Abe Osheroff (1915-2008) dedicated his life to the pursuit of social justice. As a young man, Abe was active in community organizing efforts in his native Brooklyn. At the age of 20, he joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of U.S. volunteers who fought alongside the Spanish Republican forces in an effort to stave off the fascist Franco regime. It was in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that Abe’s deep commitment took shape: although he was wounded in battle, and Franco’s forces went on to install a fascist dictatorship that ruled Spain for 36 years, Abe’s willingness to put his life on the line for justice was not vanquished.
Back in the United States, Abe went on to participate in political organizing and social activism. He returned to military service, signing up for the US Army to fight against Hitler once the US entered the war. In the United States, too, his work required courage and commitment. As a labor union organizer working among coal miners in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, he was repeatedly threatened for his work. Similarly, when Abe participated in the civil rights movement, building a community center with residents of Holmes County, Mississippi during the famed Freedom Summer of 1964, his car was firebombed and he was threatened by police because he was working with African-Americans. His efforts later took him to Central America and led him to be a vocal critic of the war in Vietnam. Abe also returned to Spain in the early 1970s, where he produced a documentary film, Dreams and Nightmares, which exposed the US government’s support of the Franco dictatorship. For Abe, it was an outrage and injustice that his own government would lend support to a fascist regime, and particularly important that American citizens demand accountability for what was done in their name.
Within these movements for social change, Abe was known as not only a talented and courageous organizer, but a critical thinker. Once a member of the Communist Party — and persecuted under McCarthyism for his affiliation – Abe publicly renounced the American Communist Party when he learned of the horrific abuses committed under Stalin. And although Abe travelled to Nicaragua to help provide poor peasants with decent living conditions, and was deeply critical of US intervention there, he also spoke out against corruption and abuses of power under the Sandinistas. For Abe, no cause was more important than that of basic human decency, and the defense of the vulnerable against abuses of power – what Abe called “radical humanism.”
Later in life, Abe and his wife, Gunnel Clark, settled in Seattle, where they were active participants in movements opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abe also engaged in many efforts to share his energies with young people, among them teaching at the University of Washington.
The Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action and adhere to the principles that guided Abe’s lifelong activism.
For more about Abe Osheroff, please visit the following websites:
Make a gift today:
Contribute to this fund today using this link. To give by check, please designate “University of Washington Foundation” as the payee with “Osheroff and Clark Fund” in the memo line. Please mail check to UW Center for Human Rights, Box 353650, Seattle, WA 98195.
The Osheroff and Clark fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action. In 2016, we anticipate having approximately $4000 available to distribute; the entire amount may be issued in a single award or split between multiple awardees. The number of awards and amounts will vary depending on the number and quality of applications.
All hands-on human rights projects aiming to achieve real-world impact — in other words, to improve human rights — are eligible, whether the work is to be carried out in the United States or elsewhere in the world. In keeping with Abe’s and Gunnel’s belief that accountability begins at home, priority will be given to projects that speak to the particular roles and responsibilities of our own institutions (including government, private sector entities, and the university itself) in human rights.
- All undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Washington (Bothell, Seattle, Tacoma) are eligible to apply.
- US citizenship/permanent resident status is NOT REQUIRED.
Preference will be given to projects with the following characteristics:
- Feasibility. The project has clearly specified objectives, a specific and realistic work plan (including tasks and timelines if appropriate), and the candidate possesses the skills and resources to carry out the work required.
- Hands-on engagement. The project will have a practical human rights benefit. While it may be appropriate to also receive degree credit for this work, this is not a necessary component. The award places primary emphasis on real-world impact.
- Partnership. The project will be undertaken in conjunction with an established organization working in the topical or geographic area where the project is to be carried out. This ensures that the student’s work is viewed as productive and positive contribution by groups that are already active in the field, and that the student will benefit from the guidance of experienced leaders.
- Vision. The project clearly reflects the legacy of Abe Osheroff, in particular his insistence on accountability for the role of our own institutions (including government, private sector entities, and the university itself) in human rights.
To be considered, apply between February 20, 2017 and March 30, 2017 via the Jackson School Fellowship and Scholarship Application System at https://jsis.washington.edu/advise/funding/apply/.
You will be asked to provide the following information:
- Biographic information, status as student, contact information, GPA, unofficial transcripts, etc.
- CV/Resume with current contact information (phone, address, and email)
- Proposal that answers the following questions
- Statement of purpose describing the project, your qualifications to execute this proposal, and the project’s timeline. (approx. 500 words)
- Keeping in mind Abe’s and Gunnel’s commitment to accountability, how will your project bring about greater accountability for US institutions? (approx. 250 words)
- Are you, or have you been involved with any campus or off-campus organizations working for human rights? Which ones and what is/was the nature of your involvement? (approx. 250 words)
- A detailed budget describing how the funds would be used and, if applicable, how this support would supplement other funds, fellowships, and grants
- A letter of support from the primary organization with which you will be partnering.
- The names and full contact information (campus address, phone, and email) of two University of Washington faculty members who are familiar with your work.
If you have any questions about the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 Award Recipients
Bridget is a first year law student who worked with Human Rights Watch to document abuses of power committed by the US government on the US-Mexico border. Her specific research examines the treatment of Central American families, the privatization of immigrant detention and the impact of current policies on immigrant crime victims’ access to justice. Working under the supervision of two Human Rights Watch attorneys based in the Bay Area, Bridget will reviewed information obtained through FOIA requests, reviewed fieldwork interviews, and assisted with advocacy.
See below for a report from Bridget’s activities:
Thanks to the Osheroff-Clark Fund I was able to work for Human Rights Watch (HRW) in the US Program as a research intern, where I had one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.
The first half of my ten weeks interning was centered on the conditions of detention centers in the United States. Specifically, the research was focused on recent deaths in detention centers and the lack of medical treatment given to migrant detainees. When I first started my internship with Human Rights Watch, the US government had just released the death reviews of 18 migrants who recently died while in the custody of US authorities. HRW was working to release a presser plus, shedding light on these deaths and the lapses in medical care. Under the supervision of HRW immigration researchers, I assisted with the project in various ways including: requesting medical records, organizing and summarizing those records, reviewing the detainees’ segregation history within each detention facility, researching civil cases regarding detention center conditions, and evaluating the detention centers’ contracts. On July 7, 2016 HRW published a presser plus titled “US: Deaths in Immigration Detention,” which included everything that we had been working on. The presser plus exposed how substandard medical care and violations of detention standards contributed to 7 of the 18 migrant deaths. Human Rights Watch called on the Obama administration to stop using detention centers that do not provide adequate medical care and to end the use of solitary confinement for those with mental disabilities. I also participated in advocacy work surrounding the findings by helping with the social media pages. Reading about the terrible medical care and horrifying circumstances that the migrants are facing in the US detention centers motivated me to keep working for immigration reform.
Recently, there has been some major changes to the prison system. The Department of Justice announced it will cut ties with private prisons because of safety and security incidents. However, the Department of Homeland Security has not yet followed their example. Private contractors are still being used for immigration detention centers and the research reveals that immigration detention is inhumane. Because of my research at HRW, this issue has grown close to my heart and I hope to continue advocating for the end of immigration detention in the future.
During the second half of the internship I was given more autonomy and conducted preliminary research on different immigration issues. These research projects emphasized human rights related issues regarding: withholding of removal for asylum seekers, universal legal representation for migrants, and illegal reentry prosecutions. For the projects, I not only did legal-related research, but I was also given my first taste of journalism where I conducted interviews with experts across the country. Doing my own research allowed me to explore areas of immigration law that I previously had no experience or knowledge in. I also received valuable feedback on both my writing and research techniques in general.
In addition to my work, Human Rights Watch also gave all interns the opportunity to participate in the “Summer Speaker Series.” The speaker series featured HRW researchers and directors working on issues around the world. Some of these presentations included career advice as well as lessons on advocacy and tips on working in the human rights field.
All of these experiences at Human Rights Watch have influenced me to continue working for migrant rights and to pursue immigration law in the future. It also encouraged me to come up with ideas for immigration-related research papers that I plan on finishing on my own.
Murphy is an undergraduate student who is majoring in Geography. This summer, Murphy will continue her work with the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) Resistance campaign. Her responsibilities will include continuing the letter writing network that connects those detained at the NWDC with people on the outside, and people detained in other centers, to break down isolation among those locked up, share organizing strategies, and help protect detained organizers from being targeted for their leadership. Murphy was unable to secure the additional funding required to conduct research to work towards a new initiative that seeks to hold the City of Tacoma and ICE responsible for their role in exposing detained individuals to toxic chemicals (as the Detention Center is constructed on a Superfund site, deemed unsafe for residential purposes). She still hopes to find funding in order to do this work in the future. See below for a report from Murphy about her work this past summer:
Through the Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Endowed Human Rights Fund I worked on developing a letter writing project connecting people inside and out of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), one of the largest immigration detention centers in the country, which in 2004, was built on a Superfund site in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay tidal flats.
Over the past couple years I have been working with the Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDC Resistance)—a grassroots, undocumented-led movement that works to end the detention of immigrants and stop all deportations. Under the umbrella of the national #Not1More deportation campaign, NWDC Resistance supports and follows the leadership of those detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. As a movement we reject the paradigm that classifies immigrants as either “hardworking” or “criminal”, “worthy” or “unworthy,” and locates criminality on the racist detention and deportation system that profits off of the separation of families and the exploitation of undocumented communities.
Through the relationships built with NWDC Resistance, between people organizing inside and outside the detention center, and with the support of the Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Endowed Human Rights Fund, I coordinated a pen pal program between people inside and out, as requested by folks inside the NWDC. The aim of the pen pal program is to build a network of relationships with people across the walls of the detention center with the goal of breaking down some of the isolation of detention, and by extension, preventing or lessening the abuse folks may face inside detention by authorities. We see this as a base-building strategy, as people outside develop pen pal relationships with people inside, we hope that folks are deepening their stake in creating systems that don’t tear apart families, or restrict people’s life opportunities, and join the abolition movement to create something else.
I met and co-planned the pen pal program with one of the people inside. We came up with a set of questions for a sign-up form, I mailed in copies, and created a system for people to sign up and be connected to one another. We translated the materials so they are in both English and Spanish. We have 73 people signed up in the network, 53 of whom are folks on the outside. Of those, 94.5% speak English; 54.7% speak Spanish; 13.2% speak other languages, including French, Swedish, and Russian. Of the 20 people inside the Detention Center 60% noted Spanish as their, or one of their, preferred languages; 30% noted English; 5% noted Russian; 5% noted Tagalog; 25% did not note a preferred language or languages, but answered in English. I’m working in partnership with the local Black and Pink chapter, a letter writing network and open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other, and have ongoing dates set for folks to get together to write letters, learn about the networks, and get involved.
The $2,200 was used to pay for gas for organizers with the Northwest Detention Center Resistance to commute in order to continue to build relationships and support people inside. The funding was also set aside to pay for phone cards and credits for folks to call/email back and forth about coordinating the program. It’s important to be able to offer financial support for those services. It is not widely known how expensive it is being in detention, where the only option for making money is working at the facility for $1 a day, so sending an email that cost 50 cents is sending an email that cost half a day’s pay. Other funding received went to printing costs for materials such as sign-up sheets, envelopes, information packets, etc.
This fellowship helped kick start this letter writing network. The next phase is to host a series of letter writing house parties, grow the list of folks writing to each other—our goal is to have 50 people from inside and 150 from outside by next summer—build up a fuller website, and link folks with broader abolition movement work.
Thank you so much for all your support. Without the support this would not have been possible.
2015 Award Recipient
Jessica Ramirez, a recent graduate in American Ethnic Studies, spent the last several months coordinating with Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent farmworkers union made up of migrant farm workers from the Skagit Valley (an hour north of Seattle). In her fellowship application, Jessica wrote: “In 2013, the farm workers picking berries for Sakuma Brothers Farm, Inc. went on strike due to the firing of a fellow worker who approached the foreman for a raise. While on strike, the workers made a list of demands and grievances that addressed the conditions of working on the farm and the dire living conditions, wage theft, and harassment. After negotiations with the Sakuma Brothers Farm broke down, the workers organized a boycott of Sakuma berries and its major source-contracts which include Driscoll’s and Häagen-Dazs, the two largest buyers of Sakuma berries.” Six months into her fellowship, Jessica provides the following update.
Since I joined the boycott coordination team in January 2015 a lot has happened, from the local stage to the national level. In March, we started a campaign with UW to stop selling Driscoll’s berries at campus retail spots. With the support of student organizations UW became the first retailer in the Seattle area to stop buying and selling Driscoll’s berries. On May 1, 2015 we held a farm worker rally at Casa Latina where we gathered 200 supporters from area colleges and universities and the labor and immigrant rights movements to support Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ). It was a beautiful day where we joined the March for Labor and Immigrant Rights. The march led us to downtown where a rally was held and we heard from various activists, including the president of FUJ, Ramon Torres. Ramon delivered a compelling speech on why people in the City of Seattle should also boycott Driscoll’s and join FUJ’s fight for a union contract. On July 11, 2015, farm workers from FUJ and their supporters marched from Burlington, WA to Sakuma Brothers Farm. This annual march brought supporters new and old from all over the country, including renowned journalist and photographer, David Bacon and a fantastic group of faith leaders from the National Farmworker Ministry, who unanimously voted to endorse the boycott.
This summer a boycott committee formed which is comprised of a diverse group from faith, climate, food justice, and labor communities. As a committee, we have been busy at Costco, PCC, and Whole Foods holding weekly informational pickets whose goal is to pressure these retailers, by way of the consumer, to drop Driscoll’s berries from their shelves.
After graduating from UW this past spring, I have worked closely with FUJ and Community to Community—the organization that administratively supports FUJ—to grow the boycott to a national level. We now have campaigns to boycott Driscoll’s throughout the United States; from Detroit, to Kansas City, and from Austin to several cities along the west coast. While we were expanding the boycott, farm workers from FUJ went on four work stoppages this summer in a fight to negotiate and renegotiate the outrageously complicated piece-rate pay structure at the farm. In a powerful and courageous display of solidarity, farm workers from a neighboring farm owned by Driscoll’s (Valley Pride) also walked out.
This summer also saw a victory in the form of a ruling from the Washington State Supreme Court. Due to the nature of the Sakuma Brothers Farm piece-rate pay structure at the time a class action suit was filed in 2013, ten minute rest breaks mandated by Washington State law were essentially unpaid. In 2014, Sakuma Brothers Farm, Inc. settled the lawsuit and reformed their piece-rate pay structure. Despite the settlement, the Washington State Supreme Court still issued a ruling on the matter of paid breaks. The Court found that in the context of piece-rate wage structures, paid rest breaks must be paid separately from the piece-rate scale. Furthermore, paid break times may not be paid at a lower rate than working time. Despite this legal victory, and a few others that were obtained via the courts, farm workers at Sakuma Brothers Farm have not been able secure a signed union contract between FUJ and Sakuma Brothers Farm—but they continue to work towards this goal.
For the remainder of the year, the Seattle Boycott Committee would like to see our supporters challenge PCC to meet the demands of FUJ. PCC holds high standards for the products they sell at their stores, but what they have yet to do is apply these same values to the labor dispute just an hour north of their headquarters.
2014 Award Recipient
Sophie Jin, a first year student at the UW School of Law spent her summer as a legal Intern with EarthRights International (ERI) in Washington, D.C. ERI is noted for its use of innovative legal tactics, including the transnational prosecution of corporate offenders for crimes which conventional approaches typically fail to address. Sophie assisted the legal team on a range of projects aimed at redressing the imbalance of power between multinational corporations and local people that leads to the violation of human rights and harm to the environment. She researched and drafted memoranda on appellate procedure in the case Doe v. Chiquita, a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of Colombian families against Chiquita Brands International, Inc. for funding and arming paramilitary organizations to maintain its control over the region’s banana industry. She also assisted in fact-finding for potential litigation matters and drafted submissions to government agencies on issues ranging from human rights implications of domestic legislation in Myanmar to regulations governing corporate disclosures of payments to local governments related to extractive industry projects.
Steven (third from left) with Seattle Basic Human Needs team
Steven took a lot of pictures, which were presented to the courts as evidence. One of the pictures sent to us in a summary report of his activities was of a rat from an infested rent-to-own home where the landlord refused to pay for extermination. We will leave that image to your imagination; however, included above is a picture of Steven (third from top left) with Seattle Basic Human Needs team made up of attorneys, paralegals, and legal interns, which worked together on human rights in housing, healthcare, and eldercare in Washington State. Steven shares: “I loved the work so much that I am going to continue laboring on these cases and issues by volunteering through the school year.”
Angela Thurmond, a Law, Societies and Justice student, spent her summer aiding efforts to empower homeless communities in Seattle, namely those from the Nickelsville community. Nickelsville is made up of two camps of homeless residents in Seattle, WA and is often referred to as ‘tent city.’ As King County’s “10-Year Plan to End Homelessness” reaches its deadline, the homeless community in Seattle continues to grow and shelter space becomes more scarce. Nickelsville strives to maintain a safe, low-maintenance, sheltered space for homeless individuals, couples and families that would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. With funds from the Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Endowed Human Rights Fund, Angela was able to help coordinate several fundraising efforts to supply very basic amenities that the Nickelsville camp requires to maintain a fundamental human dignity in the camps — notably, an onsite Honey Bucket.
In addition, Angela worked with Nickelsville staff to help improve their online presence in an effort to reach a wider audience with their needs. Nickelsville staff learned to build and maintain an active email list, maintain their website, and manage social media campaigns. Angela and the staff also solicited the help of a freelance photographer to capture images of the camp’s residents for their website. By the end of the summer they raised nearly $5,000 for Nickelsville through social media campaigns and fundraising efforts such as a community pie contest. Angela wrote, “For many, Nickelsville has brought at least a basic level of dignity to the hardships of homelessness. Safety, security, protection from environmental exposure, and privacy all contribute to this dignity, but minimal amenities like the on-site Honey Buckets also play a huge role. Without them, residents would be forced to dispose of their waste the same way many homeless have to – in public streets and parking lots. This is not just a public health hazard; it’s a humiliating, dehumanizing process that creates a very negative public discourse around the homeless.” You can visit Nickelsville’s website at: http://www.nickelsvilleworks.org/
2013 Award Recipient
Emily Gaverick helped organize and carry out a speaker’s tour to inspire action among US consumers about garment factory safety in South Asia. She brought Bangladeshi garment workers to Washington state – in light of the tragic collapse and fire of factories in Bangladesh – as part of a greater US tour. The tour was designed to promote concrete measures that make US companies accountable for working conditions in Bangladesh. In addition to providing first-hand information about the conditions in Bangladesh, the speaking tour sought to convince Walmart and GAP to sign binding fire safety agreements.
2012 Award Recipients
Katherine (“Katy”) Lundgren ~ traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador to further relationships with factory workers on the ground. She participated in an eight-week internship, partnering with the Solidarity Center and United Students Against Sweatshops. She was placed in Managua, Nicaragua, where she partnered with local organizers to support strategic organizing in apparel factories there.
Janey Greenstein and Mina Manuchehri ~ traveled to Washington DC to continue their research in the US declassified documents pertaining to El Salvador and the repression that took place during the Salvadoran Civil War, through an unpaid internship with the National Security Archive. Mina and Janey worked in the Library of Congress and National Archives, both examining the documents that are available, and making note of those that are not, to fuel future Freedom of Information Act requests. We hope that through their efforts, we might continue to dig up vital information that can be shared with survivors of violence in El Salvador who are still searching for justice some twenty years after the war.
2011 Award Recipients
Ana Lottis ~ Ana traveled to El Salvador for two weeks, to work with COPPES, CHR’s project partners in the El Salvador History, Memory, and Justice Project, and create an initial inventory of the documents in their possession. She scanned and translated some preliminary samples of what the project’s full archive will later contain. In this sense, Ana’s work is one piece of a larger institutional effort, but a vital one in helping launch what we hope will be an important collaboration.
Geoff Morgan ~ Purchased new equipment and conducted water quality testing aimed at pinpointing the source of water contamination as part of the CHR’s Human Rights and Natural Resource Management Project in Guatemala. Through this work, Geoff helped establish the specific responsibility of agroindustrial corporations.
2010 Award Recipients
Erin Murphy ~ Collaborated with Ngecha Artists Association, Kenya, on art as a medium for promoting dialogue about human rights
Peter Morris ~ Completed a project in conjunction with Japanese NGO, Human Rights Now, to provide legal assistance to Burmese migrants in Thailand.