Duke sweatshop group honors Labor Day
DURHAM, N.C. - To commemorate Labor Day, several members of Students Against Sweatshops stood on the Bryan Center walkway before a giant T-shirt-shaped cutout that prominently read: "Remember Who Made Your Clothes - Celebrate Labor."
From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday, SAS members handed out fliers reminding students to thank their bus drivers, food servers and housekeepers who worked on the holiday, unlike their counterparts at other universities and some employees at Duke.
"We really thought that today was a good opportunity to raise student awareness about several labor-related themes on campus...," said Trinity senior Sara Jewett, an organizer of SAS. "We feel that all employees should have the day off today because having employees work on Labor Day is a...violation of rights."
Although attendance at the rally rarely exceeded five, members of SAS wished a cheerful "Happy Labor Day" to students who passed, enthusiastically chatted with those who were interested in the gathering and promoted the organization's newest goal-to create solidarity with other labor issues on campus. In particular, SAS championed student support of Duke University Police Department officers' attempts to gain collective bargaining rights.
The SAS members displayed a second sign that said: "Students Support Duke Police Union."
Jewett explained that the organization's interest in the Duke police force has peaked as the university administration continues to fight against the officers' desire for collective bargaining rights. A regional and a national panel of the National Labor Relations Board have both rejected the officers' union's request to have the right to collective bargaining.
SAS became interested in the unionization efforts this summer, when Jonathan Harris, a Trinity sophomore and member of SAS, learned that two letters proposing collective bargaining for Campus Police went unanswered by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and President Nan Keohane.
"The administration is not responding to its employees' wishes to start a dialogue about this issue with Keohane," Harris said. "We have learned the power that students have on campus when they rally around an issue, so this protest today is our way of sending a message to the administration to let them know that they need to sit down and dialogue with police officials."
Jewett said SAS got involved with the issue when some Campus Police officers requested the group's backing.
Employees expressed mixed reactions to the rally.
"The students have always rallied to the right cause, I think," said Royce Naillon, a University bookstore employee for 45 years. "We get paid double-time-and-a-half (on Labor Day). No one complains about that. We have it better here than they have it off campus."
Others were not quite as content to be working on Labor Day.
"If I had an option, I'd be home," said Shenita Bond, a Bryan Center housekeeper who just started working last week.