New product line made in safe work setting

For the past year, the University of Miami, in conjunction with Follett Higher Education Group, has been selling a new product line that adheres to fair labor practices. Knights Apparel, the leading producer of collegiate apparel sold in campus bookstores, has brought its Alta Gracia clothing brand to hundreds of college campuses, including UM. This is the first apparel brand in the world that is compensating its workers with a “living wage.”

Enabling workers to make three times the average pay and join unions without a fight, the Alta Gracia factory is a pioneer in fair trade garment production. Located in an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic, the facility holds 120 employees and pays them the calculated cost for food, shelter, housing, healthcare and education. The factory allows workers to join a union, exercise their workers’ rights and work in a healthy and safe environment.

“What makes Alta Gracia not another apparel brand is that it can be life changing not only for the individual, but for the families,” said Joe Bozich, CEO of Knights Apparel. “We can help create the opportunity to change the situation of these workers, which we believe is very rewarding.”

Workers at the factory are equally excited about Alta Gracia, a name that has changed their lives.

“The wage gives us a place to feel at home and a decent salary,” said Martiza Vargas, a worker at the factory. “In other factories, Dominican laws and international conventions are overlooked. At Villa Alta Gracia, we’re spread out, have better ventilation and, more importantly, they treat us with a lot of respect.”

The factory is heavily monitored by the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights watchdog with which over 175 U.S. universities are affiliated with. This organization publishes an evaluation of facilities like Alta Gracia to assure they meet fair labor requirements. In addition, the Alta Gracia T-shirts, sweatpants and hoodies will carry a tag attesting to the factory meeting Worker Rights Consortium’s requirements for responsible labor practices.

“The compliance of standards at Alta Gracia is exemplary,” said Theresa Haas, director of communications at the WRC.

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