The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Alta Gracia project helps workers


Prior to getting a job at the Alta Gracia Project, Martiza Vargas’ four children lived in one small room, and the family shared a bathroom with their neighbors.

She has now been able to build a new, much larger house with individual bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“This has really been great for me,” Vargas said. “You can imagine the difference it has made.” 

The Alta Gracia Project was created by Knights Apparel in the impoverished city of La Altagracia in the Dominican Republic.

It is one of the most unusual factories in the developing world, and in Vargas’ opinion, one of the most hopeful. This factory pays workers a living wage.

“This is the first apparel brand anywhere in the world that is compensating the people that are making the product, [not] based on what is required of us, but how much they need,” said Joseph Bozich, CEO of Knights Apparel.

Bozich, who has been in the garment industry for 23 years, is different than most CEOs of major clothing companies.

“We believe that we have an obligation to use our business to do more than what is required of us in terms of corporate social responsibility,” Bozich said. “Doing good is good business, and they are not mutually exclusive.”

Knights Apparel is based in Spartanburg, S.C. and is a major supplier of collegiate apparel. According to the company’s website, the Alta Gracia clothing line can currently be found in over 200 college bookstores across the nation, including SMU’s.

By the end of this year, they hope to be represented in 350 bookstores.

The Alta Gracia project arose as a response to the overwhelming outcry from colleges and universities across the United States for more humane treatment of factory workers. 

Keeping this in mind, the Alta Gracia project was designed with the help of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent labor rights- monitoring organization that conducts investigations of collegiate apparel factories.

“We are happy to report that thus far, the compliance at the facility has been exemplary,” said Theresa Haas, director of communications for WRC.

Haas says that the WRC continues to heavily monitor the Alta Gracia project and said that “no factory has been as heavily monitored as Alta Gracia.”

Need proof? It’s on the tag. The clothing produced in this factory is the only line to carry the WRC’s seal of approval on every piece of clothing it produces.

Because the workers are paid more than the typical wage for a factory worker, the prices for Alta Gracia products are higher than your average spirit wear purchase.

These products will typically fall within the range of what you would pay for a t-shirt from Nike or Champion.

Even though this is more than what you might pay for any other brand of clothing, Teresa Cheng, the international campaigns coordinator for United Students Against Sweatshops, said that she isn’t worried.

“When students become aware of what Alta Gracia means, then they will buy Alta Gracia products,” Cheng said.

In her opinion, students will understand the “significance” of buying products from factories that make it possible for workers to live a healthy life.


SMU junior and theater major Janielle Kastner agrees.

“If I was deciding between different college apparel, that would make a difference for me,” said Kastner, who believes that it is important to support factories that pay their workers a living wage.

“Because if I’m going to buy expensive college spirit wear, I can afford to allocate my resources to help someone else,” she said.

Vargas said that this healthy lifestyle is evident in comparison to the experience she has had working at other factories in the Dominican Republic.

She described dangerous and cramped working conditions where dust filled the air and where there was no ventilation.

“There were serious accidents,” Vargas said. “At one factory, they were sealing the roof while people worked, and many people became sick.”


Vargas says that the conditions at Alta Gracia exceeded her expectations.

The workers are spread out in a ventilated factory, the emergency exits are clearly marked, the bathrooms are updated and well kept, and there are extractors in the air to ensure that the workers are not breathing in dust.

But most importantly, the managers treat the workers with respect.

“We go home happy,” Vargas said.


SMU’s bookstore currently carries a large selection of Alta Gracia products, all proudly tagged with the special certification from the WRC.

Junior Courtney Cross recently bought a grey sweater from the Alta Gracia line. She said knowing that the workers were being paid fairly was one of the reasons she chose to buy it.

“I think that most people don’t realize that cheap clothing affects the person who works to make it; it was definitely a big factor,” Cross said.

She said that she believes that SMU could do a better job of letting students know that the Alta Gracia line is available in the bookstore.

“The tags are on the clothes, but there is no special display,” Cross said.

“I think it’s important to point these things out. It can only be good for their business.”  

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