Diana Karakos of the International Labor Rights Forum reflected on what she learned about living wage apparel from the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s panel discussion of the Alta Gracia factory last month.
The Alta Gracia apparel factory, located in the Dominican Republic, represents a living wage miracle to both the workers who are fortunate enough to have landed a job at the factory as well as labor rights advocates around the world. Financed by Knights Apparel, the factory produces collegiate sportswear such as sweatshirts and t-shirts. Knights began renovating the old BJ&B garment factory, which had stood empty in Villa Altagracia for years, in October of 2009 and in February 2010 began hiring workers. Knights even went so far as to try and hire as many workers as possible from the closed BJ&B factory who had suffered extreme hardship since its closing in February 2007. This experiment is proving to critics that it is possible to provide a living wage to workers, allow them to unionize in order to reach a collective bargaining agreement with factory management, and still be able to make a profit. Altagracia has grown from the ashes of the hollow shell that was the old BJ&B factory, an eyesore that only reminded villagers of their misfortune, and has flowered into the Alta Gracia factory, a building that now stands as a beacon of hope for the hard working Dominicans. [Read more…]