Mission, Vision, and Organizing Philosophy

Our “Mission and Vision” and “Organizing Philosophy” were ratified by USAS membership in August 2009.

Mission and Vision

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization run entirely by youth and students. We develop youth leadership and run strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. We define “sweatshop” broadly and consider all struggles against the daily abuses of the global economic system to be a struggle against sweatshops.

We envision a world in which society and human relationships are organized cooperatively, not competitively. We struggle towards a world in which all people live in freedom from oppression, in which people are valued as whole human beings rather than exploited in a quest for productivity and profits.

Organizing Philosophy

1. Solidarity

We believe that all of our struggles for a just world are intimately connected and that we should act in solidarity to avoid isolation and to build greater collective power. Charity does not challenge power relations, while a solidarity framework unites allies who are fighting on different grounds towards the same goal.

We have chosen the labor movement as a strategic site of struggle because a powerful and dynamic labor movement can ensure greater justice for all people.  As former, current, and future workers we recognize the need for a vibrant youth and student movement that actively engages in struggles for just working conditions. We draw upon the historical role of student movements as catalysts for broader social change and strategically leverage the unique roles of students as consumers, workers, and members of the campus community.

We recognize that our role as students in the labor movement is complex and we are committed to critically engaging with that role. In our larger society, we are privileged because the majority of people are denied access to higher education. In our schools, we are marginalized because we are denied a voice in making decisions that affect our entire campus community. We believe we have an important role to play as organizers in developing the leadership capacity of people in our communities and we believe those most impacted should lead their own struggles.

2. Collective Liberation

We are committed to collective liberation of all people. In the words of Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” We believe that oppression does not allow anyone to be a full human being whether they materially benefit or suffer under oppressive systems. We struggle against racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, and other forms of oppression within our society, within our organizations, and within ourselves. We strive to build relationships with other grassroots movements because we believe the student-labor solidarity movement is part of a larger struggle for global justice.

3. Grassroots Democracy

We support the self-organization of working people to fight for better working and living conditions in the form of grassroots organizations such as unions, worker centers, collectives, and other democratic organizations. We believe these organizations, as part of a broader global justice movement, will pave the way for long-term economic, social and political empowerment for working people worldwide.

We strive to act democratically. We see participatory political education and horizontal communication as necessary for an effective democratic organization. We encourage a culture of constructive critique and strive to empower one another through trust, patience, and an open spirit.

4. Diversity of Tactics

We seek to use a diversity of tactics, especially nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, which fundamentally challenge the oppressive power structures that exploit the majority of the world’s population. We believe that substantive change is created through movements of oppressed people organizing to develop and use their own power. Through taking action we find the  courage to develop our individual and collective capacities for leadership and action.

5. Pluralism

We are a non-dogmatic organization and believe in building a broad-based movement. We believe that a pluralist approach to ideological positions and practices strengthens our movement. We encourage a rigorous internal political dialogue, which strengthens our strategic analysis and effectiveness. We aim to support one another in a spirit of respect for difference, shared purpose and hope.