Mitch Ellmauer, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
Are you interested in sustainable, worker-oriented alternatives to sweatshops and exploitative labor practices in the developing world? Of course you are! So join us this Thursday at Busboys and Poets for a discussion on labor rights issues and learn about Alta Gracia, the only living-wage, union-made apparel brand in the developing world.
The event takes place Thursday, June 16, 2011 from 6-8pm at Busboys and Poets, 5th and K location.
For years apparel executives have said that sweatshops must exist in order for their companies to stay viable, but Alta Gracia is proving that businesses can still make healthy profits while engaging in fair labor practices and respecting workers’ rights.
The factory was once owned by BJ&B, a Nike supplier. Like any sweatshop, it was notorious for its long hours, low pay, and poor working conditions. The workers organized a union and won a collective bargaining agreement with the company, an unprecedented feat in the Dominican Republic’s Free Trade Zone. However, in response to the union, BJ&B began disinvesting from the factory. On February 22, 2007, at the end of the working day, the company announced that the factory was closing and all of the workers were being laid off. For the next three years Villa Altagracia spiraled deep into depression.
In 2010, Joseph Bozich, CEO of Knight’s Apparel, reopened the factory. Bozich collaborated with the Workers’ Rights Consortium to develop a set of robust labor standards. Alta Gracia embraces the union instead of fighting it. Workers are paid three times the minimum wage. The WRC is allowed to monitor the factory to ensure that Alta Gracia is complying with its labor standards.
Panelists at the Event will include:
- Yenny Perez and Maritza Vargas, workers from Sitralpro at Alta Gracia;
- Theresa Haas from the Workers’ Rights Consortium;
- Teresa Cheng from United Students Against Sweatshops.
We hope to see you there!
United Students for Fair Trade
United Students Against Sweatshops
Fair Trade Resource Network
Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor
International Labor Rights Forum
Franciscan Action Network
Fair Trade Federation
International Campaigns at the AFL-CIO