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United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (L.E.A.P) Records

 Collection
Identifier: LAC0016

Scope and Contents

This collection houses the correspondence and office records of Executive Director Stephen Coats and other staffers from the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP). It's mission was promoting full respect for labor rights globally, and securing economic justice for workers in Latin America and the Caribbeann. Materials included are Stephen Coats' conference and research notes, drafts of various USLEAP newsletters and reports, assorted activist literature, newspaper clippings, and both internal and official communications, the bulk of which are printed emails. Materials are dated from 1983 to 2013.

Dates

  • 1983-2013

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Executive Director Stephen Coats was born in northern Thailand in 1952. His parents, the Reverend Robert and Patricia Coats, were Baptist missionaries that ministered small, remote villages inhabited by the ethnic Karen group straddling the northern Burma/Myanmar border. Growing up in these communities, Stephen Coats would remain an active church member and supporter of present-day religious missions serving Karen refugees.

After moving to the United States to finish his senior year in high school, Stephen Coats pursued undergraduate studies at New College in Sarasota, Florida. He then studied theology at Yale Divinity School under Rev. William Sloane Coffin, and obtained his divinity degree and Master's Degree in Economics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Consequently, Coats sought a career with Bread for the World, an anti-poverty group focusing on ending global hunger and disease through a Christian citizen's movement. As the organization's policy director, Coats worked on global and domestic food aid, labor standards in trade pacts, and expansions of Earned Income Tax Credit. Here he also met his wife of 31 years, Kim Bobo (founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Worker Justice group)and the couple would later move to Chicago in 1987.

In 1990, Stephen Coats became Executive Director U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project (USGLEP), as it was then-known, and moved its main office to Chicago. The organization had been founded three years earlier within the New York City headquarters of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU), through the efforts of Dave Dyson, ACTWU Union Label Director. Within its first ten years, USGLEP campaigned against poor working conditions and labor code violations in the coffee and apparel manufacturing (or "maquiladora") export sectors solely in Guatemala. By 1998, the organization changed its name to USLEAP to reflect its expanded mission to support labor organizing in banana, coffee, and flower commodity export sectors throughout the Western Hemisphere.

A key principle of USLEAP under Stephen Coats was building horizontal relationships with Latin American workers organizations, serving as a "go-to group" for coordinating among various labor, religious, and non-governmental groups while defering to the interests of their allies. In the United States, Coats and other USLEAP staffers organized campaigns for negotiating corporate codes of conduct for companies like Chiquita, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms expanding in Latin America. USLEAP staff members lobbied Members of Congress and their staffers through grass roots action alerts, workshops, and press conferences on impunity and inadequate labor protections in U.S. trade agreements. USLEAP also communicated with the Department of Labor and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by filing charges for labor rights infringment under U.S. law. While not considering itself a research organization, USLEAP also produced briefing materials, reports, and econometric trade data to keep Latin American unions informed on policy debates within the United States. Finally, Coats sought to combat impunity by giving financial support and protection to trade union leaders targeted by death threats and attempted assassinations in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia.

On April 2, 2013, Stephen Coats passed away from a heart attack at the age of 61. He is survived by Kim, his twin sons Eric and Benjamin Coats, and his siblings Margaret Spors, Mark Coats, John Coats and Scott Coats.

Extent

124.5 Linear Feet

Language

English

Overview

This collection houses the correspondence and office records of Executive Director Stephen Coats and other staffers from the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP). It's mission was promoting full respect for labor rights globally, and securing economic justice for workers in Latin America and the Caribbeann. Materials included are Stephen Coats' conference and research notes, drafts of various USLEAP newsletters and reports, assorted activist literature, newspaper clippings, and both internal and official communications, the bulk of which are printed emails. Materials are dated from 1983 to 2013.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into 8 series: Labor Organizing and Trade, Fair Trade, Newsletters, Maquiladora/Sweatshop Campaigns, Board Materials, U.S. Media, Stephen Coats Papers, and Audio, Digital, and Video Recordings. Materials within each series are organized chronologically by year.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the United States Labor Education in the Americas, 2014 [2014.014].
Title
Guide to the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (L.E.A.P) records, "1983-2013
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America