How One Tiny Factory Is Challenging the Sweatshop Norm

Author: Sarah Seltzer, AlterNet.org, Published on: 5 January 2011

...a revolutionary new factory [Alta Gracia] in the Domincan Republic, started by one of the most conscience-minded college apparel suppliers, Knights Apparel, [is] a model and a test case of what can happen when wages are "living" and union organizing is allowed..."Before there was a union [at BJ&B factory] there was abuse, both physical and verbal," Martiza Vargas, a union leader at the old and new factory [said]...And then one day they woke up to find the company was leaving...Everything changed when [Knights Apparel], inspired to give more back to the workers for his company, decided to partner with the Workers Rights Consortium on a model factory that would supply apparel to colleges around the [USA]...The shirts and hoodies at campus stores around the country cost essentially the same as those from rival companies, although the labor costs are much more. The company eats the extra overhead -- it's not charity, but a smaller profit margin for the benefit of creating a sustaining living structure for workers..."Now for the very first time we're earning living wage," says Vargas...The living wage they are paid...is calculated by what can sustain the workers' families in the Dominican Republic's economy, including food, shelter, health care, and a bit of savings...[At] Alta Gracia...the union flourishes and takes part in meetings with management. [also refers to Russell Athletic (part of Berkshire Hathaway)]

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Related companies: Berkshire Hathaway BJ&B Knights Apparel Russell (part of Berkshire Hathaway)