Brown Student Labor Alliance was happy to team up with the Brown Bookstore to promote Alta Gracia, the only living-wage, union-made college apparel line, at this year’s A Day On College Hill admitted students event. Alta Gracia is a unique clothing brand that came about after a decade-long struggle against sweatshop conditions in the Dominican Republic. From United Students Against Sweatshops:
A decade ago, workers began organizing a union at BJ&B, the Dominican Republic factory making Nike and Reebok caps for U.S. universities. USAS and BJ&B workers struggled together through a series of unprecedented victories and devastating losses. Now former BJ&B unionists are making history again: At the Alta Gracia factory, the courageous women who led the union efforts at BJ&B are finally making university apparel with a strong union and living wages! The direct result of worker and student organizing for over a decade with USAS and FEDOTRAZONAS, the free trade zone union federation in the Dominican Republic, Alta Gracia is a groundbreaking factory that is monitored by the Worker Rights Consortium. The Alta Gracia factory, which produces university apparel, employs union workers that are paid a living wage. This wage enables the workers to support their families with dignity, nutritious food, housing, healthcare and education for their children. The ripple effect in the community is impressive. New businesses once shut down with the closure of BJ&B have re-opened across from the factory, construction has picked up, and Alta Gracia workers are going back to school on the weekend to pick up studies where poverty had forced them to abandon school.
This landmark victory for workers’ rights disproves the naysayers’ claims that the only alternative to sweatshop conditions is unemployment. These workers’ struggle shows that, in fact, worker organizing for just conditions can transform factories from sweatshops to sources of good jobs. SLA is proud to be supporting Alta Gracia at Brown, and hopes that the success of its promotion at A Day on College Hill motivates the Brown Bookstore to take a leadership stance to increase Alta Gracia orders, just as the bookstore at New York University has recently done.