Francesca Bessey and Corinne Gaston
Over seventy students flocked to USC from all over the western United States for the West Coast “Fight Back!” Organizer Boot Camp that was held on campus the first weekend of November.
The boot camp was hosted by several USC student groups in conjunction with the national United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) organization. It was designed to empower students and to teach the skills necessary for organizing and building movements strong enough to fight for the rights of students, workers, immigrants and all of the communities with which we stand in solidarity.
Saturday and Sunday were broken up into workshops covering topics such as sit-ins and other direct action tactics, utilization of the media and mass mobilization. Throughout the weekend, students also broke off into small groups to share their stories and discuss strategies for communication, escalation tactics, group building and inclusivity.
During Saturday’s session, students mobilized for a rally at President Nikias’ tailgate hosted at Town and Gown. The action was designed to bring awareness to the fact that the USC Bookstore sells clothing made in sweatshops and that Nikias has refused to sign on to the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent monitoring organization that watches for sweatshop conditions in factories producing apparel sold in the U.S.
Chanting “Trojan Pride, Sweatshop Shame,” the students donned Trojan gear in honor of Game Day, but expressed their anger at having to wear clothing made under unfair conditions in order to support the school.
USC’s Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE) has been campaigning for the university administration to sign onto the WRC for thirteen years. Under the current administration, not only has President Nikias refused to consider the WRC, but he has refused to even meet with the concerned students to discuss the issue—students whom it is his job to support.
After a successful flash mob and nineteen minutes of picketing, the students took their rally across campus, ending at Taper Hall where the invigorated students went back inside to continue their workshops. For many, it was their first action, and for many others, it was the biggest and most successful that they had experienced.
Participants expressed similar sentiments of empowerment at the event’s closing ceremony. The national solidarity of the students was inspiring for all involved.