Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CONTACT: Gena Madow, 202 789-7756; Ira Arlook, 202 557-0979

New Brand of College-Logo Apparel—ALTA GRACIA—Pays Workers “Living Wage,” and Respects Right to Unionize

Worker Rights Consortium—Labor Rights Watchdog—Monitors Factory and Verifies Pay and Conditions

Alta Gracia is a new brand of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies made for the very first time in a factory that pays its workers enough to enable them to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care and education for themselves and their families—a “living wage,” while respecting all of their rights, and ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.

Several Hundred U.S. university and college bookstores will be carrying Alta Gracia apparel this fall and winter. Most have it in their stores right now and available for online purchase, or will have it early in September. Alta Gracia clothing will sell for the same price as other major brands and is of at least equal quality.

At the Alta Gracia factory in Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic, workers are paid 338% of the legal minimum wage or approximately $3/hour rather than 80 cents/hour. This pay rate far exceeds the standards in all university labor codes of conduct for suppliers. The wage was set based on a study of local living costs by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the labor rights watchdog organization with which over 180 colleges and universities are affiliated. The WRC has verified that Alta Gracia’s pay and working conditions are as stated and will continue to monitor the factory on a regular and frequent basis. All Alta Gracia garments carry a WRC verification tag.

Knights Apparel, Alta Gracia’s parent company, based in Spartanburg SC, is the largest supplier of college-logo apparel in the United States. It has committed to respecting all of its workers rights including the right to form a union. The workers at Alta Gracia formed a union shortly after the factory began operating this summer.

Knights also invited in the Maquila Safety and Health Network, an organization of U.S. workplace safety and health experts, to advise the company on how to ensure that its factory met the highest safety and health standards, before it began work.

See the NY Times story that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Business Section on July 18, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/business/global/18shirt.html?emc=eta1

What the participants have to say about Alta Gracia:

“This is more than a new brand, it’s a commitment to our workers, their families and the community of Altagracia.” Donnie Hodge, President & C.O.O. of Knights Apparel.

Our vision is finally a reality. We believe doing good can translate into good business.” Joseph Bozich, the C.E.O. of Knights Apparel.

“By paying a living wage and respecting the right to organize, Alta Gracia is making a huge difference in the lives of the workers at its factory. Alta Gracia is head and shoulders above the rest of the apparel industry.” Theresa Haas, Director of Communications, Worker Rights Consortium.

“We’re proud to be among the leaders in the university community promoting this brand. While it’s still too early to tell, we’ve had strong sales so far.” Jim Wilkerson, Duke University’s director of trademark licensing and stores operations.

“Alta Gracia goes well beyond philanthropy or fair trade projects because the workers who make this university clothing are paid a living wage and have a union. After battling with apparel corporations to stop sweatshop abuse for a decade, these workers finally have jobs that enable them to escape from poverty, jobs where their voice matters. Alta Gracia makes it unmistakably clear that brands can produce university apparel in union factories where workers are paid adequately, defying the age-old excuse that workers’ rights are incompatible with a global economy. We know that once students become aware of what Alta Gracia means, they’ll buy Alta Gracia. We hope that all parts of the university community will come to recognize the significance of this historic breakthrough administrators, faculty, staff, bookstore managers and students, and promote it.” Teresa Cheng, International Campaigns Coordinators, United Students Against Sweatshops.

“I am proud and happy to sew Alta Gracia clothes. Alta Gracia clothes are made in a totally different kind of factory where we earn a living wage and have the right to form a union. We have a voice at our workplace and they really listens to us! With the living wage we are all so thrilled! Every day I go into the factory knowing that because of my work that day I will be able to provide something important for my family. Thanks to the living wage, I know that we will always have enough food and I can go to the supermarket and know I can actually buy what I need. My two daughters just went back to school and this was the first year we didn’t have to struggle to find a way to pay for their school supplies. For the last year and half I couldn’t save up enough money to finish constructing my house, but now thanks to the living wage I have been able to put in a floor, glass in our windows, a bathroom, and a safer front door. Every purchase of Alta Gracia means that we will b e able to make our dreams come true. Thanks for supporting Alta Gracia which is giving our community hope for a better future. Elba Nuris, Alta Gracia apparel worker in the Dominican Republic.

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