By Dusty Guerra
February 7, 2013
Lock Haven University will soon have a new club joining the wide range of student organizations on campus. Unlike most, however, this is not about sports or hobbies, but about making a difference both locally and globally.
The United Students Against Sweatshops, or USAS, was founded in 1997 and now has chapters on 150 campuses across the United States. Jesse Ballenger, Freshman, 18, a Social Studies and
Secondary Education Major, is spearheading the opening of the Lock Haven chapter of the USAS.
“I always wanted to do something with social justice,” says Jesse Ballenger. “During my World Regional Geography class, Dr. Nesbit pointed me in the direction of the Students Against Sweatshops.”
The USAS has a number of programs aimed at improving working conditions in the garment industry and at campuses across the country. Their stated goal is to hold accountable multinational companies for exploitation of people working at Universities and in overseas factories where collegiate apparel is made.
The organization is currently working with three programs; Garment Solidarity, Campus Worker Justice and Kick Wall Street off Campus. Garment Solidarity aims to fight poverty, sexual harassment and health and safety violations in sweatshops. Campus Worker Justice fights for fair contracts for low wage jobs on campus like janitors and Kick Wall Street Off Campus discourages universities from dealing with banks that deal with unfair or ‘underwater’ mortgages, where the mortgage is now worth more than the house is.
Ballenger’s vision for the new club is one that promotes fighting social injustice and offers opportunities for community service and awareness. He stresses that anyone is welcome to the new club.
“The USAS started as an organization for fair trade and then branched out,” Ballenger explains. “They address wage issues, unionizing and solidarity of workers at universities.”
Ballenger plans to attend this years’ USAS National Conference in Miami, FL on the 22nd and 23rd of this month.
“I just picked up the paperwork,” he says about his work on the new club. “I’ll be getting it started in the next few days.”