BY ANNA FERGUSON | September 26, 2013
Inspired by a talk given by Jim Keady against Nike sweatshops and in support of fair labor at the 2011 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, former seniors Jocelyn Wu and Tori bender from Creighton University founded the group Justice Without Borders, or JWB. Since its birth, the group’s focus has been making Creighton more aware of and aligned with fair labor practices as well as showing appreciation for our own campus workers.
I was lucky enough to meet with JWB’s current co-president, Haley Warren, to learn more about the inspiration for the group, what it has done on campus so far, and its hopes for the future. Haley is a junior pursuing a double major in justice & society and math as well as minors in theology and sociology.
Anna Ferguson: What inspired the formation of Justice Without Borders?
Haley Warren: A few seniors, Jocelyn Wu and Tori Bender, began organizing during spring semester of 2012. At the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice they heard Jim Keady speak about the sweatshops that Nike uses, and they were empowered to do something on our campus. As you know, the WRC [Worker’s Rights Consortium] campaign was the sort of “kick-off” campaign and the first major focus of the group. That was the group’s first major action to show support for workers around the world. And then the first Worker Appreciation Banquet was a way for the student body to get more involved in a concrete event that supports the value of forming relationships with our workers on campus. Obviously, it also shows how much we appreciate all that they do for us!
AF: How did Justice Without Borders get started?
HW: To my knowledge, that first semester, the girls got in contact with the national organization United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to find out how to start a group of their own on campus (which would be a chapter of USAS). Jocelyn Wu, one of the founders of the group, made it a priority of hers to meet one-on-one with interested students. Prior to one-on-ones, she educated herself on the history of USAS, as well as the history of issues with the Fair Labor Association (which Creighton is affiliated with), as well as the advantages of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). After the girls had gathered a small, but committed, delegation, we began organizing for the WRC campaign. At the same time, we were planning for the banquet!
AF: What does Justice Without Borders do? What is its mission?
HW: The following is from our constitution: “JWB exists to promote the development of student leaders and economic justice through community organizing, education, and advocacy work. To maximize its impact JWB is dedicated to living out the Jesuit tradition to be ‘men and women, for and with others.’ As an affiliate of national United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), JWB stands firmly with the ‘Principles of Unity’:
1. We believe in solidarity and are committed to walking with those who are marginalized and oppressed. To accomplish this, JWB recognizes that local and global struggles are interconnected, and work to organize other groups on campus, locally, nationally, and internationally in the struggle for justice.
2. We believe that the liberation of people is interconnected, and that systems of oppression dehumanize both those who suffer and benefit. JWB struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, and other forms of oppression within our society, our organizations, and ourselves. JWB also believes in the importance of reflecting on and challenging these issues.
3. We strive to act democratically by promoting participation and open communication to work for greater global equality.
4. We take a multi-faceted approach to addressing structural injustice. JWB is non-sectarian in its approach to the struggle against injustice. Although inspired by the Jesuit, Catholic, and Christian tradition of justice, JWB believes in a pluralistic community supported by open dialogue, respect for difference, and shared purpose and hope.’
As a USAS group, we work on solidarity with workers both on and off campus. While JWB works on international campaigns, we also focus on building relationships with Creighton campus workers!
AF: Would you encourage other universities to start a group like this? Why?
HW: I really would! It’s a lot of work to be the co-president of an organization. Plus the community organizing aspect of it all, plus the national connections you are expected to keep are all very time consuming. That being said, when you see the look on the workers’ faces at the Worker Appreciation Banquets, or you see one walking around campus and are able to engage in a meaningful conversation with him or her, you realize that all of that time and energy is so worth it.
AF: What are your hopes/dreams for Justice Without Borders?
HW: I hope that the Worker Appreciation Banquet will continue for as long as Creighton is in existence. I hope that it continues to get bigger and better each year, and that eventually a much larger part of the campus community is in some way a part of it. I hope that JWB continues trying to work with other fair labor/fair trade groups on campus in order to build up a student coalition that empathizes and advocates with and for workers on our campus and around the world. I’ve also always wanted our group to do a fashion show that features people looking miserable in sweatshop apparel, and then others who are happy and lively who are wearing fair trade clothing. This is more of a short-term goal that I’d LOVE to see while I’m still at Creighton. I think it’d be an awesome way to raise awareness and educate people! I hope that whoever ends up leading JWB in the future continues to try to diplomatically work with the Creighton community so that the administration is consistently open to our ideas regarding how to make our school better aligned with its mission. And I hope that the leaders and members of JWB never get discouraged when things take a long time or a lot of hard work. Grassroots organizing is a lot of work, and is hard because you don’t always get to see your results right away. It takes patience, and sometimes a lot of failure before you ever get success.
Anna Ferguson is a junior studying theology and journalism at Creighton University. She is originally from Wheaton, IL, which is a suburb just West of Chicago, and, yes, a PROUD Cubs fan! The oldest of six girls, she comes from a lively family who instilled in her a desire to serve the less fortunate and learn as much as she can about the world around her. She came into Creighton with the dream of becoming a big reporter one day, but the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, the service trip she attended, the volunteering she participated in, and her theology class convinced her otherwise throughout her freshman year. She couldn’t ignore her passion for service and love for the Catholic faith, so she tacked on a theology major, and dove deeper into service, social justice, and advocacy through her job in the Creighton Center for Service and Justice. Throughout these experiences, she realized that she wanted to use her writing skills for so much more than a big newspaper job. Today, her dream is to be a kind of missionary-journalist, engaging the world in the “gritty reality” around them (to borrow from Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach). (Follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaFeguson832).