Syracuse University students protest sweatshops, USA, 2000-2001


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.

Time period notes

After the initial events that took place in late March, the campaign slowed down until October

Time period

March, 2000 to 27 March, 2001


United States

Location City/State/Province

Syracuse, New York

Location Description

Activities took place on the Syracuse University campus
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • for the administration to join the WRC
  • Keep SU Sweatshop Free, Sign on to the WRC
  • Bicycle Ride Across Campus
  • Candlelight
  • in approaching the Administration building

Methods in 4th segment

  • Candlelight
  • at SU School of Law
  • in the form of a week-long camp-out

Segment Length

Approximately 2 months


Syracuse University's Student Coalition on Organized Labor (SCOOL)


Syracuse University's Student Government Association, United Students Against Sweatshops

External allies

New York Public Interest Research Group

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Micro-level: Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw
Macro-level: Manufacturing companies that utilize sweatshops

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

Syracuse University students

Groups in 1st Segment

United Students Against Sweatshops
Syracuse University's Student Coalition on Organized Labor (SCOOL)
Syracuse University's Student Government Association

Groups in 4th Segment

New York Public Interest Research Group

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Syracuse University's Student Government Association joined after SCOOL's first event: the naked bicycle ride across campus. Additionally, it is known that other student groups participated in the campaign but it is not known when they joined nor which student groups these were.

Segment Length

Approximately 2 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

SCOOL's specific demands were met, approximately one year after the campaign began, once Chancellor Shaw joined on to the WRC. But one point was taken away because Shaw chose to remain a member of the FLA, an organization SCOOL sought Syracuse University to detach from.

The campaign did gain the allied support of several student groups (although it is unknown how large these groups were). It also received attention from an outside group, not affiliated with the school.

Database Narrative

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.


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).


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 <>.

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

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

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