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Documentary explores Alta Gracia’s success

Staff Reporter

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 00:04

The Alta Gracia documentary showing involved a Skype session with the owner of the company.

ELIZABETH EA / THE VILLANOVAN

 

 “Tejid@s Junt@s,” a film about Alta Gracia, a fair labor factory in the Dominican Republic, was screened in Connelly Center Cinema on Tuesday,  April 24.

At the conclusion of the 30-minute documentary by Will Delphia of Hampshire College, the audience groaned. 

Junior Melissa Madden, on behalf of Villanova Students for Alta Gracia and Business Without Borders, stated that the University Bookstore reneged on its promise to increase orders of student apparel manufactured by Alta Gracia.

“This is not a very good reflection of Villanova,” she says.

To date, this film has premiered at almost one hundred colleges across the nation. It shares the story of a BJ&B, an apparel factory in Villa Alta Gracia, Domincan Republic. 

Nearly 85 percent of the town’s working population was employed by BJ&B, but these workers often suffered verbal and physical mistreatment. Their wages were barely enough to help them scrape by. 

However, things changed significantly when a group of women crusaded for the worker’s rights, demanding better conditions and living wages. These changes were implemented just over a year ago, resulting in a dramatic turnaround for the factory and its workers.

Knights Apparel, the American business that now owns Alta Gracia, affords all workers rights and treats them with the respect they deserve. 

Alta Gracia does not discriminate when hiring. According to factory worker Mariza Vargas, “Even women in the late stages of pregnancy can get a job at the factory.”

Alta Gracia is monitored by the Worker Rights Consortium, which approves of the company’s fair labor practices. Alta Gracia is also supported by United Students Against Sweatshops.

Alta Gracia exclusively manufactures T-shirts and sweatshirts for colleges. For the last two years, it has garnered the support of colleges throughout the U.S.

Madden visited the Alta Gracia factory last fall and has pushed for the University Shop to purchase Alta Gracia apparel.

“The successful union lets us claim and fight for our rights, but Alta Gracia only continues to succeed with the support of college students in the United States,”  Vargas says. 

Student representatives ended the documentary by detailing the “intense” logistics involved in getting Alta Gracia products to be sold in the bookstore. 

Although Villanova is an affiliate of the Worker Rights Consortium, previously, products from Alta Gracia—the only WRC-approved company—were not sold at the bookstore. 

A small order was finally shipped to campus this week, but student representatives expressed confusion as to why the bookstore made this so difficult, especially considering that Alta Gracia does not cost the bookstore or students any more money. 

“What we can do is to go to the bookstore and get everyone we can to purchase Alta Gracia products,” Madden says, promoting the company’s ethics.

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