We are United Students Against Sweatshops, a student group at UW that organizes for workers’ rights.
These are our demands:
- We demand that the University of Washington amend their Supplier Code of Conduct
to explicitly include incarcerated people in their categorization of employees
- We demand that the University publicly denounce the Department of Corrections and advocate for improved living conditions and wages, as demanded by those directly impacted.
- We demand that the University cease the purchase of furniture from Correctional
Industries, should the Department of Corrections fail to comply.
Click here to view all of the letters we have sent UW, and all the letters we have received.
We introduced these demands to the University of Washington on October 18th, 2019.
The University of Washington responded on October 30th, 2019, refusing all of them.
Here’s some direct quotes from the letter UW sent USAS:
“…few other options are available; in other words, because correctional industries and its equivalents in other states pay such low wages, they essentially undercut the free market.”
“I don’t find it useful to quibble about how “forced” the labor is…”
In terms of our own Supplier Code of Conduct, I would remind you that WA state law does not consider prisoners as employees, and that while the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids forced labor or “involuntary servitude,” it explicitly makes an exception for those convicted of a crime.” – UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
On November 12th, we sent a letter back, denouncing her shameless use of the 13th Amendment as a justification for CI’s exploitative practices, re-asserting our demands, and demanding a meeting in good faith.
UW responded on December 16th, 2019, refusing all of our demands, and refusing to meet in good faith. Here’s a quote from the latest letter:
“…while I agree wholeheartedly that we are imprisoning too many… and also believe that we should be looking for ways to make the prison experience focus more on rehabilitation and less on punishment, I am not at all convinced that the existence of CI does more harm than good in this respect.”
The University of Washington is committed to preserving its brand of progressivism and social justice. We’re demanding that UW put its money where its mouth is, and actually use the institutional power that it holds in Washington State to make real, progressive, institutional change.
The UW is not unaware of the violence and injustice of CI and the Prison Industrial Complex. Students have been demanding action on these issues since 2015.
Through direct action, we are putting the pressure on UW to act. We will not back down until the UW upholds its own standards outlined in the Supplier Code of Conduct.
We will not back down until UW respects incarcerated workers’ rights.