Students Work to Promote Sweatshop-Free Apparel

Andrew Oh/UCSD Guardian

Following in the footsteps of UCLA, A.S. Council unanmiously passed a resolution on May 4 requesting the UCSD bookstore promote sweatshop-free apparel.

UCLA passed its corresponding resolution after a demonstration by students in February; the school hopes to increase revenue to over $16,000. According to the Daily Bruin, other schools, like Duke University, have purchased over $200,000 worth of apparel.

UCSD has carried apparel from Alta Gracia — a company based in the Dominican Republic that pays higher wages (or “living” wages) to its workers instead of minimum wage — since last fall.

According to UCSD Bookstore Director Don Moon, the bookstore currently carries T-shirts and sweatshirts from Alta Gracia. Four types are women’s items and three types are men’s items. These items have been here since last fall and some of the women’s items have sold out this year.

“We are supportive of Alta Gracia, we think it’s a good cause and we have some plans for the fall, so we will see what happens,” he said.

Right now, the bookstore has a hang-tag in place to advertise the Alta Gracia story, but next year, they plan on having a branded area within the bookstore to promote the company.

“I’m caught off-guard [by the resolution] because I don’t think it’s necessary to propose one,” Moon said. “We are making every effort to bring in more product for the fall, so it surprises me.”

According to Moon, bookstore officials are mostly waiting for Alta Gracia’s selection and graphics to improve in order to gain more customer interest in the line.

The Worker Rights Consortium — a nonprofit organization that serves as independent labor watchdog organization — established the living wage of the Dominican Republic with the assistance of 180 affiliated universities.

According to the WRC, in the Dominican Republic, the legal minimum wage is $0.84 hourly in U.S. dollars. To meet basic needs of their families — including food, clean water, housing and healthcare — WRC determined that the living wage should be $2.83 in U.S. dollars. Alta Gracia pays its workers $9.62 hourly.

“The WRC’s mission is to ensure that university logo apparel is produced in factories where workers are paid a genuine living wage that is sufficient to support themselves and their families and enjoy respect for all other basic rights, as embodied in university codes of conduct,” WRC communications director Theresa Haas said.

According to Haas, there are approximately 350 campus stores that carry Alta Gracia’s product nationwide.

“Our hope for Alta Gracia is that the factory will continue to grow and will serve as a model for the rest of the apparel industry,” Haas said.

Muir College senior and co-chair of the Student Worker Collective ­— the group that proposed the resolution —  Arianna Peregretti said the resolution is asking council to show it support.

“We are asking A.S. to support us in [the resolution] and to take the time to let the bookstore know that they are behind wanting to increase orders for the bookstore, community events, and conferences around campus,” Peregretti said.

Campuswide Senator Victor Flores-Osorio said he hopes council write a letter to bookstore management showing its support for Alta Gracia and other sweatshop-free apparel.

“When I ran for campuswide senator, one of my main platforms was social justice, and I see this as a way that UCSD can promote social justice,” he said. “I really doubt there will be much contention [surrounding the resolution] because this is a neutral resolution in that it promotes a clothing line and most people would agree that sweatshop-free is a good thing.”

Peregretti sees the effort to bring in Alta Gracia apparel as part of a national to make people more aware about their clothing origins.

“If you take the time to actually look up and beyond your schoolbooks and see things that actually affect the framework of our society, you will see that doing something so small like buying a sweater from Alta Gracia, you’re taking the initiative to say that there are more important things out there than myself,” Peregretti said.