Sweatshop Free campaign Goals

The Sweatshop Free Campaign is about changing the way that our universities spend money and using the power as big spenders to improve conditions within the Electronics Industry.

To do this, we need to demonstrate that students and staff care about human rights in university supply chains and also get universities to sign up to the Electronics Watch to monitor their electronics supply chains.

Campaign Goals

  1. Raise awareness of the issues of sweatshop labour in university and college supply chains and build support for your campaign.

  2. Act in solidarity with workers in the global electronics industry.

  3. Persuade your university or college to join Electronics Watch

  4.  Get your university or college to act on any workers’ rights abuses revealed in their supply chains through Electronics Watch, or otherwise.

Goal 1: Raise Awareness

People need to know about your campaign if they’re going to join it. Help them find out. This is all about reaching out to students and letting them know all about your campaign. Speak to people, get their support, and build alliances.

Students and staff will only act to change their university if they know that there’s a problem, and that they can be part of the solution. Expose the problem of human rights abuses in electronics supply chains and increase the call for your university to do its part to protect human rights.

Ideas for awareness raising

There are loads of different ways you can raise awareness and get people to hear about your ideas and your campaign. If you’re starting out on the process of raising awareness, you could try some of the following:

  • Film Screenings: There are a bunch of documentaries on workers rights and sweatshops (such as Complicit, Who Pays the price or The True Cost). Why not host one to help raise awareness of the issue?
  • Speaker Events: Is there an academic at your institution that researches global supply chains or workers rights? Invite them to give a talk!
  • Lecture Shout outs: Give a quick 1 minute announcement at the start of lectures. You’ve got an engaged audience waiting to learn!
  • Leaflets and posters: Get your message out by plastering your campus with printed materials.
  • Knock on doors: If you have lots of students living in halls, go out and talk to them. Speaking to people directly is a great way to get them on board.
  • Run Workshops: People & Planet can support your campaigns by coming to your institution and running workshops about Sweatshop Free or campaign skills.
  • Social Media: Set up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account to spread the word online.
  • Student Media: Can you get an article published in your student newspaper? Can you get a slot on your campus TV or radio station too?
  • Stalls: Set up a stall in a busy area on your campus to distribute leaflets and talk to students.

If you want more ideas on ways you can raise awareness and start your campaign, get in touch at sweatshopfree@peopleandplanet.org

Goal 2: Solidarity with Sweatshop Workers

Around the world, electronics industry workers are taking collective action against the conditions they face.

In November 2012, trade unions mobilised 10,000 Indonesian workers in an attempted occupation of a Samsung factory to protest union-busting. Across Apple’s supply chain, from Mexico to China, strikes have taken place outside union structures to demand better working conditions and pay. In 2014, the first independent union was established in a Samsung factory after years of repression and legal battles.

These strikes, actions and mobilisations represent a growing workers’ movement in the industry that students can support with action here in the UK. We use electronic equipment in our universities. This makes us stakeholders in the global electronics supply chain. We can act in solidarity with oppressed and exploited communities in this chain. Sweatshop Free is part of a movement of people across the world, connecting people who use computers with those that make them.

Our campaign brings together students and workers in an exciting and powerful coalition capable of changing unacceptable working conditions!

Solidarity and campaign planning

Building solidarity networks with workers at the frontline helps convince your university you’re connected to the supply chain, and understand the issues from those that are impacted by it.

But it should also frame campaign goals and aims over time. What are workers saying they need most? Have the needs of workers affected changed? People & Planet can help you build connections with workers, and consider how your campaign goals might need to be reviewed.

It’s also important to do research and have an understanding of how workers are impacted differently. Women, for example, experience double discrimination, as poor workers, and as a result of their gender - receiving less pay and having family responsibilities. Understanding the issues helps build meaningful, long term relationships essential for winning more rights in the long term.

Goal 3: universities join Electronics Watch

The primary goal of the Sweatshop Free campaign is to get universities, colleges and other public sector bodies to join Electronics Watch, allowing them to find out the working conditions the products they purchase are made in.

The Sweatshop Free campaign has been pushing hard since Electronics Watch was launched to get public sector institutions to join. So far, the following organisations in the UK have joined Electronics Watch.

  • University of Edinburgh
  • Swansea University
  • Bournemouth University
  • University of Durham
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Leeds
  • London South Bank University
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Westminster
  • Kingston University
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Winchester
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Tower Hamlets Borough Council
  • Transport for London
  • London Universities Purchasing Consortium (on behalf of all its members)
  • Advanced Universities Purchasing Consortium (on behalf of all its members)
  • Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium

Members of Electronics Watch

They’ve all decided to take a leading role in helping to stamp out abuses in their supply chains!

This year, we’re hoping that even more universities and colleges will join the movement for workers’ rights and join Electronics Watch. You can be a part of that movement. If your university or college is not on the list, join the Sweatshop Free campaign and help get them to join.

People & Planet is not made up of professional campaigners. We depend on students like you, at over 60 universities and colleges across the UK, to make demands.

This demand is clear: we do not want to use computers that were made in degrading conditions. Come together with other public buyers across Europe, to join Electronics Watch and help support workers’ rights globally.

Goal 4: Make sure your Uni or College takes action!

Once your university or college has committed to affiliate to Electronics Watch, you’ve already taken a great step for workers rights. By affiliating, your institution has proven that it won’t stand for worker rights abuses in their supply chains!

However, committing to affiliate is only one part of the process. Firstly you’ll need to double check that the institution follows through and goes through the affiliation process. This means following up on board meetings, checking in on policy, and meeting with the institution’s decision-makers. You may need to increase the campaign pressure if the institution is dragging its feet.

Once the affiliation is all done and complete, your university or college has now started the process of ensuring its supply chains are transparent, so Electronics Watch can find out where the factories it purchases electronics from are and what conditions the workers are under.

Electronics Watch works with trade unions and worker rights organisations on the ground in countries where electronics are produced. Through this, they conduct investigations of factories, by interviewing workers and visiting factory sites. They are then able to report back to public sector purchasers in Europe about the factory conditions and any abuses workers suffer.

This then allows public sector bodies to put pressure on the brands that supply to them by negotiating around their contract terms. By affiliating to Electronics Watch, public sector bodies require their suppliers to ensure a range of minimum working conditions are set, in compliance with local laws at the location of manufacture, International Labour Organisation standards and other international standards that apply to the electronics industry.

When there has been a breach of any of those conditions, universities, colleges or other public sector bodies can negotiate with and apply pressure to their suppliers to ensure further breaches do not occur and adequate restorative measures are put in place.

You may need to work to ensure your university or college does this, and takes their commitment to workers’ rights seriously.

When Electronics Watch reports on worker rights abuses in the electronics industry, contact People & Planet and we can help you find out whether the brands involved in that factory supply to your university. You can then put pressure on them to use their purchasing power to negotiate for reparation.

If you need some additional material to convince your institution to take action, take a look at the case study of how the Swedish County Council Network won major improvements for workers producing electronics for Dell.

A good way of ensuring you get to see reports of working conditions is to lobby for student representation on procurement. Get in touch if you want support with this.