Alta Gracia Verification Report
November 5, 2014
The WRC has completed our annual comprehensive verification report on the Altagracia Project factory in Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic. The Altagracia factory produces collegiate licensed apparel for Knights Apparel’s Alta Gracia Apparel brand. In addition, a team of public health scholars has published the first in a series of articles exploring the impact of Altagracia’s living wage on workers’ health.
The WRC conducts intensive monitoring of the Altagracia factory to verify compliance with Dominican law, university codes of conduct, and the project’s labor rights commitments, which include a commitment to pay a living wage. The WRC continues to find the factory largely in compliance with these standards, with the exception of one relatively minor compliance issue, and notes that the factory continues to go above and beyond the standards in introducing industry best practices. During this period, factory management and the union formed by the workers have continued to collaborate to apply benefits contained in the historic collective bargaining agreement signed during the previous reporting period. Given the small number of collective bargaining agreements in apparel factories in the Dominican Republic or in the region, it is a credit to the management and union of Alta Gracia that they have developed the skills and working relationship necessary to negotiate and implement this contract. The contract and its implementation continue to ensure that Alta Gracia meets and exceeds the standards set for respect for workers’ rights, and to far outstrip standard practices in the apparel industry.
The new article published in Social Science and Medicine by public health scholars from the University of California-Berkeley and the Stanford University School of Medicine, as well as former WRC staff person Sarah Adler-Milstein, compares the self-rated health and “subjective social status” of Altagracia workers with those of workers at another Dominican apparel factory. The study found significantly higher results for the Altagracia workers. As the authors note, their data suggests that the Altagracia living wage “may reap significant long-term health benefits for the workers, particularly women.” They conclude by noting, “While wage increases have traditionally been considered a tool of economic development, these results suggest that they also may be powerful tools for improving health.”
By collaborating with this research team from the time that the factory opened through the data collection process, the WRC, Altagracia management, and Knights Apparel enabled the researchers to take advantage of this “natural experiment” to assess the impact of living wage on health outcomes. Anecdotal experience has made it clear that the living wage and other Altagracia programs improve workers’ health in numerous ways, such as better nutrition, improved housing, and reduced stress. It is encouraging that the researchers confirmed that even within a relatively short time period – the first sixteen months after the factory opened – the living wage was having a measurable impact on workers’ health.
Many of you will be able to read this article through this link with your university’s access to the journal. If you are interested in the article and cannot access it through your university, please contact us; we are seeking permission to make the article more broadly available.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions.
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