By: Charlotte Cheek ~Staff Writer~
On Oct. 22 the Center for Faith and Justice welcomed the Alta Gracia Worker Tour.
Alta Gracia is a Dominican Republic based company that claims to be the, “First-ever apparel factory in the developing world to pay a living wage and demonstrate full respect for workers’ rights.” The company, founded in February 2010, is known for paying workers more than three times the minimum wage for Dominican apparel makers. Additionally, the workers’ basic rights are respected and they have the freedom to join a union, something uncommon to apparel companies in developing nations.
According to the tour leader, Molly Gradowski from Ignatian Solidarity Network, 98% of clothes purchased in the U.S. are made overseas. The majority of clothing in the U.S. was created overseas by workers in unsafe conditions and earning unfair wages.
Gradowski was joined by two Alta Gracia workers, Hanoi Sosa, a labor liaison organizer, and Elba Nurys Olivo de Castillo, a seamstress and union leader.
Sosa, a member of the committee of the Federation of Free Trade Zone Workers, spoke about the benefits of working for Alta Gracia and acted as a translator for Castillo, a mother whose life has been greatly impacted by Alta Gracia. Castillo spoke about personal experiences with the company and her previous job at another clothing manufacturer. Castillo compared the two jobs and spoke highly of her experience at Alta Gracia.
First-year student Kelsey Tobin said she attended the Alta Gracia Tour as a requirement for her Spanish class.
“After hearing the presentation, [she] realized it was a great cause.” Tobin said, “One thing that really stood out to me was how bad the job market is in the Dominican Republic. The man said that all the factories are overpopulated and people often get sick, hurt, or even die because of the conditions.”
Tobin talked about the importance of knowing where your clothes come from and how workers are treated and compensated.
“If Alta Gracia can form a suitable factory working environment, I’m sure other places can too.” Tobin said. “It is not suitable for someone to risk their life and still not have enough money to put food on the table for their family.”
Currently, Alta Gracia is selling collegiate apparel. If you would like to support this cause, Alta Gracia made products are available for purchase in the All For One Shop.