united students against sweatshops

Who We Are

Short USAS Description | Principles of Unity | Brief Description of ABC and IS Committees

Short USAS Description

United Students Against Sweatshops is an international student movement of campuses and individual students fighting for sweatshop free labor conditions and workers’ rights. We define “sweatshop” broadly and recognize that it is not limited to the apparel industry, but everywhere among us. We believe that university standards should be brought in line with those of its students who demand that their school’s logo is emblazoned on clothing made in decent working conditions. We have fought for these beliefs by demanding that our universities adopt ethically and legally strong codes of conduct, full public disclosure of campany information and truly independent verification systems to ensure that sweatshop conditions are not happening. Ultimately, we are using our power as students to affect the larger industry that thrives in secrecy, exploitation, and the power relations of a flawed system.

Principles of Unity

The principles of unity below have been drafted as an assessment of the spirit and of the issues which bring students on campuses across North America together to create a united youth front against sweatshops.

Hopefully, these principles touch on the underlying consciousness we are all developing, within ourselves as individuals and within our collectives, whether they be local, regional, national, or international.

The abuse of sweatshop labor is among the most blatant examples of the excesses and exploitation of the global economy. We recognize, however, that the term “sweatshop” is not limited to the apparel industry as traditionally conceived; sweatshop conditions exist in the fields, in the prisons, on our campuses, in the power relations of a flawed system.

Thus, we consider all struggles against the systemic problems of the global economy to be directly or by analogy a struggle against sweatshops. Whether a campus group focuses its energies on the apparel industry or on another form of sweatshop, agreement with the principles below will be used as the sole requisite for working under the name of United Students Against Sweatshops.

The Principles

1. We work in solidarity with working people’s struggles. In order to best accomplish this and in recognition of the interconnections between local and global struggles, we strive to build relationships with other preogressive movements and cooperate in coalition with other groups struggling for justice within all communities campus, local, regional, and international.

2. We struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression within our society, within our organizations, and within ourselves. Not only are we collectively confronting these prejudices as inherent defects of the global economy which creates sweatshops, but we also recognize the need for individuals to confront the prejudices they have internalized as the result of living and learning in a flawed and oppressive society.

3. We are working in coalition to build a grassroots student movement that challenges corporate power and that fights for economic justive. This coalition is loosely defined, thus we strive to act in coordination with one another to mobilize resources and build a national network while reserving the autonomy of individuals and campuses. We do not impose a single ideological position, practice, or approach; rather, we aim to support one another in a spirit of respect for difference, shared purpose and hope.

4. We strive to act democratically. With the understanding that we live and learn in a state of imperfect government, we attempt to achieve truer democracy in making decisions which affect our collective work. Furthermore, we strive to empower one another as individuals and as a collective through trust, patience, and an open spirit.

The power of these principles to unify us as United Students Against Sweatshops ultimately rests with the individual. Self-evaluation and personal responsibility are critical to the effectiveness of our work we all must continue to struggle as individuals in order to struggle in concert, thus we strive for compassion and support for one another as we continue this endeavor together.

Brief Description of ABC and ISC

Alliance Building Committee: Standing committee formed at the USAS national conference in August of 2000 open to anyone in USAS. It seeks to form alliances with other groups and people to work together against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression. We must address these issues in a straightforward manner- whether that be within our organizations, within our work, or within ourselves.

International Solidarity: Standing committee formed at the USAS national conference in August of 2000, open to anyone in USAS, to establish ongoing long-term relationships based on trust, and by doing this establish international solidarity deeper than rhetoric. Since we do not know what is best for workers in communities thousands of miles away (or down the street) we will build international relationships to support, not determine, the direction of organizing that is happening all over the world.