Alta Gracia Update: Full Compliance and a Genuine Living Wage
April 20, 2017
This year, the WRC has again verified that the Altagracia Project factory in Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic, has maintained an exemplary standard of respect for worker rights. Again this year, detailed on-site audits and off-site worker interviews have confirmed that the factory continues to pay a living wage, facilitate an active Health and Safety Committee, and fully respect Dominican labor law. See our new monitoring report here for a full review.
The factory produces collegiate licensed apparel under the Alta Gracia Apparel label and maintains a commitment to labor rights standards that are significantly superior to the industry norm. This was the first full year during which the Alta Gracia factory operated as an independent firm after separating from the factory’s original owner, Knights Apparel, in April 2015. As the report reflects, the Alta Gracia factory continues to meet, and in many cases exceed, the high set of labor standards to which it has committed.
Alta Gracia continues to be the only apparel factory known to the WRC that pays its workers a living wage. Alta Gracia workers earn wages more than three times the salary earned by the average garment worker in the Dominican Republic. This unprecedented wage has allowed them to ensure food security for their families, to make improvements to their homes, and to have educational opportunities both for themselves and for their children.
The factory continues to demonstrate full respect for workers’ right to freedom of association and to work with union leaders to address issues as they arise in the workplace. The factory and the union have now signed a new collective bargaining agreement, continuing a labor-management dialogue that has enabled the parties to jointly address issues of mutual concern, including the factory’s daily hours of operation.
As we mark another year of exemplary code compliance at Alta Gracia, I want to offer some brief thoughts on the uniqueness of this project. There are a number of brands making university apparel that tout extra benefits, or charitable programs, that one or more of their factories provide to workers. Such added benefits and programs at a factory are welcome and positive – but, as a complement to, not a substitute for, full compliance with university labor standards.
It is important, however, to bear in mind that what Alta Gracia has accomplished in the Dominican Republic is at an entirely different level from these programs – in terms of what it means for workers, in terms of its significance in the garment industry, and in terms of the labor cost the factory must bear in order to meet the standard. Payment of a genuine living wage is a transformative practice in the garment industry and a life-changing policy for workers. More and more apparel firms are talking about the concept of a living wage, but only Alta Gracia is actually paying it.
It is rare for a brand to transcend minimum standards in a way that is truly transformative. In the collegiate sphere, Russell/Fruit of the Loom has done this on the issue of freedom of association in Central America and Alta Gracia has done it by being the only export garment factory in the global south to pay a genuine living wage. We continue to be impressed and inspired by Alta Gracia’s example and we continue to encourage universities, as garment retailers, to support Alta Gracia and to help ensure its continued success. The company faces important challenges, including the lower labor costs enjoyed by its competitors, and university support has never been more important.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions.
Worker Rights Consortium