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Students Support Fair Wages By Buying Alta Gracia Clothes
Central Florida Future
Jennifer Pritchard

November 7, 2010
View the Original Article

The next time you are about to buy a T-shirt, you may want to stop and consider the clothing label it was made by.

Alta Gracia, an American-owned college logo clothing company, is making it simple for students to support fair wages.

College students nationwide don't even have to leave campus to buy apparel that supports factory workers earning a "living wage."

A few weeks ago, University of Central Florida's on campus Barnes and Noble bookstore began selling the Alta Gracia clothing label in its stores.

Unlike any other clothing label, the company pays its factory workers more than three and a half times their country's minimum wage, according to the company's website.

This living wage that Alta Gracia employees receive is based on calculations of the average cost of living in the Dominican Republic.

Junior Aimee Brown, a sports and fitness major, said that the clothing label is a great idea. Especially since they are of the same quality and price of any other clothes in the bookstore, she said.

"Knowing where it's coming from is even more incentive to buy it," Brown said.

The brand consists of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies with printed logos of more than 300 universities.

The company, owned by Knights Apparel, is the No. 1 one supplier of college-logo apparel at American universities, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company.

Alta Gracia is dedicated in giving their workers a wage that makes it possible to pay for living expenses and still afford to send their children to school. Many workers are now even able to attend school themselves, an opportunity many of them thought would never be possible.

Alta Gracia is also the only clothing brand approved by Worker's Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights group that allows the clothing label to carry their WRC tag.

This tag confirms that the product has been made by workers who receive fair treatment and wages. WRC has said they will continue to monitor the company's wages and treatment of workers for as long as their tag of approval is being used.

Although the company's headquarters are located in South Carolina, the factory itself is located in the Dominican Republic in a town called Villa Altagracia, meaning "High Grace."

This poverty-stricken area is suffering from a high unemployment rate and those lucky enough to have a job are making a minimum wage of around 85 cents an hour, compared to Alta Gracia's workers who receive $2.83 an hour.

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers decided to become involved with Alta Gracia a few years ago and have recently included UCF on the distribution list of more than 150 college campuses nationwide.

Because of UCF's large apparel selection, BNCB decided it would be a great candidate to introduce the label to.

Although the specific sales results could not be disclosed, Manager of Corporate Communications Karen Discala said there's been a great response from students.

For each article of Alta Gracia clothing, there are tags that promote the positive results of each purchase. One such tag shows a smiling factory worker who states "My son goes to school because of these clothes."

Zach Carter, a junior marketing major, said that the clothes are not only reasonably priced but are also supporting a good cause.

"With so many benefits, there really is no reason not to buy it," he said.

For clothes that cost more to make, it comes as a surprise that their sale price is similar to any other clothing label for sale on campus. That is because BNCB offers these clothes at a reasonable price to students.

"We're operating on a tighter budget than usual for this label compared to our other apparel," Discala said. "But it is something we are willing to do to show our support."

Although Alta Gracia is a new label on campus, its future looks bright.

"We are one hundred percent behind this company," Discala said."We have a long-term commitment to continue distributing their clothing in our stores."