AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow Jennifer Angarita joins Chris Hicks, Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) coordinator, to discuss the parallels between campus and community organizing.
Founded in 1999 as a joint initiative between Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) engages student activists with economic justice campaigns in their communities and campuses.
Across the country, students in local SLAP chapters meet to organize around issues that affect both students and workers. Currently, campuses are working together to campaign against dramatic state budget cuts that threaten the layoffs of thousands of workers and increase fee tuitions, which leave students with astronomical amounts of debt.
As coordinator, Chris Hicks helps student activists build relationships with local unions and community and faith-based groups and Jobs with Justice coalitions. Hicks said:
SLAP supports the growing student movement for economic justice by making links between campus and community organizing, providing skills training to build lasting student organizations, and developing campaigns that win concrete victories for working families while breaking the poverty cycle by fighting for access to higher education and full and fair employment.
Every year from March 28 to April 4, SLAP organizes more than 150 campuses during the National Student Labor Week of Action. Across the country, students hold hundreds of events to celebrate the lives of César Chávez and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and build solidarity between students and workers.
Before joining SLAP, Hicks, a recent college grad from Wichita State University, worked as a union organizer for SEIU. His first memory of the union movement came from his mother’s attempt to organize her workplace. The experience helped to expose Hicks to the collective power of working people.
For Hicks, the student and union movements have always gone hand in hand.
Students graduate [and] want the best workplace conditions possible. The interest of the union movement is the interest of the student movement, and that goes both ways. Students should care [about unions] because as soon as they graduate, the labor movement is where they will be. If they don’t fight as students to protect jobs, to stop corporate greed and to stand with workers, then they will be worse off for it. If they do those things, though, and understand that what directly affects workers, indirectly affects them, they will be much better off.