Currently, United Students Against Sweatshops is divided among seven regions, but this is always open to change. The seven regions are: Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Northwest, California, Southwest. There are 1-2 regional organizers for each of the seven regions throughout the country. The regional organizers are students who are chosen through an application process by their peers for their campus organizing experience and commitment to building new leaders and inter-campus networks in their regions. They work as interns in close consultation with the national office both to build their own organizing and training skills and provide campuses in each region with more of a day-to-day, hands-on resource than we can fufill with two national staff. They facilitate connections between more students regionally to coordinate their campaigns strategically and give mutual campaign support, act as a resource for new campus activists, and help organize regional conferences or trainings. Regional organizers can devote more time and attention towards local campuses and regions. In the future, regions may be divided up into states and we’ll need state organizers. We also hope to be able to give our regional and state organizers a stipend for all the hard work they do.
The Coordinating Committee is the 13 member decision making body of the United Students Against Sweatshops. Six of these students are regional representatives, four are representatives from our four identity caucuses- women’s caucus, people of color caucus, LGBTQ caucus, and working class caucus- and the remaining three are elected at large by a vote of member campuses nationally.
Four identity caucuses exist within USAS’s structure- a women’s caucus, people of color caucus, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered adn queer caucus; and a working class caucus. These caucuses provide for an institutionalized structure for traditionally underrepresented groups and allow caucus members to focus on specific areas of campaign and education work involving people of color, women, LGBTQ’s, and the working class in the real, of local and international economic justice. Our caucuses congregate at every national USAS meeting (and allied caucuses meet separately at the same time) to allow for a safe space for these students to discuss issues regarding the inclusivity and direction of USAS. Caucus reports at USAS plenary sessions give students of these identities a united voice to present and resolve concerns with USAS as a whole and highlight potential new focuses for the organization. In addition, there are specific USAS caucus email lists, to continue this safe space and mechanism to engage in identity-related work throughout the year. Each caucus has an elected representative serve on USAS’s Coordinating Committee.
Retreats, vision-setting weekends
USAS has traitonally held one leadership retreat or “vision-setting weekend” just after the end of the academic year in late May or June. While this is not officially a decision-making retreat, it is intended to evalueate the previous year and begin framing discussions about future direction prior to our summer national conference. The Coordinating Committee is responsilbe for bringing together the participants of the retreat.
There are two standing committees within USAS which are the Alliance Building and the International Solidarity Committee. Committees are open to any student from USAS who wishes to participate, but each also has specific delegates appointed by our Coordinating Committee and/or identity caucuses to coordinate and “bottom-line” the work and make any official decisions for the committee. The International Solidarity Committee has four of these ‘official’ representatives appointed by the Coordinating Committee, with two other representatives from the Coordinating Committee. The Alliance Building Committee is to have one representative from each of USAS’s four caucuses, with two other seats for members of the Coordinating Committee.
International Solidarity Committee develops working relationships with allied organizations in the global South to advance discussions about if and how student-based leverage can be used most strategically to support worker organizing efforts. Some goals for this semester are to develop and disseminate inforamtion about the U.S. anti-sweatshop movement in Spanish, Thai, and other languages; help initiate and facilitate the exchange of information between human and labor rights organizers in different regions of the world about campaigns and working conditions; build closer relationships with student activists internationally around issues of globalization.
Alliance-building committee: Seeks to 1) assist USAS chapters in fostering a culturally diverse leadership in their organizations and engaging in cross-issue coalition-building with identity-based groups on campuses and 2) foster authetnic relationships with organizations working on issues that are clearly driven by the same dynamics as global exploitation though the issues may not be normally articulated together. The purpose of the committee is NOT about creating a multi-cultural mosaic that sustains current power relationships. It is to challenge those relationships; to broaden our perspectives and to create more space to cultivate non-traditional leadership that already exists within USAS; and to create a culture of respect for existing movements beyond USAS, within which we can foster authentic relationships with them.
USAS representation on Worker Rights Consortium Governing Board
Five members elected by the membership represent USAS on the Worker Rights Consortium Governing Board. Currently, these five students are: [this list is no longer accurate -- it will be updated soon!]
USAS has a seat on the US/Labor Education in the America’s Project board, which is currently filled by University of Kentucky foreign language and international economics senior, Emily Rigdon.
USAS has had a national office and staff for just over two years. Currently, we have three full-time national staffmembers. The staff are overseen by and accountable to the coordinating committee, with the principal role of working with students to carry out the campaigns and other initiatives of USAS. Staff’s main roles are:
- Continuously working with local USAS member campuses, through regular check-in phone calles and campus visits, to develop strong campaigns and encourage solid campus organizing models that value:
- Changing the power dynamics on campus, so that students’ voices of social conscience are not shut out by college administrators often more accountable to their private and corporate donors than the campus community;
- Continually focusing in the development of new student leaders, especially women, students of color, and LGBT students so as to maintain strength for years on end; and,
- Prioritizing building coalitions with and showing solidarity for social and economic justive organizations in their communities. Developing formal campus organizer trainings, including the National Student Labor Action Grassroots Organizing Weekend, which combines skills trainings, case studies, and popular education workshops in a weekend gathering that will be replicated in regional and local levels.
- Facilitating networking and collective strategizing among member campuses and between USAS groups and other allied organizations within and outside of the anti-sweatshop movement and student movements.
- Supervising student internships, including USAS regional organizers Developing and distributing campaign manuals, skills training materials, brochures, educational literature, and other resources for students
- Working with students to research and analyze developments in the anti-sweatshops movement, background information on targeted corporations, independent monitoring systems, and corporate-university relationships for campaigns and educational resources
- Ensuring the effective functioning and follow-through of all committees, working groups, and projects initiated by USAS, including continual work with the Coordinating Commitee to assist them in effectively coordinating projects and achieving short-term and semester goals
- Developing annual fundraising plans and writing proposals to foundations
- Facilitating discussion among the national leadership about long-term planning, goals, and strategies for the organization
- Planning national meetings, conferences, delegations, and retreats
The current staff of USAS are Molly McGrath, Ben McKean, and Lenore Palladino.
Molly McGrath is the USAS as Development and Communications Director. Prior to joining USAS, she was Development Director for the Progressive Media Project in Madison, WI. She has a Bachelor's degree in Women Studies from the University of Wisconsin and has been an activist with USAS since its founding. McGrath writes and administers foundation grants and oversees other fundraising efforts. She also coordinates both internal and external communications.
Benjamin L. McKean is a USAS Field Organizer. He is a graduate of Harvard University, where he helped organized many successful campaigns for social and economic justice. A founding member of the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, he helped to lead a high-profile sit-in in 2001 that won significant wage increases for 1,000 workers. He also has helped organize campus campaigns to improve wages and working conditions in the factories that produce Harvard apparel, to improve Harvard's policies for survivors of sexual violence, and to improve Harvard's programs and policies about diversity and ethnic studies. In addition to his campus organizing, he has experience working on union organizing drives in Detroit and across Guatemala.
Lenore Palladino is a USAS Field Organizer. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago with degrees in Political Science and philosophy, and is also currently studying Economics at the Graduate Faculty of the New School University. she worked in Chicago at Chicago Jobs With Justice, interning with the student labor action project, and worked as midwest regional organizer for USAS in 2001-2002. she wrote her senior thesis on the mexican economy and human rights-based economic development, and spent last summer in mexico working with the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s. She loves USAS for the people she meets and the chance she gets to work on fighting for a just economy.