RCSSCI 360 - Social Science Junior Seminar
Fall 2022, Section 001 - Organizing Ethical Consumers for Worker Rights, Fair Prices and Sustainability
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: RC Social Sciences (RCSSCI)
Department: LSA Residential College
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Upperclass standing.
May be repeated for a maximum of 12 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/29/22 - 12/9/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


Many people want the things they consume made in just and sustainable ways but the market often fails to meet this kind of consumer demand, requiring consumers, like workers, to organize and act collectively if they are to bend market dynamics toward their ethical concerns.  This course will examine historical and contemporary efforts to do just that, focusing on the apparel and food supply chains and the social movements, past and present, that have tried to change the dynamics of these sectors.  We'll explore the strategies and actions of these consumer organizing efforts, what they were able to achieve, and what factors account for varying degrees of success.  Our overarching goal is to learn how to increase the effectiveness of such efforts.

 The course will begin with a brief history of ethical consumption movements.  We’ll look at the first great consumer boycott – on sugar made on slave plantations, as part of the larger struggle to end slavery – and at three other important historical cases: Gandhi’s salt satyagraha, the first wave of the movement against US apparel sweatshops from 1900 to 1940, and the decade-long grape boycott organized by the United Farm Workers.   The heart of the course is an examination of six contemporary ethical consumer efforts: (1) the student anti-sweatshop movement that emerged on university campuses in the late 1990s; (2) the fair trade coffee movement; (3) the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) campaign, in conjunction with the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA), to improve the conditions of agricultural workers; (4) the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) workers centers created in multiple U.S. cities; (5) the Food Chain Workers Alliance; and (6) the emergent Just Purchasing Consortium.  We’ll conclude by discussing what generalizations we can draw from our cases, and reviewing a few of the academic debates in the ethical consumer literature.

We will meet with organizers and leaders from many of these organizations.  Students will develop most of the questions we explore with our visitors.  This will deepen our understanding of the challenges organizers face, how they are trying to meet those challenges, and how we might support their efforts.with research and/or volunteer time.  The course includes the possibility of doing such support work with one of these organizations under the aegis of the Semester-Long Project. 


RCSSCI 360 - Social Science Junior Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 6:00PM
8/29/22 - 12/9/22
002 (SEM)
 In Person
M 4:00PM - 7:00PM
8/29/22 - 12/9/22
003 (SEM)
 In Person
M 2:00PM - 5:00PM
8/29/22 - 12/9/22
Note: All classes will be taught at the UM Detroit Center

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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