Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hundreds of students stopped in front of Sharples last Friday to pose for photos as part of an initiative from the Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP) to bring visibility to labor rights issues on campus. All told about one hundred twenty-five photos were taken by SLAP, each one showing an individual student or group of students holding up brightly-colored signs with slogans like “Workers’ Health Matters,” “Labor Rights: They are your FUTURE,” and “I Support Workers’ Justice at SWAT.”
Given that many pictures included three or more students, its possible that SLAP photographed close to three hundred students during their two hours of activity. All the photos will go up on the yet-to-be-created SLAP Facebook page. Sarah Diamond ’13, one of five SLAP organizers present, says that “overwhelmingly people were interested and wanted to take a picture.”
“When you explain to them in simple terms, ‘Do you support these people? Do you believe that they deserve a safe and fair workplace?’ very few people are going to disagree with that,” Diamond said. While most of the signs were drawn by SLAP members, according to Diamond, interested students were free to select those that spoke to them.
SLAP, a workers’ solidarity group that seeks to improve the situations of staff members at the college, made waves last year in an exchange with President Rebecca Chopp over unionization policy at the long-planned Swarthmore Inn. SLAP complained that the administration’
This year, SLAP aims to continue the legacy of last decade’s Living Wage Campaign, an effort that led former President Al Bloom’s administration to institute a policy change. As a first step, they plan to build student support through campus engagement projects such as their photo campaign.
Emma Waitzman ’14, another SLAP member present on Friday, says that “our goal is to be much more visible this semester.”
That’s what Friday’s photo event was all about.
“If we make ourselves more visible, and we do things like the photo campaign where a lot of people are seeing us and their friends holding the signs, then as the semester progresses there will be more and more support,” Diamond said. “And more people willing to stand up with us and with the staff on campus.”
SLAP discussed their general areas of action at their first meeting last Wednesday. The list focuses on discrete worker concerns, such as the college healthcare and childcare plans, the Human Resources grievance reporting process, and the big kahuna–wage rate increases.
“We have been engaging with staff since all of last year… building relationships and creating the goals together… I think staff are excited,” Waitzman said.
All photos courtesy of Swarthmore Labor Action Project.