A T-shirt challenge
Samuel Evola | Tuesday, October 25, 2011
On Oct. 7, a clothing company named Alta Gracia presented their Dominican Republic operations in the Geddes Coffeehouse. Student turnout was understandably low; it was a home football Friday. Nevertheless, this presentation’s effects should ripple through decisions for dorms, the Leprechaun Legion, The Shirt Project and the University as a whole.
Alta Gracia is the only collegiate apparel company that is committed to zero-sweat factories. Workers are paid full living wages, 340 percent of the minimum wage, enabling them to meet all life’s basic needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, health care and education for the workers and their families. Workers shared that this factory truly changed their life for the better, a first in the clothing industry. One individual only saw his wife and children three times a month before Alta Gracia; his other job was hours away. Others are exceedingly grateful for their economic empowerment and the ability to return to school in time off (their way out of poverty.)
The Workers’ Rights Consortium consistently applauds the work of this company. Workers are treated like humans, not shirt-making machines. They get breaks, reasonable hours and early departure on Fridays. If there is one company that allows us to act as clothing consumers according to the principles of Catholic teaching at the same time, I’m convinced it’s Alta Gracia.
This lies in stark contrast to the human rights abuses we know happen in most clothing factories. Adidas, one of the worst offenders, made this year’s Shirt and is under University contract. What human rights violations lay behind our $5 dorm T-shirts made by Gildan or Jerzees? We betray our position as the nation’s flagship Catholic institution by knowingly opting for clothing produced under deplorable conditions, especially when such a great alternative exists. Using Alta Gracia shirts for the Legion, The Shirt and dorms would send a loud, clear message to all who buy Notre Dame apparel.
As long as Alta Gracia remains dedicated to worker dignity and a living wage in the face of other company’s violations, it should be the only brand the University allows to bear its name.