Background

Alta Gracia apparel was established on the former site of the BJ&B cap factory, which was the site of a major success story in achieving university code compliance and respect for workers’ rights. In 2001-2002, workers, students, universities, and international labor rights organizations worked together to address serious violations of labor standards at this factory. Following these efforts, BJ&B became one of the first free trade zone factories in the Dominican Republic where workers were able to exercise their right to unionize and to sign a collective bargaining agreement that included wages and benefits above the legal minimum.

Factories located in the free trade zone, particularly BJ&B, were the largest source of employment in the town of Villa Altagracia for nearly two decades; BJ&B itself was once the largest headwear factories in Latin America. Unfortunately, the factory closed in 2007. Its closure had a tremendous impact on the town’s local economy and forced many people to travel far distances to find new employment.

Alta Gracia began its operations, making university logo t-shirts and sweatshirts, in April 2010. The factory is housed in a one-story, warehouse-style building with a large, open production floor, storage areas for fabric and finished goods, administrative offices, and several outdoor eating areas.

Currently, the factory employs approximately 130 workers who are organized into several departments: cutting, sewing, inspection, packing, maintenance, and administration.

Collective Bargaining Agreements at Alta Gracia

Shortly after the factory opened, workers formed the SITRALPRO union (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Altagracia Project). Since 2013, workers at Alta Gracia have enjoyed benefits and working conditions collectively negotiated by the workers with management. Collective bargaining agreements, or contracts between factory workers and management, are rare in the apparel industry. In the global apparel sector, few factories have agreed to negotiate in good faith with unions or to grant wages and benefits above the legal minimum standards. Collective bargaining agreements are important not only because of the improved wages and conditions that they provide, but because they establish a clear framework by which workers can raise concerns with management.

The worker leaders of SITRALPRO and Alta Gracia factory management signed the first collective bargaining agreement at the factory, valid for a period of two years, in 2013. As noted in this WRC report, the agreement memorialized the factory’s commitment to pay a living wage and to uphold excellent standards with regard to factory conditions. It also established a schedule of wage increases and additional benefits above the requirements of law, including production bonuses, academic scholarships for workers and their children, school supplies for workers’ children, gift baskets for workers during the holidays, and financial support for union-organized holiday celebrations.

The second collective bargaining agreement between the union and factory management was negotiated in 2015. It upheld the benefits of the 2013 agreement and provided workers with additional benefits, including a commitment by the company to make an initial, one-time contribution to the union to fund a worker-led savings and loan cooperative to provide loans at competitive rates and allow workers access to saving accounts.