: U.S. Antisweatshop Movement, Student Movements, Global Production Networks (GPNs), Collegiate Apparel, Spatial Commensurability


The U.S. antisweatshop movement is a major branch of Global North labor rights activism. We focus on the movement’s college student sector, which has been active and moderately effective since its 1997 birth. Using principles from social movement theory and global political economy, we examine (1) these student labor rights groups’ campus context, (2) global production networks (GPNs), and (3) how campus context and GPNs intersect to facilitate student antisweatshop activity and effectiveness in ways distinct from the non-campus U.S. movement. U.S. college campuses are places of pre-existing collective identity and dense interaction, facilitating antisweatshop mobilization. Collegiate apparel GPNs that source from the Global South contain both the student sector’s largest grievance and an opportunity structure of power relations that this sector seeks to engage. An on-campus movement opportunity also exists: a college administration which is beholden and accessible to students and is simultaneously a gatekeeper in licensed collegiate apparel GPNs – a spatially commensurate point of strategic leverage for a student antisweatshop group as it coordinates with production workers and their local allies. Thus, the student sector possesses certain advantages within a field of power relations permeating the larger network linking it to administrations and firms. Recognizing these distinct advantages and the synergy among them should usefully inform student antisweatshop activists and their allies as they mobilize support and formulate strategies.