In times of unrest, demonstrators often take to the streets with cheeky signs at the ready, expressing stances that reflect the particular debate at hand. But what happens after marchers reach their destination, when the performance of opinion falls out of vogue? For activists like those of Wesleyan’s student-run United Student Labor Action Committee (USLAC), the trends of national discourse serve only as a backdrop to the intimate actions of labor solidarity that they perform on a regular basis.
USLAC, a horizontally integrated labor organizing group at Wesleyan, has been active on and off since its founding in the 1990s. The group consists of 10 to 15 members working out of the University Organizing Center (UOC). The closest it comes in terms of hierarchy is in the selection of point people, or individuals that take charge over certain actions that strive toward support of and solidarity among service workers on campus.
Sophie Martin ’19, one such point person, is actively involved with Bon Appétit workers.
“My role right now is being the liaison in many ways between the union Unite Here! and Local 217 which represents our cafeteria workers, as well as workers in Weshop and Pi,” Martin explained. “I worked for them over the summer. I was a paid organizer for the union and now I’m more on a volunteer basis, doing a lot of internal organizing especially at Wesleyan.”
Unite Here! represents 270,000 workers across the United States and Canada, spanning various industries. Local 217 is a smaller scale affiliate of Unite Here!, focusing on labor rights organizing in the hotel, food, service, and gaming industries in Connecticut and Rhode Island. While the 217 workers on Wesleyan’s campus have yet to undergo contract negotiations, USLAC has been involved with affiliate schools throughout the fall.
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