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The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

Bookstore carries Alta Gracia clothing

The Saint Louis University bookstore now carries the Alta Gracia clothing brand which comes from a factory in the Dominican Republic that remains fully committed to the importance of giving workers fair wages.

Joseph Bozich, the CEO of Knights Apparel, through which the factory operates, stated that Alta Gracia is “the first apparel brand that is really repaying the workers not what is required by law, but rather based upon doing a living wage study”.

According to Debbie Schneider, the general manager of the bookstore on campus, The SLU Bookstore is at the forefront of this movement because the Barnes and Noble Corporation requires that all items sold in the bookstore be sweatshop free.

SLU’s store is chosen to test new products.

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SLU has been active in this movement for a long time. The Student Government Association also began an initiative four years ago to ensure that all products that bear the SLU name and logo are sweatshop free.

This ground-breaking new project is receiving attention because the Worker Rights Consortium has monitored the entire process, all the way from conception through development.

The WRC has been responsible for developing labor standards and the living wage figure, which is 338 percent higher than the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic, and is happy to report that Alta Gracia’s compliance has been “exemplary,” according to Theresa Haas, director of communications for the WRC.

The effect that the factory is having on the workers’ lives runs deep.

The president of the union and worker at the Alta Gracia factory, Martiza Vargas, shared her story.

“My life has changed quite a bit since I have been working there.  Before, I lived in a very uncomfortable house. All four of my children shared one room, and now we can each have our own space,” Vargas said. “That has been really great for me.”

There are signs posted in the bookstore next to the products that tell the story of people that work for the company in order to remind consumers that the proceeds go back to support their business.

“The products that the bookstore is carrying are both of great variety and great popularity since they have been introduced,” Schneider said.

“We have something for men and something for women.  The men’s [apparel] has sold really well,” Schneider said.

She said that the bookstore will receive a new shipment of merchandise from Alta Gracia in November.

Sweatshirts and T-shirts are currently available, but Schneider said that she hopes that sweatpants and long-sleeved T-shirts will arrive in the next shipment in time for winter.

Schneider said that she feels that student interest on the topic of labor rights and sweatshops has diminished in the past years.

“I know there is a lot about diversity this year, which is good, but this kind of diversity [needs attention], too,” Schneider said.

Schneider said that she is impressed with the success that the merchandise has had so far.

She encourages students to become involved with efforts for labor rights by supporting the Alta Gracia line.

“I don’t know of any other organization that will specifically state that they support a specific organization like Alta Gracia does,” Schneider said. “It has sold really well and we will take feedback.”

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