By Sacha ismail
Between February 11 and 18, activists across the country organised meetings, protests, film-showings, petitioning and benefit gigs as part of the first student Anti-Sweatshop Week of Action. The week of action, which we hope to make an annual event, was called by No Sweat and Students Against Sweatshops, with (in the event, largely passive) support from the National Union of Students.
A variety of left-wing activists on campus, from People & Planet groups to left-wing campaigning societies and even one Labour Club, organised events.
The backbone of the week was an international speaker tour, the fourth that No Sweat has run since its creation. Together with the Argentina Solidarity Campaign, we brought Jose Julian Pununuri, a worker from the occupied Zanon ceramics factory in Argentina’s Neuqen province, to speak about his comrades’ experience of running a factory without bosses.
In addition to a number of trade union meetings in London, Julian attended a successful and well-attended series of student meetings — speaking to 80 people at Manchester University, for instance, 45 at Cambridge and more than 50 at York.
The week of action both produced a whole series of new contacts for No Sweat and reminded activists of what is possible when students get mobilised in action for workers’ rights. In Sheffield University, for instance, the No Sweat group organised a week-long series of meetings, pickets and other events, while the University of East London, where No Sweat has only been active for a couple of months, held a very interesting meeting on Bolivia and a benefit gig which packed out the student union.
On Friday 17 we handed in a letter to Universities UK demanding sweat-free campuses, along with the first section of the petition we had been collecting during the week.
Students in a number of colleges who – for reasons varying from exams to sheer disorganisation – didn’t organise anything for the week of action will be hold further events over the next few weeks. Get in touch and help us organise for a year of action so that next year’s week of action will be even better!