From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Minister helps negotiate end to Purdue hunger strike

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 10 Apr 2000 15:02:09

April 10, 2000  News media contact: Tim Tanton·(615)742-5470·Nashville,
Tenn.  10-71B{191}

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UMNS) - A United Methodist campus minister helped
negotiate the end to an 11-day hunger strike by Purdue University students,
who were calling for their school to join a consortium against unfair labor

The five - initially six -- students had been striking since March 27 in an
effort to get Purdue to join the Workers Rights Consortium. The strikers,
members of Purdue Students Against Sweatshops, want to guard against
official school merchandise being made with sweatshop labor.

The Rev. L. Stephen Cain, campus minister at the school's Wesley Foundation,
was contacted April 6 to serve as a mediator in negotiating an end to the
strike. Six and a half hours of negotiations led to an agreement shortly
after midnight April 7. 

Whether they knew it or not, the students were fighting for some of the
basic Social Principles of the United Methodist Church - an end to unfair
labor policies, sweatshops and inhumane working conditions, Cain said. "We
(the church) have clear statements about that."

The university agreed to become a provisional member in one or more
monitoring groups by this fall, if the groups meet certain conditions by
Sept. 30. Two groups discussed specifically in the negotiations were the
consortium and the Fair Labor Association.

 "I think we're all at a good place," said hunger striker Ben Partridge, a
junior. "I'm pretty beat," he added. He was suffering from exhaustion from
fasting and the long bargaining session.

Joseph Bennett, vice president for university relations, described the
agreement as "a new beginning." Searching for common ground helped the two
groups in the negotiations, he said. 

Cain said he sought common ground in language and concepts between the two
groups. "It's a sign of real hope that students and the administration can
work together for justice and resolve issues of deep polarity. To me, this
is democracy."
# # #
*The information for this story was reported by Matthew Oates, director of
communications at the Wesley Foundation at Purdue University. He is a senior
in Purdue's School of Liberal Arts.

United Methodist News Service
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