Running a Successful Campaign: 10 Steps to a Sweatfree Community

Because political climates and organizing opportunities vary in states, cities and schools across the country, every sweatfree campaign will be different. The steps below are common to many successful campaigns so far. They are not necessarily in linear succession. For example, the goals evolve over time, and the campaigners constantly build the coalition and educate the public, both before the policy is passed and afterwards to ensure enforcement.

1. Define Your Campaign Goal
Decide which parts of your community can become sweatfree. Look to your areas of strength. If high school students and teachers are prominent in your group, you may want to focus on a school district campaign. If you have been part of a living wage campaign and have good rapport with the city council, you may want to focus on a city purchasing policy. You can also work to pass a statewide policy.

2. Build a Coalition
To ensure your message is strong and convincing, pull together a large and diverse sweatfree coalition. Think broadly. Reach out to groups that have overlapping goals with your campaign or have self-interest in the campaign, such as expanding their outreach to the local community. This will not only deepen their commitment to your campaign but also allow you to reciprocate support for their work. For example:

Local labor unions and anti-sweatshop groups
Immigrant worker groups
Faith-based groups and clergy
Asian, African, Latin American solidarity groups
Parents, teachers, and children
High school youth groups and university student groups
Community groups, peace and social justice committees, and human    rights organizations
Public health groups, environmental groups
Small progressive businesses

3. Organize the Group
Find a couple of people (in addition to yourself) who can take a leadership role. Find people who will take the core responsibilities, and others who will help when needed. Set regular meeting location and times. The clearer the expectations of everyone and the clearer the group process, the more comfortable group members will be.

4. Research: Where Does Your Money Go?
Research the major purchases of the institution you are targeting. For example, where are your city’s police uniforms made? If you can identify specific companies or factories, find any studies or independent human rights reports on them. Learn as much as you can about the regions where the uniforms are made. Also try to find alternative sweatfree sources where the uniforms could be made.

5. Evaluate the Political Climate in Your Community
Who are the members of the elected bodies that control purchasing policies for your city, town, county, or school district? Who will be supportive of your efforts, and who is the best member to sponsor the policy. In bodies whose members represent a variety of political stripes, you might try to get one cosponsor from different political parties. Also identify political leaders who oppose your efforts. Why are they opposed and how will you counter their arguments?

Students and unions rally on May 25, 2005 for the No Sweat Connecticut law.

6. Educate
Build community support for the sweatfree purchasing policy. Offer to give a presentation on the campaign at other group’s events and meetings or in relevant classes. You can organize your own speaking events. Invite experts to speak and show educational films on sweatshops. See “Fundraising Guide” for how to host a house party, and available speakers and trainers. See “Resources” for a list of current films. Hold letter writing events and petition drives. Collecting petition signatures is a great way for lots of volunteers to get involved and talk to people face to face (see “Sample Petition”).

7. Mobilize and Work with the Media
When appropriate, organize creative actions with your coalition and use the media to let your local officials know that you are serious about ensuring our tax dollars are not supporting sweatshops. See “How to Work with the Media.” Hold a press conference with your coalition and the official policy sponsors to officially launch the campaign. Members of your coalition can get on talk radio shows, write their own letters to the editor or opinion-editorials and pitch it to local papers. The media is a great outlet to educate the public about sweatshops, and win their support for the policy.

8. Make Your Case to the Elected Body
When meeting with decision makers, remember to:

Present the best-possible policy. It is much easier to negotiate down than to start with a not-so-good policy and try to improve it through negotiation. (See “Sample policy.”)
Bring evidence of widespread community support, for example, a list of coalition partners or endorsing organizations, petition signatures, or letters of support allies and important political constituents.
Anticipate challenging questions and be prepared to answer them. If possible present the decision makers with an attractive and well-organized packet of information that makes your case for the policy.
At a public hearing, it is key to have testimonies from workers and coalition partners.

9. Implementation and Monitoring
The policy will be symbolic at best if it is not implemented and enforced. Once a policy has passed, work with the administrators and elected officials to develop the implementation plan. In order to enforce the policy, they should commit part of the budget to pay for independent monitors and possibly additional local enforcement staff (see Policy Toolbox for details). Make sure your group stays involved monitoring contracts, researching possible code violations, and helping to resolve issues of implementation and enforcement. Consider building on your momentum to get the policy adopted by other institutions.

10. Celebrate your victories!
Celebrate when you reach your objectives, both large and small. Recognize the work of volunteers. Make it fun!