Students Arrested During Protest Against Cuts to Social Services

2 Feb

2000-3000 Manchester, UK students protesting for workers rights break from unions who they say are not doing enough according to SkyNews report:

The arrests happened when students broke away from a larger joint rally calling for a Future That Works. According to one blog, StrongerUnions, the event, was sponsored by the Trade Unions Congress – in partnership with the National Union of Students and University and College Union to “highlight the impact of the  coalition government’s programme of cuts and ‘reforms’  on young workers, students and young people in general.”

Alta Gracia Factory In Action

2 Feb

Last year, United Students Against Sweatshops were able to make a significant step in changing the way the collegiate apparel industry operates by working with Knights Apparel to open the Alta Gracia factory, offering students the opportunity to buy sweat-free hoodies.  Recently they took a group of students to visit the factory and inspect the working conditions.  Here’s a report from the Daily at University of Washington, which is contracting with Alta Gracia.

By Kirsten Johnson
February 1, 2011

On a typical day in any lecture class, it’s easy to spot students sporting purple UW-logo hoodies. While owning one or two of these is common, some people might not think about the working conditions under which they were made.

Photo by Lucas Anderson.

USAS member Morgan Currier wears her Alta Gracia sweatshirt in front of the only U-Book Store clothing rack that holds the brand.

“Something that we take for granted [is] where our clothes come from,” said sophomore Morgan Currier. “Like we don’t necessarily think about it that much.”

As a member of the UW chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Currier and her fellow members have been bringing attention on campus to the issue of sweatshop-made apparel, as well as promoting Alta Gracia Apparel — a brand that guarantees its factory workers benefits including health care, a living wage and unionization.

Just recently, Currier traveled alongside six other USAS college students to view the Alta Gracia factory conditions firsthand.

“It’s exactly what a factory should be,” she said. “It has fans, it has lights, emergency exits. They can get up and get water when they need, they can talk to each other, they can go on bathroom breaks.”

Currier said that she found it interesting to see the work ethic the factory workers had in performing simple tasks.

“Everyone has a part,” she said. “Someone will sew on the hood, someone will sew on the sleeve — they do this all day, every day. They make thousands of pieces of apparel every day. I don’t think the average American would be able to sit [there] all day and sew on a hood the same way they do a thousand times, every day.”

During her visit, she brought her own UW sweatshirt to show one of the workers.

“I swore he was going to cry,” she said. “It was just like, ‘Look at this thing that I have created that has your university logo, and you wear it at your school in America, but I made it here.’ He was just looking at the stitching and [was] really, really proud of his work.”

This past November, the U-Book Store began selling a small selection of Alta Gracia apparel in its stores. CEO of the U-Book Store Bryan Pearce said that the store looked into the initiative that was proposed by Knights Apparel, who created the Alta Gracia brand, and decided to place an initial order.

“We thought it was very noble and had quite a bit of merit to it,” Pearce said. “We felt it was important for our store to carry that line of products along with the other things that we do in the interest of being socially responsible.”

Before the Alta Gracia apparel arrived in the U-Book Store last November, members of USAS brought two factory workers from the Dominican Republic to campus to describe their former working conditions and help promote Alta Gracia.

USAS — previously known as SLAP — has existed in various forms on campus since 1997. They have been actively involved in many major social-justice campaigns, including the Nike campaign last year.

USAS is hoping to promote Alta Gracia since the U-Book Store sells the apparel based on demand.

Senior Garrett Strain, a member of USAS, said he hopes that eventually all the apparel purchased by the university will be produced in factories like Alta Gracia.

“It’s much less important to me that it’s Alta Gracia and more that it’s produced in a factory where workers have the right to have the freedom to join a union and be paid a living wage,” he said. “That’s ultimately the bottom line for me. Students should care because it’s their school’s emblem that is being screened on these sweatshirts. In many ways, [sweatshop-produced apparel] tarnishes the reputation and the image of our school. And I think students should be proactive in wanting to purchase clothes that shed their school in a good light and provide it with a reputation for standing up for workers’ rights.”

Currier said that response that they have received from student groups so far has been encouraging.

“The school argues that there is only a small percentage of students that care about where their apparel was made and that those are the types of students [who] don’t necessarily wear UW apparel, but we think that they’re wrong,” she said. “We think a lot of students care, including students in the Greek Community, in ASUW, in these smaller communities that typically wear their apparel more, we think that they care just as much.”

Reach reporter Kirsten Johnson at

Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) Connects College Campuses to Union Movement

1 Feb

AFL-CIO Now Blog:

Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) Connects College Campuses to Union Movement

AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow Jennifer Angarita joins Chris Hicks, Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) coordinator, to discuss the parallels between campus and community organizing.

Founded in 1999 as a joint initiative between Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) engages student activists with economic justice campaigns in their communities and campuses.

Across the country, students in local SLAP chapters meet to organize around issues that affect both students and workers. Currently, campuses are working together to campaign against dramatic state budget cuts that threaten the layoffs of thousands of workers and increase fee tuitions, which leave students with astronomical amounts of debt.

As coordinator, Chris Hicks helps student activists build relationships with local unions and community and faith-based groups and Jobs with Justice coalitions. Hicks said:

SLAP supports the growing student movement for economic justice by making links between campus and community organizing, providing skills training to build lasting student organizations, and developing campaigns that win concrete victories for working families while breaking the poverty cycle by fighting for access to higher education and full and fair employment.

Every year from March 28 to April 4, SLAP organizes more than 150 campuses during the National Student Labor Week of Action. Across the country, students hold hundreds of events to celebrate the lives of César Chávez and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and build solidarity between students and workers.

Before joining SLAP, Hicks, a recent college grad from Wichita State University, worked as a union organizer for SEIU. His first memory of the union movement came from his mother’s attempt to organize her workplace. The experience helped to expose Hicks to the collective power of working people.

For Hicks, the student and union movements have always gone hand in hand.

Students graduate [and] want the best workplace conditions possible. The interest of the union movement is the interest of the student movement, and that goes both ways. Students should care [about unions] because as soon as they graduate, the labor movement is where they will be. If they don’t fight as students to protect jobs, to stop corporate greed and to stand with workers, then they will be worse off for it. If they do those things, though, and understand that what directly affects workers, indirectly affects them, they will be much better off.

Learn more about the Student Labor Week of Action at For individuals or groups interested in getting involved with SLAP, please contact

Workers Young and Seasoned Rally Against Cuts to Social Security

1 Feb
by More Jobs Now! Save Social Security!
Wednesday Jan 26th, 2011 11:55 PM

Corporations and their paid-for politicians have caused the worst economic crisis since the 1930′s Depression. Yet in his State of the Union Address, the President talked about a faster Internet and praised Facebook and Google…all the while ignoring mention of the economic reality and the Wall Street scoundrels who were responsible. Today young people and elders gathered in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco for a rally and press conference to demand more jobs for youth. They stood together to commit to the fight to save social security, for now and for always.

California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) and allies including Just Cause, the Gray Panthers, and the Raging Grannies gathered in front of the San Francisco Federal Building the day after the President’s State of the Union Address to say: Attacking Social Security is both cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.

In his State of the Union address Obama called for safeguarding Social Security for future generations. He called for bipartisan support of the program, but given that Republicans would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable and a giant contributor to the federal budget deficits, the President gave no indication of how this can happen.

Young workers at today’s rally explained why tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals do not generate jobs, and said major jobs programs are necessary. A banner put the message succinctly: Cutting Social Security Is NOT a Stimulus…Creating Jobs Programs IS a Stimulus.

Speakers commented that the deficit hawks and the right-wingers are just plain wrong…there is abundant proof that there IS NO Social Security crisis. They said the obvious step to forestall any perceived shortfall is to raise or eliminate the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden. One of the Raging Grannies said, “Americans have enough economic problems to worry about without being frightened that their Social Security benefits will be cut”.

CARA members passed out fliers urging people to call Senators Feinstein (415-393-0707) and Boxer (415-403-0100) as well as their Congressperson to say NO cuts or privitization of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Tell them we need jobs programs and full funding for public education.

Pushing Back Against Economic Crisis, Youth Unrest Ripples Around World – Working In These Times

31 Jan

Pushing Back Against Economic Crisis, Youth Unrest Ripples Around World – Working In These Times:

Has anyone noticed that new unemployment claims just climbed by 51,000 to 454,000? Maybe we’re tired of being reminded about the jobless rate. It was politely ignored in President Obama’s State of the Union Address, even as he promised to boost opportunities for the next generation.

Yet the next generation is at the center of unemployment epidemic….


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