United Students Against Sweatshops: Taking a stand for workers’ rights


United Students Against Sweatshops has had a chapter at UK since 2012. Used with permission of USAS.

Will Kueshner

Did you know that the clothing retail company GAP has knowingly outsourced their production to factories employing children as young as eight years old?

That many garment-factory workers producing apparel for retail clothing giants like H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Nike live on less than $2 a day, unable to purchase more than the most basic necessities?

That many factories in third-world countries have been cited as requiring unpaid overtime, disallowing lunch breaks, and mandating birth control to avoid providing appropriate health benefits?

That in 2013, over 1,100 Bangladeshi workers died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, an incident that would have been entirely preventable had workers not been physically forced to enter the dangerously cracked building by way of hired gang members and threats of forgoing months worth of pay?

If these facts seem shocking, abhorrent or disturbing to you, know that you can make a difference. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), the nation’s largest youth-led, student labor campaign organization is dedicated to ensuring that labor rights violations like those mentioned above do not go unpunished. And it’s right here on UK’s campus.

Our Story

UK’s original USAS chapter formed in 2012. It didn’t take long for the organization to build up steam. This same year, the chapter led a successful campaign to introduce sweatshop-free Alta Gracia brand clothes to the bookstore. By March of 2013, USAS convinced the University of Kentucky to affiliate with the Worker’s Rights Consortium (WRC), an affiliation that placed UK firmly at the forefront of the worker’s rights movement. After this, the chapter fought against the privatization of dining services, and although the group did not prevail, it prevented Sodexo—a dining services provider known for its human rights violations—from contracting with UK.

Today, after a brief hiatus, USAS is back on UK’s campus with unparalleled gusto. In the last few months, the chapter has organized letter drops to administration, held weekly meetings, led numerous events, and engaged in exciting discussions with the university’s faculty and community.

Expect to hear more as we continue

2018 is gearing up to be a promising year in the fight for workers rights. If you believe in workers’ rights, want to get involved or just want to make a difference, join USAS today.

As students, we have unique influence over the colleges and universities that are often the largest investors and landowners in our communities. This reigns especially true at the University of Kentucky.