers in the Northern Mariana Islands (mainly Saipan, the most populated of the islands) campaigned for the United States government to take control of the Islands' immigration policy. The Northern Mariana Islands are located in the Western Pacific, in the region of Japan and the Philippines.
The Kurdish people are the most populous ethnicity without their own nation-state in the world. The governments of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have repeatedly disenfranchised and murdered Kurds since the end of World War One, when the Kurds were promised, and later denied, self-rule. In Turkey, where Kurds constitute 20% of the population, the ethnic Turk-dominated government long denied the existence of a Kurdish minority and has pursued an assimilationist agenda designed to quash Kurdish culture.
Prior to Iran’s revolution in 1979, women gained many rights that were retracted after the revolution concluded. Campaigns for women’s rights since the revolution have not sought additional rights, but wished to maintain the rights women had already earned. One such campaign was the One Million Signatures campaign, which aimed to persuade the Majles (parliament) to reform gender-discriminatory laws. The campaign also looked to educate citizens, and particularly women, about the negative impact of these laws on the lives of women and society as a whole.
The College of the Bahamas (COB) is the national public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas with campuses throughout the archipelago. The main campus, Oakes Field, is located in the capital city of Nassau. The college is one of the largest employers in the Bahamas, employing hundreds of faculty and staff.
The U’wa people have practiced their traditional culture in the Northeast forests of the Colombian Andes since time immemorial. At the end of the 20th century, there were up to 5,000 people in U’wa communities.
Moroccan feminist groups campaign to reform Moudawana (Personal Status Code/Islamic family law), 1992-2004
Between 1992 and 2004, several NGOs built up around feminist ideologies, and a strive for women’s rights took over the leadership of a working group that campaigned for reforms of the Moudawana, or Personal Status Code, which severely restricted the rights of women in Morocco. The struggle to reform the Moudawana took place over decades, a movement that began with the inception of the law in the late 1950s.
During the 1990s, feminist and queer activist groups campaigned heavily to reform the Turkish Civil Code, which held many provisions that subordinated women such as establishing the supremacy of the husband in the family. In November of 2001, a new Civil Code was adopted that equalized the status of men and women; however, a similar set of laws established in the Turkish Penal Code maintained the gender hierarchy and protected men from serious sentencing if they committed crimes against women.
The governments of Czechoslovakia and Hungary first planned to build dams in Gabickovo, and Nagymaros as a large-scale navigation and hydroelectric power system in the 1950s. For the first thirty years of planning, the repressive politics of the Soviet regime kept dissent to a minimum.