Activist college students, the Workers Rights Consortium and Knights Apparel have launched a new shirt for the collegiate (and we hope later general) market called the Alta Gracia shirt. It will be made in the Dominican Republic, one of the poorest countries in the world and a place where sweatshop producers love to have shirts made cheaply by exploiting workers. But the Alta Gracia plant is different. It has a high set of labor standards including full unionization, pay at more than three times the unlivable minimum wage of the Dominican Republic plus additional bonuses, a maximum 44 hour work week, an expansive nondiscrimination clause and regular inspections by the high-standard WRC as often as every other week. The Dominican Republic is close to the United States, minimizing environmental costs of transport. This factory will provide good jobs to the people living there so long as American college kids and alumni buy the shirts the factory produces.
For every factory owner, printer or shirt vendor who excuses their greedy choice of exploitative sweatshop labor by saying “It can’t be done any better; that’s just the way it is,” the new Alta Gracia shirt line answers with a big, fat “Bullshit!”
The very presence of the Alta Gracia factory and the Alta Gracia shirts is a reminder that apparel production does not have to grind workers into dust. If you’d like to find out more about the Alta Gracia shirt, including information about where the Alta Gracia shirt is being sold, sign up for the producer’s newsletter.
If you attend or work for a college or university, head to the school bookstore. Ask the manager of the apparel department whether their store offers an Alta Gracia t-shirt. If they do, and if you’ve got a few spare bucks, go buy one.