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Anti-Sweatshop Students @ Macalester Win Victory!
On Monday morning, March 6, a determined group of about 30 students at
Macalester College converged on front steps of the campus administration
building, and then proceeded to occupy the front part of the building. This
occupation was part of a ongoing campaign by students concerned over
Macalester's association with textile companies that use sweatshops.
Their campaign was part of a national surge of student activism demanding
an end to the use of sweatshop labor in the manufacture of college apparel-a
Macalester College, located in St. Paul, Minn., has long been noted as hotbed
of student activism. The occupation of March 6 dramatically confirmed this.
Students took turns occupying the building, making sure that there was a
sizable group present around the clock.
Organizers also went to great lengths to ensure that their protest was a
peaceful one, and that no drugs, alcohol, or anything illegal was allowed in the
"Liberated Zone," giving the administration no opportunity to break up the
The student protesters made three demands on the administration: (1) that no
punishment be dealt to the protesters, (2) that Macalester College withdraw
from the Fair Labor Association (the FLA, a phony "watchgroup" set up by
the sweatshop operators to monitor themselves), and (3) that the college
instead join the Workers Rights Consortium, a sweatshop watchgroup made
up of labor organizations.
The college conceded two of the demands from the start-to not punish the
protesters and to join the Workers Rights Consortium. It refused to leave the
FLA though. In an attempt to diffuse the protest, the administration stated
that it would consider doing so, but that it would not come to a decision until
The students responded admirably to this threat though, organizing a number
of community rallies on campus in which various labor unions, community
groups, and churches were invited. Notable support was received from the
Teamsters Union and the Evangelical Church of America.
At the same time that this was going on, the protesters were doing everything
they could to reach out to every student on campus to win their support, and a
debate on the whole question raged within the pages of the student
In the end, by showing their determination and by mobilizing broad support,
Macalester College was forced to cave in and agree to withdraw from the
FLA. The occupation has gone on for 11 days.
Youth for Socialist Action salutes the students of Macalester College, as well
as the students across the country that have taken on their colleges and
universities on this issue. We stand for a movement to end exploitation of
workers everywhere, from Haiti to the United States, and are determined to
build a movement that raises the bar for workers everywhere!
The above article was written by Adam Ritscher, and appeared in the
April, 2000 issue of Socialist Action newspaper.
Twin Cities Socialist Action
P.O. Box 14087
Minneapolis, MN 55414
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