American unions form partnership with United Students Against Sweatshops

Wall Street protest for social justice. USAS and the AFL-CIO are in partnership for ‘student and worker power’
Wall Street protest for social justice. USAS and the AFL-CIO are in partnership for ‘student and worker power’

IN the first of many concrete moves after the AFL-CIO passed a resolution at its national convention to create new and lasting community partnerships to open and broaden the labour movement, the federation announced yesterday that it entered a new national partnership with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

The primary goals of the new alliance are to strengthen workers’ rights and build power for students and workers.

One of the major themes of the national convention was the need for the AFL-CIO to make the labour movement more open and to forge stronger alliances with non-labour groups, and this is the first step down that path.

‘The labour movement shares USAS’s values and vision for global solidarity and social justice. Together, we are stronger and better positioned to meet the mutual goals and objectives of improving the lives of working people,’ says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

‘This partnership demonstrates the AFL-CIO’s determination to turn commitments on paper into action.’

‘It’s a pretty natural and obvious partnership,’ says Lingran Kong, a member of USAS’s coordinating committee and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

‘USAS works for justice causes, and the way we achieve those is putting student and worker power into practice. We’ve been working with the AFL-CIO for many years now. We get along splendidly.’

Trumka says that the AFL-CIO was in discussions with numerous other groups about opening up the labour movement.

The alliances are designed to help reverse a trend of workers losing a voice on the job that is the result of years of attacks on workers’ rights from Republicans and pro-corporate interests.

National Partnership Agreement Between the American Federation of Labour – Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)


United Students Against Sweatshops is the nation’s largest youth-led campaign organisation dedicated to building a student-labour movement, with affiliated locals on over 150 campuses that run locally and nationally-coordinated campaigns for corporate accountability and economic justice in partnership with organisations of workers.

USAS’s campaigns expose and hold accountable corporations that exploit people who work on our campuses, in our communities, and in the overseas factories where our collegiate apparel is produced, employing the unique moral authority, energy, and power students hold within universities that act as anchor institutions in communities and the global economy.

Since 1997, USAS has won precedent-setting victories; educated students about the growing dominance of a handful of corporations in the global economy and the lack of enforceable labour standards in the global supply chain, and the intersection of identity, social justice, and labour issues; and has trained and inspired thousands of young activists to become skilled organisers, researchers, and campaigners with labour and social justice organisations.

The AFL-CIO is the largest organisation of working people in the United States with 58 affiliated national and international unions representing over 13 million workers from every sector of the economy from professors and student employees to construction workers and farmworkers.

The AFL-CIO’s State Federations and Central Labour Councils across the United States aim to coordinate the legislative, policy, political, and organising work of a united local labour movement

The AFL-CIO is dedicated to improving the lives of all working families and to bringing fairness, dignity and democracy to the workplace.

The AFL-CIO shares the values of USAS and its vision for global solidarity and social justice.

Goals and Objectives

This agreement is entered into in order to strengthen the parties’ collaboration in both organising and advocacy and thereby to build power for students and workers in:

Global campaigns to protect and promote the rights of garment and other workers exploited by ruthless multinational corporations.

National and local campaigns to organise and improve standards for workers on campuses and workers whose labour is connected to university communities.

Campaigns to protect higher education from corporate influence and to achieve a system of higher education that is accessible and fair to all students and workers.

Other efforts to build a larger, stronger, more self-sustaining student-labour movement.

Priority Activities

We will accomplish our mutual goals and objectives by:

Maintaining regular and substantive communication between the national staffs of USAS and the AFL-CIO.

Facilitating strong relationships between USAS locals and Central Labour Councils, State Federations, Young Worker groups, as well as state and regional bodies of AFL-CIO affiliates.

Encouraging AFL-CIO affiliates, Central Labour Councils, State Federations and USAS locals to collaborate on campaigns of mutual concern at all levels of the global economy.

Encouraging AFL-CIO affiliates to partner with USAS on affiliate campaigns to organise workers on campuses, including faculty, adjunct faculty, administrative and service workers, student workers, and others.

Sharing expertise, including in strategic research to support campaigns.

Promoting USAS, AFL-CIO, and AFL-CIO affiliates’ campaigns through our respective public communication infrastructures.

The AFL-CIO assisting USAS’ efforts to secure needed support and resources.

USAS continuing to educate students about the critical role of labour unions and the importance of organising, supporting, and joining unions.

Mechanism for Promoting Common Objectives

Critical to the success of this partnership is the building of relationships between the student and labour movements at the state and local levels.

Shared planning, strategising, and organising at those levels will help us build the trust and institutional connections necessary for us to strengthen our movements and better advance the interests of both students and workers.

The AFL-CIO will inform and educate affiliates, Central Labour Councils, and State Federations about this agreement and urge them to work in concert with USAS locals when it will advance the parties’ shared goals and objectives.

USAS will inform and educate its locals about this agreement and urge them to work in concert with Central Labour Councils and State Federations when it will advance the parties’ shared goals and objectives.

The AFL-CIO and USAS will promote local partnership agreements between USAS locals and Central Labour Councils and State Federations.

Ground Rules

This agreement must strengthen, and not undermine the work of the AFL-CIO, its affiliates, and USAS.

The parties will respect each other’s autonomy and internal decision-making processes.

This agreement will not undermine or interfere with the support and resources available to USAS.

Either party is free to terminate this agreement upon notice to the other party.

Together in solidarity.