Knights Now Ready to Launch High Standards Apparel Brand for Campus Stores

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:April 5, 2010
Re:Knights Now Ready to Launch High Standards Apparel Brand for Campus Stores

I am very pleased to report that the project to provide apparel to university bookstores that is made at a living wage and with full respect for workers’ associational rights has now come to fruition. As you know, the WRC has been working for two years with Knights Apparel, one of the largest sellers of university logo apparel, to help make this ground breaking concept a reality. As this update from Knights Apparel outlines, the company is now ready to launch its new brand: Alta Gracia.

Knights Apparel has informed us that they are now in the process of contacting campus stores that have communicated their intention to carry the product and that orders are being accepted beginning with back-to-school delivery. We also understand that limited product will be available earlier for stores that have conveyed an interest in stocking the product as soon as possible. Due to the complex nature of this initiative, it has taken longer to get to this point than we originally hoped, but we believe this innovative program was well worth the wait.

The launching of this new brand represents a vital step forward for university labor standards. 

As we have previously reported, Knights Apparel and the management of the factory in the Dominican Republic have committed to pay workers a living wage, as defined by a study conducted by the WRC, and to pay a price to the factory that makes this possible. This wage is more than three times the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic and any collective bargaining will use this wage as a floor.

The payment of a living wage will have a transformative impact on the lives of workers and their families. Concrete progress on this vital issue has been a long-sought and elusive goal and we are tremendously heartened by the commitment Knights Apparel has made to this initiative.

The company and factory management have also demonstrated a strong commitment to full respect for associational rights – including an open attitude toward workers’ exercise of these rights, an agreement to provide access to the factory for union representatives, and readiness to bargain with any duly constituted union, with Knights Apparel as well as factory management sitting at the negotiating table.

Ongoing compliance with these and all applicable labor standards will be verified by the WRC and this verification will be reflected in a tag that we have agreed to allow Knights to place on the product. Click hereto see what the hang tag will look like (please note that the website referenced on the hangtag, which will provide additional information to consumers, is currently under construction). 

We will be providing further information to you in the weeks ahead, including the following:

An update on the work that has been done to get the factory up and running. Knights Apparel and local management have worked from the outset with the WRC and Fedotrazonas, the Dominican union federation, on all of the aspects of the start-up process that impact workers and worker rights. As far as we know, this collaborative approach to launching a new factory is unprecedented.

A report on the hiring process. Hiring is being carried out in accordance with a fair-hiring protocol developed by the WRC and worker representatives. The WRC has monitored the hiring process closely in order to ensure compliance with the protocol and the factory has fully honored its obligations.

An outline of the exemplary approach the factory is taking to occupational health and safety. Knights Apparel is working, at the WRC’s recommendation, with the Maquila Health and Safety Support Network, a US-based network of occupation health and safety professionals with unparalleled expertise and an innovative worker-centered approach to the issues.
We are very pleased that this groundbreaking product is now available to the university community. The fact that Knights Apparel, one of the leading university apparel licensees, is bringing a product to market made at a living wage, in a union-friendly factory, is a real mark of progress for university labor rights efforts. It is a pilot project, not a comprehensive solution to the challenges we face, but it is an exciting step forward and we are proud to be a part of it.

Ongoing demand is what will make this initiative sustainable. Therefore university support will continue to be vital.

As always, please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.

Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292
[email protected]