SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY U.S. STUDENT ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS JONATHAN P. DOH Herbert G. Rammrath Endowed Chair in International Business Director, Center for Global Leadership Professor of Management and Operations Villanova University School of Business 800 Lancaster Ave, Villanova, PA 19085 610-519-7798 (phone) 610-519-6566 (fax) [email protected]
NICOLAS M. DAHAN Assistant Professor of Management Long Island University, CW Post campus College of Management 720 Northern Blvd, Brookville, NY 11548 516-299-2360 (phone) 516-299-3917 (fax) [email protected]
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY U.S. STUDENT ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS
ABSTRACT In this paper, we draw on evolutionary and social network theory to inform an analysis of the strategies and tactics of contemporary student-led social movements (SMs). We begin with a brief review of the history of the modern student-led social advocacy movement in the United States and then trace the evolution and development of more targeted, focused, and strategic advocacy campaigns. We explore the micro foundations of these social movements and profile three recent campaign – the responsible endowment movement, the student-based initiative to encourage global actions to end the genocide in Darfur (STAND), and the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) campaign to press Russell Athletics and other apparel companies to adopt improved labor practices – to show distinctive characteristics of these campaigns and how they evolve over time. We conclude with implications for social movement research, including theoretical and methodological contributions.
INTRODUCTION On November 17, 2009, Russell Athletics, one of the United States’ leading sportswear companies, along with a coalition of student advocacy organizations led by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), announced that the company would rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when its closed their factory soon after the workers had unionized. This illustration underscores the evolution of student-led social advocacy movements which, using modern tools of social networking, have become more focused, targeted, and successful. Social movements have been part of the global political-economic landscape for centuries. In the United States, the Civil Right, anti-Vietnam War, and environmental movements are among the most well-known of social movements. University students were – and continue to be – influential stakeholders in advancing these movements. Over the past decade, however, studentled social movements have evolved to focus on more specific and tangible concerns and have successfully used these new approaches by adapting to an evolving macro-environment. To date, social movement (SM) theorists have tended to focus either on macro-level phenomenon and processes, or on the particular strategies and tactics employed. Both the new social movement (NSM) approach and resource mobilization (RM) perspectives have sought to explain the emergence and significance of contemporary social movements in (post-) industrial societies, with the principal arguments over whether those movements are viewed as part of the broader political economy or as independent reflections of civil society and collective action. In this paper, we bring a more micro-level analysis to a particular type of social movement to reflect and reveal the underlying processes that have spurred specific campaigns targeting corporate social change within broader social movements. Social movements aiming at reforming corporations is still an understudied area of research (den Hond and de Bakker, 2007:
901), particularly when it comes to student-led social movements. We draw on some of the recent research linking social movements to organizational theory, including evolutionary and social network theory to inform an analysis of the strategies and tactics of contemporary social movements (SMs). We begin with a brief review of the history of the modern student-led social advocacy movement in the United States and then trace the evolution and development of more targeted, focused, and strategic advocacy campaigns and document how social networks have facilitated this evolution. We explore the micro foundations of these social movements and profile three recent campaign – the responsible endowment movement, the student-based initiative to encourage global actions to end the genocide in Darfur (STAND), and the campaign to press Russell Athletics and other apparel companies to adopt improved labor practices – to show how these advocacy initiatives employ networks and how they have adapted to their environments and evolved over time. We conclude with implications for social movement research, including theoretical and methodological contributions.
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE Touraine (1988) places social movements at the level of civil society (social integration) and excludes them from the political realm (system integration). Laclau and Mouffe (1985), in contrast, argue that conflicts have led to the expansion of the political systems via the proliferation of political “spaces.” These new social movements are therefore contesting the state’s role and redefinition of the public and private sectors and thus transforming private issues into political ones (Mouffe, 1988, p. 93). Other theorists (Habermas, 1981; Offe, 1985; Melucci, 1985) place SMs in an intermediary space between civil society and the state. Offe (1985, p. 20)
argues that the new movements challenge ‘the boundaries of institutional politics’ by tearing down the traditional dichotomies between private and public life.” Yet, for most NSM and RM scholars, social movements occur at a macro-institutional level. Indeed, according to Tourraine (1988, p. 26), the term social movement should be reserved for these ‘truly central conflicts’ which call into question the social control over historicity. Be that as it may, SM literature has eventually covered two main aspects of the phenomenon: (1) social movement dynamics (within movements and between movements and their environments), and (2) the influence of social movements on certain outcomes, often at the societal level. We draw here upon scholarship from these two streams. Regarding the first one, some researchers have begun examining the role of organizations in social movements (Davis et al., 2005) and a smaller subset of scientists has focused on the dynamics of social networks of either individuals or organizations in social movements (see Diani, 2002; Diani and McAdam, 2003 for reviews). As far as the second stream of SM research is concerned, scholars have historically described the influence toolkit of SM activism by looking at four components (for syntheses, see in particular Della Porta and Diani, 1999 as well as McAdam, McCarthy, Zald, 1996). The first component is ‘framing processes’ (Benford and Snow, 2000). Framing is defined as the “conscious strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings of the world and of themselves that legitimate and motivate collective action” (McAdam et al., 1996, p. 6). The second component is ‘mobilizing structures’, that is, how the movement (or activist group) has organized itself to draw upon the resources of its members and supporters (McAdam, McCarthy, Zald, 1996, p. 3; Fireman and Gamson, 1979). The third component is ‘repertoires’ of actions (or contention), which correspond to organizational routines developed over time and
used to carry out the goals of the organization (Della Porta and Diani, 1999, pp. 165-192; Tilly, 1979). These repertoires reflect the feasible actions that the organization can undertake, given its current resources and acquired expertise, as well as the cultural biases of the organization and cognitive biases of its members. The fourth component is the ‘opportunities’ or ‘opportunity structure’ provided by the specific environment in which the social movement is embedded and the three other components are used (Della Porta and Diani, 1999, p. 223; McAdam, 1996), enabling certain options as well as excluding others within the organization's repertoire (Djelic and Quack, 2003, p. 18). Relevant to this second SM research stream, SM and management scholars have converged recently in their focus by looking at corporations as targets of specific social movements campaigns, often those involving labor practices, human rights or genetically modified foods (della Porta, Kriesi and Rucht, 1999; den Hond and de Bakker, 2007; de Bakker and den Hond, 2008; Yaziji and Doh, 2009). King and Soule (2007), for example, have explored extra-institutional social movement tactics (protests) and their impact on share prices, one the core measures of organizational performance. However, the intersection of these two recent developments in SM research (namely, social networks dynamics pertaining to social movements, which in turn, focus their activism on corporate social change) remains to be explored in any significant depth. This is the gap that this present piece wishes to address. Voluntary associations exert great influence over the evolution of social norms and behaviors. Granovetter (1973; 1985) has suggested that individual behavior is influenced both by independent, autonomous factors as well as the norms and values of one’s group or the broader society. Likewise, social networks may be considered as embedded within broader social movements. Diani and McAdam (2003) examine the extent to which a network approach informs
research on collective action. They show how inter-organizational linkages affect the circulation of resources within and between movements and contend that classic network concepts such as centrality, density or structural equivalence and holes improve understanding of the relationship between social movements and the dynamics of the political processes (Diani, 2002; Diani and McAdam, 2003). In this way, networks coordinate and amplify the power of their participants thereby increasing the reward and reducing the risk and costs of collective behavior. Recent research on the emergence of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have demonstrated the power of social networks as a mechanism for advancing social movements (Teegen, Doh, and Vachani, 2004; Yaziji and Doh, 2009). Research on the co-evolution of organizations has highlighted that new organizational forms emerge from adaptation processes between focal stakeholders and their environments. Indeed, research on strategic adaptation and change has focused closely on the emergence of new organizational forms (Lewin and Koza, 2001; Lewin and Volberda, 1999). Although those studying the traditional boundary of the organization sought to delineate who is ‘inside’ and who is ‘outside’ of the firm, Baligh and Burton (1982) argue that the managerial boundary of the organization and the legal boundary are frequently different, setting up the conceptual underpinnings of new organizational forms and structures, including those of network-based social movements and campaigns. The study of the emergence and evolution of student advocacy campaigns can therefore be informed by an interdisciplinary analysis of the micro foundations of such movements, the critical role of network connections and relationships, and the exploration of co-evolutionary behavior between organizations and their environments.
THE DYNAMICS OF THREE STUDENT-LED SOCIAL MOVEMENT CAMPAIGNS Students have been at the epicenter of a number of modern social movements, including the 1968 riots in Paris, the anti-apartheid and associated divestment campaigns of 1980s, and more recent actions related to a range of social issues and concerns. In this section, we first present our research methodology and then profile three recent campaigns for corporate social change in which students have played a substantial role. Research Methodology We chose three student-led campaigns as our empirical settings. In each case, we gathered secondary data from sources including public reports, minutes of student organizations' meetings, press releases, student organizations' websites as well as newspaper articles. We also relied on semi-structured interviews with then-student leaders and student members. This empirical research has required frequently shifting the unit of analysis, ranging from individual students on one campus to their local student organizations, to regional and national student organizations or associations. At each of these levels, social networking effects were at play and leveraged as much as constrained collective action. As described by Diani (2002, pp. 173-174), systematic investigations of network processes within social movements can pursue two objectives: (1) "help us to analyze how collective action is affected by the actors' embeddedness in preexisting networks"; and (2) "to illustrate how social movement actors create new linkages that in turn will constrain the subsequent development of protest." Both goals were relevant to our investigation here, and helped informed our understanding of dynamics of student-led social movements for corporate social change and the outcomes of the chosen campaigns. All three campaigns spanned over many years, across dozens of campuses and included hundreds of student organizations in
partnerships with other stakeholders, such as unions and non-profits. It is therefore obvious that an in-depth quantitative analysis of all social networks interactions would have been impractical. We therefore opted for the less frequent, albeit acceptable choice of qualitative studies (Diani, 2002, p.174) based on content analysis of secondary data and interviews (Snow and Trom, 2002; Yin, 2003). We attempted to survey the main actors (nodes) in the student-led social movements, looking for patterns in their relations to each other (ties) in order to identify the most central actors within each social network. Responsible Endowments Activism The development of the student-led Responsible Endowment (RE) movement has mirrored and has been part of a broader social movement focused on responsible investment, which started in the US with the foundation of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in 1971, as well as the foundation of Trillium Asset Management in 1982, the first investment management company dedicated to socially responsible investing. This movement has expanded global awareness for ethical investment and contributed to the facts that $2.7 trillion worth of assets were socially screened in the USA (Social Investment Forum, 2007) and that 180 large institutional investors pledged to follow the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI, 2010) when managing their $8 trillion of assets, both in 2007. On campuses, this issue started in the early seventies, when the anti-Vietnam war movement was strong. At the time, several Yale professors and students pioneered reflection on this question through a seminar on Yale's endowment investments in 1969 and the subsequent publication of the Simon, Powers and Gunnemann's book, The Ethical Investor: Universities and Corporate Responsibility (1972). This book suggested ethical criteria for endowment investing and recommended that universities establish committees to craft their own criteria and regularly
review policies and investments based on these ethical criteria. Yale was the first university to follow suit and created in 1973 its own Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR), whose membership includes students, alumni, staff and faculty. This process became a blueprint for several other US universities in the following decades (Yale ACIR, 2010). While divesting university endowment from corporations profiting from the Vietnam war was highly controversial and pitted students against university administrators in the early seventies, student organizations generated more traction when they rose the issue of divesting endowment holdings in companies conducting business in South Africa, due to the apartheid situation. Hampshire College in Amherst was the first US College to divest totally, as early as 1977. Overall this campaign was successful, with over 65 universities divesting partially or completely from South Africa by the mid-eighties, totaling over $300m (Higgins, 1985). It should however be noted that these campaigns failed at many other universities. For example, at Yale an eight-year "Yale Divestment campaign" yielded only one committee report, later enacted into water-down policies, which were never fully implemented by Yale's Corporation (the body in charge of investing Yale's endowment). Yale's Corporation kept a position of what they referred to as "constructive engagement" with South Africa and still retained over $300m worth of assets invested in South Africa in the mid-eighties (just as much as what all the other 65 universities combined had divested), according to a study of archival data conducted by Yale student activists in 2009 (Responsible Endowment Project, 2009). Since this early (relative) victory, the Responsible Endowment movement went through a phase of relative dormancy on campuses, with occasional spurs of advocacy on Burma and Sudan in the nineties. However the mobilizations over Burma and Sudan were by and large
unsuccessful (Mercer, 1996) in getting US universities to divest from these countries, with a few exceptions. Yet, these three first campaigns have raised awareness on campuses to the facts that (a) the shareholder power of universities is potentially substantial, with 785 colleges and universities in the US totaling assets in excess of $400bn (in particular, 66 schools have an endowment of at least $1bn); and (b) that activism on campus on this issue could be successful. While socially responsible investment was a radical notion in the seventies and eighties, it has become more widely accepted among investors and public opinion, creating an atmosphere more favorable to entertaining such a dialogue between students and university administrators than in the previous decade (Mercer, 1996). Further, the corporate governance movement, stressing higher accountability, tighter shareholder control and more active proxy voting, also resonated with the new requests expressed by students. This gradual shift in values, concerns and awareness among the general public and university administrators has created a more supportive environment for student activism on responsible endowment investing in the last decade. In parallel, tuition fees at US universities have consistently increased faster than inflation for decades: while the cost of living increased three-fold between 1978 and 2008, tuition fees increased eight-fold, reaching average tuition and fees of $5.7K per year for four-year public colleges and $20.4K for private ones (UNSD, 2008). With the rising cost of higher education, students have turned into demanding consumers, pressuring universities which, except for a few Ivy League schools with enormous endowments, are largely dependent on their tuition revenues to close their budgets. Examples of such rhetoric are abundant in the latest wave of student activism over responsible endowment: "we [push] our universities to act for us on the issues we care about, economic inequality, environmental quality,
and the fair use of our tuition dollar" (USC student Charlie Carnow quoted at Unite Here!, 2010a); "we want the tuition we pay to support companies that treat workers fairly" (Yale student Anna Robinson-Sweet, quoted at Unite Here!, 2010a); "we won't let the corporation [at Brown University] use our tuition to fund exploitation" (slogan on a Brown University poster on campus: Open the Books, 2010a). This new context has led recently to many examples of successful campaigns at the local level, to the point that some student leaders proclaimed that "Responsible Investment is the next wave of student activism" (REC, 2008). For instance, in 2001 Morgan Simon, a future leader in this new wave, joined Swarthmore College's Committee on Investor Responsibility, where she realized that her College never used its proxy voting rights to push for corporate social change. With the help of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, she identified a firm with room for improvement on a CSR issue, and decided to write a shareholder resolution draft requesting that Lockheed Martin include same-sex gender discrimination among its nondiscrimination policies. Swarthmore administrators were persuaded to support the resolution and file it as their own. The College even flew Simon to the shareholder general assembly meeting, in order for her to present the resolution in the allotted two minutes. After initially dismissing the resolution as not material, the company eventually conceded less than a year later, after the proposal received support from a variety of shareholders, Lockheed workers and some media attention (Simon, 2008). Building upon this momentum, Simon and other Swarthmore activists contacted two other Fortune 500-listed companies, Dover and Masco, to let them know that they were considering filing similar shareholder resolutions with them. The two companies immediately committed to changing their policies in order to avoid the filing.
These earlier campaigns in the first half of the 2000's have created a new generation of financially-savvy student activists, who have used their experience either as a springboard to lucrative careers as lawyers and bankers (sometimes focused on SRI) or to become full-time activists with non-profits. This led to the foundation of the Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), a non-profit founded in 2004 by student activists who had been successful on their campuses on this issue. After humble beginnings with no permanent staff and a tiny budget, the coalition became a full-fledged non-profit corporation in 2005 and started receiving major foundation grants two years later. In 2010, REC is able to retain several full-time staff members and 95 universities have student affiliations with REC (up from 40 in 2004), totaling a combined endowment of $102bn. REC has built financial and advocacy expertise, and is therefore able to act as trainers to students who want to better understand endowment asset management and shareholder activism, as well as consultants to local student organizations, helping them craft their arguments to maximize effectiveness. They do not however coordinate nationally specific campaigns on particular issues. They have opted to let local student organizations pick and choose for themselves which social agenda they wish to pursue. Throughout the US, student activists have had varying degrees of success. The first step tends to be to get the university to accept the creation of a formal committee, with a broad membership and the capacity to review endowment investments based on ethical criteria. For example, Gretchen Pilar Collazo led a campaign at Columbia University toward this goal. They raised awareness on campus through "teach-ins", one-on-one discussions, linking their campaigns to other social justice campaigns on campus in order to build more visible support. In the winter of 1999, the Columbia Trustees adopted a new policy, releasing the school’s full investment portfolio information to student representatives and forming the Advisory Committee
on Socially Responsible Investment (Collazo, 2005). On a sobering note, however, as of March 2010 Brown University's Open the Books Coalition has yet to obtain student access to the Brown Corporation's investment information: "Brown University's investment portfolio is kept completely secret from Brown community, which means that we have no power to ensure that our investments are just and ethical". Due to the lack of constructive dialogue with the administration, Brown students have relied on the more classic repertoire of aggressive and vocal student activism, including "raucous horns, speeches, and marching of a rally outside [the Corporation's offices], capping off a weekend of education and protest" (Open the Books, 2010b). Once committees on responsible investments are set up, it becomes easier for students to influence their universities, given that they have a legitimate committee membership, access to key information regarding endowment assets, and ethical policies that the university has committed to in order to back up their requests. However, some student requests seem to have a higher likelihood of being accepted by the university administration than others. When students advocate active shareholding through direct dialogue between the university, as shareholder, and one of its holding companies, possibly leading to a proxy resolution, universities tend to be much more open-minded than to demands for full disclosure of the university’s portfolio or for social screening of assets or outright divestments from companies or hedge funds. While active shareholding will probably not have a financial impact on the return of endowment assets, the impact of the other actions is open for debate. Many endowment managers express the concerns that full disclosure could lead other universities to copy their strategies (e.g., Boston College "never disclosed that because to disclose it would put us at competitive disadvantage. It would be a blueprint for other institutions to follow" quoted in McDonald, 2005), or that social screening or divestments could restrict their ability to maximize return on investments: for instance, at
Iowa University, "The investment advisory committee has expressed concerns that investing in SRI mutual funds could dampen returns and increase management fees" (Foundation and Endowment Money Management, 2005); University of Vermont's "donors want to see gifts maximized for their intended purpose, not used to advance ancillary goals [such as SRI]. Their commitment is not to environmental issues –or, if it is they're directing money to a non-profit institution that deals with those issues directly" (Kathleen Payne, Vermont University treasurer quoted in Mercer, 1996). Last, the success of the social movement is highly dependent on its ability to reach out to other constituents with vital resources. The average College student is little aware of issues pertaining to responsible endowment, much less able to understand the financial intricacies of social screening, proxy voting or community investment. It is thus an uphill battle for activists to frame their issue in a way that resonates with a cross-section of students. They typically rely on values such as a need for transparency and accountability, for students to have an opportunity to participate in the university's governance, and link the endowment issue to broader social justice and environmental/sustainability concerns which stand a higher chance of attracting the attention of other student organizations. The goal here is to be able to pool resources, such as joint awareness or protest events to build a wider base of student support (expressed in petitions, marches and demonstrations). Depending on the particular issue at hand, Responsible Endowment (RE) activists have collaborated with such student organizations as STAND on Darfur, or STARC, the Student Alliance to Reform Corporations, which is an anti-capitalist, anti-free-trade pro-labor social movement (STARC, 2010). RE activists must also access resources from partner organizations such as the ICCR and REC for financial expertise. They rely on on-the ground information about corporate abuses
from unions (for example, nation-wide union Unite Here! feeds off information about labor conditions at HEI Hotel and Resorts group in order to mobilize campuses in pushing universities to engage in active shareholding with the company, which is accused of unfair labor practices: Unite Here! 2010b) and non-profits (for instance, REC collaborated with Amnesty International in writing a handbook on Responsible Endowment geared toward university administrators and trustees: Amnesty International USA , 2007). As the social movement has matured, and although some university administrations remain fairly closed to student input regarding the management of its endowment, pushing students to more radical forms of activism, there is a notable pattern of increased cooperation among students and administrators on responsible endowment, which started in the nineties: "Some people suggests that campuses are quieter now because the activists who erected shantytowns 10 years ago to protest apartheid have given way to a generation of students who are more willing to cooperate with university leaders" (Mercer, 1996). For example, an administrator at the University of Washington described student activism over Burma divestment in the following terms: "They chose to work with the administration, as opposed to jumping into protest mode, and that was very effective" (quote in Mercer, 1996). This cooperative approach is actively promoted by the Responsible Endowments Coalition in its student handbook (2008, p. 23): "Before we protest, picket, stigmatize, organize, divest or boycott, it is almost always worth the effort to have a conversation. Sometimes we forget that powerful, sprawling corporations are controlled by people, many of whom have feelings, friends, families, and a desire to do good in the world. Many times these individuals need to be gently reminded to do the right thing, and sometimes a reminder alone is enough."
Even at Yale, where students have not achieved much progress in recent years, students follow a new approach: "After years of highly visible discord, however, the investment ethics debate has now become more focused and less contentious. While activists continue to lobby the Yale Corporation about investment ethics decisions, the discussion has become less demonstrationoriented" (Ladine, 2001). At many universities, this new approach has yielded some results but also criticisms from a fraction of the student body who perceives this shift as student activism 'going soft' and compromising its principles. RE activists thus walk a fine in maintaining their identity as members of the radical base of social justice and anti-corporate activism while at the same being financially savvy as well as open to dialogue and cooperation with university and corporate executives. There is thus a dissonance between the typical repertoire of contention that student activists are used to and some of the tactics used by the responsible endowment movement.
STAND STAND is the student-led division of a broader anti-genocide social movement led by the Genocide Intervention Network, a non-profit created in 2005 with the goal of developing a permanent anti-genocide community of informed and active citizens across the world. Initially focused on Darfur, they now include conflict areas such as Burma and Democratic Republic of Congo (Genocide Intervention Network, 2010). STAND's goal is to raise awareness over genocides in general and Darfur in particular among the youth, through high schools and universities, in order to create "a sustainable student network that actively fights genocide wherever it may occur" (STAND, 2010). A large Sudanese province, Darfur has been in a constant state of humanitarian emergency since 2003 because of civil unrest over discriminations
against the black African farmers of Darfur by the national government, which favors its Arab majority. Direct military and police interventions as well as local militia attacks against the black African minority have led to the displacement of 2.7m people and 300,000 deaths. As an international organization, with a national office and over 850 local chapters worldwide, STAND has been able to coordinate broad-based initiatives such as sponsoring thirteen conferences on genocide, attended by more than 2,300 students in total; large-scale demonstrations in more than 25 major cities around the world; participation in advocacy for the successful passage of federal legislation in the US, including the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act (SADA), and the Genocide Accountability Act (GAA) as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in peacekeeping and relief federal funds; and (modest) fund raising ($650,000). Last, it has also pressured for endowment and pension funds divestment away from Sudan, with success in 25 US states and eight universities (such as MIT: Zainabadi, 2008). Given that STAND organizes youth with limited financial resources, and that its members are sometimes not of voting age yet, it is a challenge for the organization to have influence beyond its membership. STAND mostly provided support to broader campaigns coordinated by other organizations, in order to pressure policy-makers. While the US government did pass specific legislation, very few universities have enacted a divestment policy, and ultimately the Sudanese government remains unmoved by international activism.
United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Russell Athletic November of 2009 became a tipping point in the many years of struggle between the student anti-sweatshop movement and the corporate world. The United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) coalition persuaded Russell Athletic, a corporate giant owned by Fruit of the Loom
(itself a Berkshire-Hathaway portfolio company) to agree to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory soon after the workers had unionized (Greenhouse, 2009). As written in its mission statement, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization run entirely by youth and students. USAS strives to develop youth leadership and run strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. It defines “sweatshop” broadly and consider all struggles against the daily abuses of the global economic system to be a struggle against sweatshops. The core of its vision is a world in which society and human relationships are organized cooperatively, not competitively. USAS 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 (USAS, 2010). Russell Corporation, founded by Benjamin Russell in 1902, is a manufacturer of athletic shoes, apparel, and sports equipment. Russell products are marketed under many brands, including Russell Athletic, Spalding, Brooks, Jerzees, Dudley Sports, etc. This company with more than 100 year long history has been a leading supplier of the team uniforms at the high school, college, and professional level. Russell Athletic™ active wear and college licensed products are broadly distributed and marketed through department stores, sports specialty stores, retail chains, and college bookstores (Russell Brands, 2010). After an acquisition in August 2006 Russell's brands joined Fruit of the Loom, Berkshire Hathaway family of products. Russell/Fruit of the Loom is the largest private employer in Honduras. Unlike other major apparel brands (such as Nike), Russell/Fruit of the Loom owns all eight of its factories in Honduras rather than subcontracting to outside manufacturers (USAS, 2009). The incident
related to Russell Athletic’s business in Honduras that led to a major scandal in 2009 was company’s decisions to fire 145 workers in 2007 for supporting a union. This ignited the antisweatshop campaign against the company. Russell had later admitted its wrongdoing and was forced to reverse its decision. However, the company continued violating the worker rights in 2008 by constantly harassing the union activists and making threats to close the Jerzees de Honduras factory. It finally closed the factory on January 30, 2009 after months of battling with a factory union (Worker Rights Consortium, 2010a). The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) conducted a thorough investigation of Russell’s activities, and ultimately released a 36 page report on November 7, 2008 documenting the facts of worker rights violations by Russell in its factory Jerzees de Honduras including the instances of death threats received by the union leaders (ibid.). The union’s vice president, Norma Mejia, has publicly confessed at a Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting in May 2009 that she had received death threats for helping lead the union (Greenhouse, 2009). The Worker Rights Consortium continued monitoring the flow of Russell Athletics scandal, and issued new reports and updates on this matter throughout 2009 including its recommendation for Russell’s management how to mediate the situation and resolve the conflict. As stated in its mission statement, the Worker Rights Consortium is an independent labor rights monitoring organization, whose purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who sew apparel and make other products sold in the United States. The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public reports on factories producing for major U.S. brands; and aids workers at these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their workplace rights. The WRC is supported by over 175 college and university affiliates and is
primarily focused on the labor practices of factories that make apparel and other goods bearing university logos. Worker Rights Consortium assessed that Russell’s decision to close the plant represented one of the most serious challenges yet faced to the enforcement of university codes of conduct. If allowed to stand, the closure would not only unlawfully deprive workers of their livelihoods; it would also send an unmistakable message to workers in Honduras and elsewhere in Central America that there is no practical point in standing up for their rights under domestic or international law and university codes of conduct and that any effort to do so will result in the loss of one’s job. This would have a substantial chilling effect on the exercise of worker rights throughout the region (Worker Rights Consortium, 2010a). The results of WRC investigation of Russell Athletic unfair labor practice in Honduras has spurred the nation-wide student campaign led by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) who persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. The agreements — some yielding more than $1 million in sales — allowed Russell to put university logos on T-shirts, sweatshirts and fleeces (Greenhouse, 2009). For example, the local SAS campaign at Yale was described by then-Yale students as "high profile", on "the single cause that united students […] powerfully this year" [academic year 1999-2000], including "fervent rallies, long sit-ins and a 16-night camp-out" (Lee, 2001). The role of the USAS protecting for the rights of the Honduran workers in Russell Athletic scandal is hard to overestimate. Their actions included broad commitments to fighting a problem that did not seem to have any direct relationship to their life. In addition, USAS has
exhibited considerable creativity in its tactics: It went to the public with initiatives such as picketing the N.B.A. finals in Orlando and Los Angeles this year to protest the league’s licensing agreement with Russell or distributing fliers inside Sports Authority sporting goods stores and sending Twitter messages to customers of Dick’s Sporting Goods urging them to boycott Russell products. The students even sent activists to knock on Warren Buffet’s door in Omaha because his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns Fruit of the Loom, Russell’s parent company (Worker Rights Consortium, 2010a). United Students Against Sweatshops organization also involved students from more than 100 campuses where it did not have local chapters in the anti-Russell campaign. It also contacted students at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where Fruit of the Loom has its headquarters (ibid). The USAS activists had even reached to Congress trying to gain more support and build more political and public pressure on Russell Athletic. On May 13, 2009, sixty-five Congressmen signed the letter addressed to Russell CEO John Holland expressing their grave concern over the labor violations (US Congress, 2009). In addition, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide has issued a statement on June 25, 2009 putting Russell Athletic on probation for non-compliance with FLA standards (Fair Labor Association, 2009). The Fair Labor Association is one of the powerful authorities that oversees the fair labor practices in the industry. It represents a powerful coalition of industry and nonprofit members. The FLA brings together colleges and universities, civil society organizations, and socially responsible companies in a unique multi-stakeholder initiative to end sweatshop labor and improve working conditions in factories worldwide. The FLA holds its participants – those involved in the manufacturing and marketing process – accountable to the
FLA Workplace Code of Conduct (Fair Labor Association, 2008). The 19-member Board of Directors, the FLA’s policy-making body, comprises equal representation for each of its three constituent groups: companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations (Fair Labor Association, 2010). In November of 2009, after nearly two years of student campaigning in coordination with the apparel workers, the Honduran workers’ union concluded an agreement with Russell that puts all of the workers back to work, provides compensation for lost wages, recognizes the union and agrees to collective bargaining, provides access for the union to all other Russell apparel plants in Honduras for union organizing drives in which the company will remain neutral. According to November 18th, 2009 press-release of USAS this has been an “unprecedented victory for labor rights” (USAS, 2009). “This is the first time we know of where a factory that was shut down to eliminate a union was later re-opened after a worker-activist campaign. This is also the first company-wide neutrality agreement in the history of the Central America apparel export industry – and it has been entered into by the largest private employer in Honduras, the largest exporter of tshirts to the US market in the world. This is a breakthrough of enormous significance for the right to organize – and worker rights in general – in one of the harshest labor rights environments in the world,” said Rod Palmquist, USAS International Campaign Coordinator and University of Washington alumnus (ibid). This was not an overnight victory for the student movement and coalition of NGOs like USAS, WCR, FLA, etc. It took over ten years of building a movement that persuaded scores of universities to adopt detailed codes of conduct for the factories used by licensees like Russell
(Greenhouse, 2009). This story seems like another important lesson to learn to the corporate world in the era of globalization. No one can longer expect to conduct its business activities in isolation from the rest of the world. The global corporations like Russell Athletic, Nike, Gap, Walmart, etc will have to assess the impact of their business decisions on the variety of stakeholders, and take higher social responsibility for what they do in any part of the world.
COMPARISON, DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL MOVEMENT RESEARCH The three student-led social movements offer some similarities but also stark contrasts. As far as commonalities, they share the common challenge of raising awareness and creating interest for social issues which most students may not feel concerned about. Many students may feel that Africa is plagued by civil wars and dictatorial regimes deaf to international pressure, making the Darfur movement a lost cause unworthy of their attention; or feel that buying Russell apparel at the cheapest rates possible is more important to them, as cash-strapped students, than working conditions in a developing country; or that their university should simply focus on maximizing the return on endowment investment, in order for the university to be able to finance campus operations, and hopefully save the students from yet another tuition hike. Therefore, framing these issues in a way that resonates with the average student's values and concerns is vital and difficult. Being student-led social movements, they also face the specific issue of rather shot-term membership: students can only be involved in a student organization until they graduate from high school or College and leave. There is therefore a very high rate of turnover in membership, which poses the challenge of movement continuity much more acutely than with other movements. Each student movement needs to find mechanisms of joint governance (in case one
of the leaders leaves, there will still be co-leaders to continue), of new recruit training by more experienced student activists. This concern was well expressed by two REC leaders (Macias and Levine, 2008): "The challenge for our campaign—which is applicable to most campus organizing—was to develop a culture of organizing that encouraged and supported new people stepping in and taking over, and to create structures that would institutionalize the changes we were proposing even when it was no longer an active campaign. The people who started it knew that it was going to take longer to win the campaign than the time we were there. We were very deliberate about bringing in fresh faces and mentoring leaders within our group. We made sure that the work, the knowledge, and the decision-making were shared: no one person monopolized the information, and the biggest portion of our time with new members was spent training them on the nitty-gritty details of the endowment and investing." These three movements – and their dynamic evolution – also pose interesting questions and challenges for social movement research more broadly.
Common Approaches and Repertoires These three movements also share a common repertoire of contention (or activist tactics) for the most part. Public events to raise awareness as well as demonstrations, sit-ins, petitioning aimed at voicing the movement's concerns are routinely used by all movements. All three movements have also relied not just on aggressive public expressions but have also reached out to influence targets, in an attempt at collaboration.
A last commonality is that each student-led SMO is focused on indirect influence: USAS and the RE movement attempt to influence companies through their universities, STAND attempt to influence the Sudanese government through local and national governments as well as universities. However, the leverage for influence is different across the three campaigns. The RE movement is a form of shareholder activism (threat of losing equity for the firm), USAS is a form of consumer activism (threat of losing earnings from sales), while STAND is a form of citizen activism (threat of international sanctions, direct intervention by a coalition of foreign governments). Distinctions and Contrasts In terms of differences, only the Responsible Endowment movement was sometimes able to collaborate directly with its ultimate influence target (corporations whose behavior was deemed socially unacceptable, such as Lockheed Martin or McDonald's), as opposed to the USAS or STAND campaigns where the ultimate targets (respectively, the Russell Corporation and its parent company, Fruit of the Loom, on one hand, and the Sudanese government, on the other hand) refused to engage in any form of dialogue. Thus, in these last two campaigns only indirect influence attempts were an option. Obviously, the more indirect the attempts, the more uncertain and weaker the influence becomes. The next difference across movements has to do with their degree of coordination. While STAND is nationally and sometimes even internationally coordinated, the USAS movement was basically a collection of local campaigns which did not require much coordination, as long as each university threatened to boycott sales of Russell apparel on their individual campus. Thus, the goal was consistent and the tactics were fairly similar but were achieved through mostly uncoordinated local initiatives. With the Responsible Endowment movement, coordination was
very rare, except on a few large-scale international (e.g. South Africa, Darfur). In the case of a national issue such as HEI hotel labor practices, the coordination was not handled by students. Instead, it was the US labor union Unite Here! who took over: "the students did not start the campaign as a group — the force that drew them together and in many ways continues to direct their actions is UNITE HERE" (Zapana and Te, 2008). However, most of the time, each RE activist group picked specific social issues based on the agendas of local student groups and the idiosyncratic context of their campus. A further difference across movements pertains to their centrality within broader social networks. While STAND's activities are worthy of praises, it was not a central player in the broad anti-Darfur genocide social movement, where organizations such as international human rights NGOs and advocacy groups such as Genocide Intervention Network were more centrally located (i.e. enjoyed varied and frequent ties with more actors among the movement's social network). The centrality of the Responsible Endowment groups is intermediate, insofar as RE student activism had strong ties to other actors such as non-profits and unions but was not the most central player in the broader Responsible Investment's social network, where universities are but one of many categories of institutional investors. In contrast, USAS was the central player in its social network, as it enjoyed ties with unions and human/labor rights advocacy groups, as well as universities through local student organizations. In this movement, no other actor was more central than USAS. Table 1 offers a synthesis of the principal differences across the three campaigns. [Insert Table 1 About Here] Implications for an Evolutionary Perspective on Social Movement Research Traditionally, SM scholars have focused on macro-level phenomenon and processes, with some
attention to specific strategies and tactics employed. The NSM and RM have differed as to whether movements are perceived as part of the broader political economy or as unique reflections of civil society and action. An evolutionary perspective on social movements does not presume a linear trajectory or constant slope. Rather, it anticipates an iterative, dynamic and sometimes unpredictable process in which strategies and tactics evolve and actors grow and decline in relation to environmental conditions and interactions among stakeholders. Hence, we would add to Diani’s (2002) conceptualization of the purpose of systematic investigations of network processes the potential that new linkages could enlarge and expand (as opposed to constrain) subsequent protests or actions, something evident in the cases described here. In the three cases, there is clear evidence of adaptation by the social movement network and its co-evolution in relation to broader environmental variables. One dimension of this coevolution is in the structure of the network itself and the role of the movements within that network. Table 2 presents an assessment of the same variables considered in Table 1 with the addition of a temporally dynamic element. In assessing these in-process network movements, we have attempted to describe how the movement has evolved and adapted in the course of its evolution. According to Volberda and Lewin (2003), self renewing organizations possess three fundamental characteristics: (1) they focus on managing requisite variety by regulating internal rates of change to equal or exceed relevant external rates of change (e.g. competitors, technology, customers, etc); (2) they optimize self-organizing; and (3) they synchronize concurrent exploitation and exploration. Although these are nonprofit social movement initiatives, further and more in-depth analysis may reveal whether they are, indeed, self-sustaining.
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Table 1: Differences Across Three Student-led Social Movements Movements: Responsible Differences:
Mostly citizen activism
(some shareholder activism) Direct collaboration
with ultimate influence target? Degree of coordination across local organizations Network centrality
Table 2: Evolution of Social Network Variables Movements: Responsible Differences:
Mostly citizen activism
(some shareholder activism)
Few core universities/
Greater, more diverse
Media and producers
No appreciable evolution
colleges and universities Direct collaboration with ultimate influence target?
Some collaboration Degree of
None/ A few regional and
None /A little (USAS
coordination across local organizations
and handles some of the media relations)