TCU students are supporting fair wages in the Dominican Republic but they might not know it.
TCU students tend to not know about what the Alta Gracia line does for the workers though despite the clothing line of t-shirts and hoodies being a success, according to TCU Bookstore manager Llisa Lewis.
Workers at the Alta Gracia clothing factory receive a “living wage” that factors in the cost of adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care, child care and education for themselves and their families.
“It was a long struggle for this victory to come about and it is due to the commitment of organizations in the U.S. and organizations in the Dominican Republic” Martiza Vergas, the Alta Gracia labor union leader said in a press conference Wednesday, September 14th.
Alta Gracia workers are paid $510 a month, nearly three and a half times the country’s minimum wage of $150 a month.
Last fall TCU was one of 250 schools that featured Alta Gracia products in their bookstore. Now one year later the number of schools featuring the line has grown to 400.
The idea behind the company is that college students will support the Alta Gracia line because it is socially responsible.
“I don’t think they truly understand the impact this has on the culture and what the people truly derive from it,” Lewis said.
Vergas said the living wage has done more for the workers than they could have known.
“The living wage has allowed us to further our studies,” Vergas said. “A lot of us have been able to go back to school and our children have been able to dream of a university education and also we can provide our entire family with good nutrition.”
Senior Spanish major Megan McDonald said she didn’t know anything about the Alta Gracia line at TCU.
“I haven’t ever heard of it,” McDonald said.
Lewis said the students do like the product and that the line has grown in the past year to include more pieces and graphics.
“What we sell at the register I always try to tell people about the tags and let them know what I’ve got to personally know through the videos about some of these people and how it’s truly impacted some of their lives,” Lewis said.
The Worker Rights Consortium is a labor monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe independently.
In a semi annual report the WRC said, “To the WRC’s knowledge, the factory making Alta Gracia products is the first export apparel factory in the Global South where workers are paid a living wage and have organized a union without interference by management.”
The report also said the Alta Gracia plant was most likely the most monitored collegiate apparel factory anywhere in the world due to intensive scrutiny. The WRC also said the factory has a level of compliance to labor rights obligations that adheres to the industry’s best practices.