Student Labor Action Coalition Refuses to Surrender Occupied Capitol
Students Sit-in to Oppose Walker’s Plan to Transform Wisconsin into a “Sweatshop State”
February 28, 2011- After 11 days of students and workers occupying the State Capitol that culminated the stalemate between unions and Governor Walker over the proposed Budget Repair Bill, the Governor has ordered law enforcement to clear the State Capitol building of protesters by 4pm today. In response, the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC), an affiliate of the nation-wide student network United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), in concert with other concerned groups, has resolved to defy orders to leave the capitol, donning USAS T-shirts and UW-logo sweatshirts made in the unionized Alta Gracia factory.
SLAC has been responsible for mobilizing UW -Madison undergraduate students and instrumental in the developing protests at the State Capitol over the past week and a half. They have called on student activists in USAS, the largest nationwide student organization campaigning for labor rights, to launch a nationwide campaign, “Take Back Our Economy,” for action, education, and coalition-building, and have solidarity actions planned in more than 40 cities for March 2, including Columbus and Tallahassee, key sites of struggle for legislation that would strip away at workers’ rights.
On February 15, SLAC members sent a campus-wide email to all UW-Madison students calling on them to attend the first sleep-over at the Capitol and have initiating student walk-outs and teach-ins on campus. Members also led a protest at the Board of Regent’s meeting on February 25, demanding Chancellor Martin drop her controversial New Badger Partnership, criticizing her for exploiting the chaos of the budget repair bill to push through a privatization scheme that would restructure the governance of the University to enhance decision-making power for private interests.
“Over the past 11 days, we’ve built a community that has strongly resisted Walker’s attempt to strip collective bargaining and union rights to make Wisconsin a sweatshop economy. Students will stay in the capitol until we win the fight, and we won't surrender silently,” said Beth Huang, SLAC member and UW-Madison sophomore.
Students at the UW-Madison founded SLAC in 1995 to use students’ strategic leverage to campaign alongside campus workers at the UW-Madison and in overseas factories producing UW-Madison apparel, winning historic victories for workers’ right to organize. Last year, as part of USAS’s National “Just Pay It!” campaign, SLAC fought to make UW-Madison the first university to ever sever its licensing agreement with Nike, Inc. over the company’s repression of union rights and SLAC sees Wisconsin as ground zero in a widespread attack on workers’ rights to organize.