United Students Against Sweatshops will have their Northwest Regional Conference on March 3 and 4 at the University of Washington. USAS is a student-led, student-run organization that lobbies schools to support companies that do not hire sweatshop labor or engage in union-breaking.
Students who attend the conference will participate in workshops on how to run an effective campaign, deal with the media, collaborate with other schools in the Northwest, fight oppressive institutions, and more.
One of the ways that USAS helps schools achieve their sweatshop-free status is through their affiliation with the Worker Rights Consortium. The WRC is a non-profit organization that has labor rights experts around the world who investigate factory conditions. Through their research, they are able to keep schools informed about which companies to avoid for human rights reasons.
Erica Irby, a Shoreline Community College student, is the Northwest regional organizer of USAS, and would like to see SCC adopt the values of USAS.
SCC’s Sustainability Committee is currently putting together recommendations to send to President Lee Lambert. Among the issues they are discussing are how to take more responsibility in purchasing for the school, and how to have the proper oversight to ensure that such a policy would be followed.
“[That’s why] now is the best time to affiliate with the WRC,” Irby said.
Doing so could also affect food services on campus. Last year, Colombian union activist William Mendoza spoke at SCC about the anti-union tactics Coca-Cola uses against workers in his country, which has resulted in the deaths of union organizers.
“[The conference] can get students educated,” Irby said. “This will be a great opportunity. I would love to have a [USAS] group on campus, affiliate with the WRC, and get rid of Coke."