The beginning of the movement: My experience with the USAS

Dylan Webb is a teaching English as a second language major. Contact him at [email protected].

Dylan Webb

This weekend I embarked with the Kent State chapter of USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops) to Pittsburgh for the 2016 United Students Against Sweatshops National Conference. In a small amount of time, I learned vast amounts of political knowledge about the true economic and political landscape of America. Despite what it seems, it is truly becoming even worse than we could have imagined.

We demonstrated in the streets of Pittsburgh for our cause against sweatshop labor and unreasonable worker rights domestically. We heard speeches from adjunct professors and nurses barely making ends meet due to low wages. We met some of the most dedicated activists of our generation: the students at Alabama State University who brought down the Confederate flag at the Mississippi state capital and groups who had convinced their schools to stop making contracts with Nike due to their use of sweatshop labor.

We can see some of the unfair ethical practices here at Kent in order for the administration to maximize profit. As I talked to some of the workers at the Oscar Ritchie Café, I found much to my disbelief that not only are they not allowed to take tips, but they make a raise of only 5 cents a semester. In this case, even by the end of working for seven semesters – which is highly unlikely – their raise at the end of the week would only be enough to get an extra drink, which they’ll probably need. These kind of raises aren’t anything that one can feasibly live on or even get anywhere near paying the costs for college or even textbooks.

I feel as if the primaries have made us a divided generation. We get swept up by the political drama of the ignorant, racist business man, or by the kindly, borderline-socialist old man versus the soulless successor of a political dynasty. Yet in this way, we forget the elephant in the room: the fact that our financial system is crashing once more and is poised to make a generation of a few super wealthy and the rest a working class bound by debt. Simply put, no one person can save this generation from crippling debt, corporate slavery or the inhumane treatment of workers domestic and abroad. Instead, it is up to us to make this country great again—not for a select elite class but for everyone.

It is better we stand up strongly united to obtain our rights as students, and as paying customers we deserve our rights such as reasonable tuition prices and meaningful representation in matters affecting students. Instead these matters are hidden behind closed doors with the untrustworthy board of trustees. We need set aside these differences, come together over these issues that are universal, and create an official student union.

At Kent State University, a university known worldwide for keeping student political activism alive, we would shame ourselves not to start this movement towards a brighter day to stop these corporate goons from putting leashes of debt and the chains of poverty on us. We must have hope against a world that tries to makes us miserable and ineffective. As in the words of Halie Selassie I, “With faith courage and a just cause even now can David still beat Goliath.”

Dylan Webb is an opinion columnist for the Kent Stater. For more information contact him at [email protected]