Alta Gracia: Union-Made, Living Wage

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The Alta Gracia Story

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Ever since student activists first formed USAS in the ’90s, apparel corporations and college administrators insisted it was impossible to produce our schools’ clothes in union factories that pay living wages.  It’s time to officially put that excuse to rest.

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.

Finally an avenue through which to promote a “race to the top,” this business model defies the age-old myth that unions and living wages are impossible in the global apparel industry.

Alta Gracia Worker Tour

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For the past 13 years, USAS has proven that we’re able to break brands when they violate workers’ rights. For the first time, we’re able to also prove that students can make a union brand that respects workers’ rights and pays living wages. That’s why this fall, USAS went on the road with Alta Gracia workers to spread the good news! Maritza Vargas and Yenny Perez, two workers from the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic, and Gina Cano, former worker from the subcontracted Nike plant Hugger and activist in the “Nike: Just Pay It!” campaign traveled to more than 30 universities across the country to share their experiences toiling in sweatshop conditions against major corporations producing for our universities, such as Nike and adidas, their fight for union rights, and their transformative campaign victories with the support of USAS students organizing across the country.

Read Maritza’s testimony here and Gina’s testimony here.

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Support Alta Gracia On Your Campus!

Alta Gracia is competing with hundreds of sweatshop brands repressing workers’ rights to organize and paying poverty wages. USAS has proven with our recent Russell and Nike campaigns that we can break brands; now it’s time to make a brand and ensure that the factory will survive and expand as a hopeful business model amidst corporations’ fierce “race to the bottom” in search of the cheapest labor and poorest working conditions.

Check out the Alta Gracia Campaign Checklist to find out what you can do to support the only union-made, living wage brand in your bookstore!