United Students Against Sweatshops

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United Students Against Sweatshops
Members of United Students Against Sweatshops march outside the offices of Russell Corporation in Atlanta GA, during a protest against Russell's worker rights violations at its Honduras factories.
AbbreviationUSAS (pronounced "you-sass")
Formation1998 [1]
TypeStudent activist organization
  • North America
Website usas.org

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a student organization founded in 1998 with chapters at over 250 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In April 2000, USAS founded the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent monitoring organization that investigates labor conditions in factories that produce collegiate apparel all over the world. The WRC exacts an annual membership fee from participating universities, which is used to fund its monitoring work.


The WRC works with NGOs, human rights groups, and local labor unions or federations, in countries where collegiate apparel is produced. At present over 180 universities and colleges have affiliated with the WRC. USAS is also proposing that universities sign on to the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), which would act to source collegiate apparel from factories that respect workers' rights to form unions and be paid living wages.

In 2000, Nike and other major clothing corporations renamed the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP) the Fair Labor Association (FLA), in large part to compete with the WRC. The AIP, an initiative of the Clinton Administration, had become a discredited organization, because all non-profit organizations and unions that had initially supported it, withdrew from it, with the exception of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), who subsequently withdrew their institutional membership on the FLA Board soon afterwards.

Focusing on domestic as well as international sweatshops, the group has built coalitions of students, labor groups, workers, and community members that focus on a range of campaigns:

See also

Related Research Articles

Sweatshop Workplace that has socially unacceptable working conditions

A sweatshop or sweat factory is a crowded workplace with very poor, socially unacceptable or illegal working conditions. The work may be difficult, dangerous, climatically challenging or underpaid. Workers in sweatshops may work long hours with low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage; child labor laws may also be violated. The Fair Labor Association's "2006 Annual Public Report" inspected factories for FLA compliance in 18 countries including Bangladesh, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Malaysia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, China, India, Vietnam, Honduras, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and the US. The U.S. Department of Labor's "2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor" found that "18 countries did not meet the International Labour Organization's recommendation for an adequate number of inspectors."

WRC may refer to:

Phil Knight American billionaire and co-founder of Nike

Philip Hampson Knight, is an American billionaire businessman. He is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., and was previously chairman and CEO of the company. As of July 23, 2020, Knight was ranked by Forbes as the 24th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$50.7 billion. He is also the owner of the stop motion film production company Laika. Knight is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Stanford Graduate School of Business. He ran track under coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon, with whom he would co-found Nike.

Charles Kernaghan is the executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, formerly known as the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Rights, currently headquartered in Pittsburgh. He is known for speaking out against sweatshops, corporate greed and the appalling living and working conditions of impoverished workers around the world.

Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks are the intercollegiate athletic teams that represent the University of Oregon, located in Eugene. The Ducks compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. With eighteen varsity teams, Oregon is best known for its American football team and track and field program, which has helped Eugene gain a reputation as "Track Town, USA". Oregon's main rivalries are with the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington Huskies.

The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent labor rights monitoring organization focused on protecting the rights of workers who sew apparel and make other products sold in the United States, particularly those bearing college or university logos. The WRC was founded in 2000 by student activists including members of United Students Against Sweatshops.

The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, formerly known as the National Labor Committee, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that investigates human and labor rights abuses committed by large multinational corporations producing goods in the developing world. Today the Institute is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with offices in Bangladesh and Central America. Charles Kernaghan currently serves as the Executive Director. The Institute publishes investigations with the goal of influencing public opinion and corporate policy. It is widely considered to be the organization that began the late-20th-century anti-sweatshop movement in America.

Russell Brands

Russell Brands, LLC was an American corporation that manufactured sports equipment, marketing its products under many brands and subsidiaries, such as Russell Athletic and Spalding. Formerly a publicly traded company, Russell Brands was acquired by Fruit of the Loom, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, in 2006.

International Labor Rights Forum Organization

The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is a nonprofit advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., U.S., that describes itself as "an advocate for and with the working poor around the world." ILRF, formerly the "International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund", was founded in 1986, and the organization's mission statement reads: "ILRF believes that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests. ILRF works to develop practical and effective tools to assist workers in winning enforcement of protections for their basic rights, and hold labor rights violators accountable."

WAAKE-UP! was a student and community coalition at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) active from 1998 to 2001. WAAKE-UP! adopted the motto "Action without Awareness is ignorant. Awareness without Action is immoral." WAAKE-UP! supported many progressive causes, but were best known for the "Sweatshop Campaign," demanding that University of Colorado apparel be made in factories supporting fair labor conditions, specifically those endorsed by the Worker Rights Consortium. The Sweatshop Campaign was not successful, but its goals were later fulfilled by WAAKE-UP!'s successor organizations, 180 at 11, CASA and WWJC. Like many other progressive organizations in Colorado their actions were recorded in the Denver Police Spy Files.

Fair Labor Association

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a non-profit collaborative effort of universities, civil society organizations, and businesses.

The Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) is a procurement standard proposed by the Worker Rights Consortium and United Students Against Sweatshops. The program was designed to promote the use by US universities of suppliers that make use of a defined set of fair labor practices.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is the garment industry's largest alliance of labour unions and non-governmental organizations. The civil society campaign focuses on the improvement of working conditions in the garment and sportswear industries. Formed in the Netherlands in 1989, the CCC has campaigns in 15 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The CCC works with a partner network of more than 250 organizations around the world.

Frontlash was a non-profit organization founded in 1968 to help minority and young people register to vote and to engage in voter education. Initially sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the United States Youth Council, and the NAACP Youth Council, the AFL-CIO became the group's most important financial sponsor and essentially took over Frontlash in 1971, becoming the labor federation's outreach program to younger Americans. Frontlash folded in 1997.

Anti-sweatshop movement refers to campaigns to improve the conditions of workers in sweatshops, i.e. manufacturing places characterized by low wages, poor working conditions and often child labor. It started in the 19th century in industrialized countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to improve the conditions of workers in those countries.


Sweatshop-free or sweat free is a term first used by American Apparel, a famous American clothing brand, which means coercion-free, fair-compensation for the garment workers who manufacture their products. The aim of sweatshop-free wish to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and products are made in good working conditions. Sweatshop-free standards include the right to collective bargaining, non-poverty wages, safe workplaces, back wages, and non-harassment. It has been heavily featured in American Apparel’s advertisements and become a common term in the garment industry.

Since the 1970s, Nike, Inc. has been accused of using sweatshops to produce footwear and apparel. It was built on the business model of finding the lowest cost of labour possible which led to child labour and exploitation. However it wasn't until 1991, when Jeff Ballinger published a report detailing their insufficient payment of workers and the poor conditions in factories, that these sweatshops came under fire. Nike received huge media attention causing immense problems for the business.

Alta Gracia Apparel is a living wage apparel company manufacturing and selling licensed collegiate and professional sports apparel to university bookstores and online retailers. Their factory, located in Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic is the first and only verified Living Wage company of its kind.

Export-oriented employment

Export-oriented employment refers to employment in multinational corporations' international industrial factories, usually located in developing countries. Such factories produce goods and services for sale in other countries. While these multinational producers have globally expanded women's access to employment, evidence suggests they do so by reinforcing traditional gender roles or creating new gender inequalities. Such gender inequities allow multinational firms to greater exploit profits per worker than they would otherwise due to the decreased labor cost. This decrease in the cost of labor comes as a result of the relegation of women to certain occupations. Studies show that in the quest for lower unit labor costs, export-oriented facilities create poor working conditions.


  1. Kimura-Walsh, Erin; Walter R. Allen (2008). "Globalization from above, globalization from below: Mechanisms for social disparity and social justice in higher education". 6: 201–230. doi:10.1016/S1479-358X(08)06008-7. ISSN   1479-358X.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. Brand Responsibility Project Records 2004-2012.0.84 cubic feet (2 boxes) of textual materials plus 83.8 GB of digital files.
  3. Greenhouse, Steven (2010-07-26). "Pressured, Nike to Help Workers in Honduras". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  4. Mahoney, Jack (2008-03-13). "TOS Workers' Protest Hanes Boardmember Jessica Matthews". Georgetown Solidarity Committee. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-15.