Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) students are supporting a living wage and promoting workers’ rights by buying Alta Gracia brand clothing.

Alta Gracia apparel is made at an experimental and economically progressive factory in a town called Villa Altagracia in the Dominican Republic. It is the first factory in the developing world to provide its workers a living wage and to allow their employees to join a union.

The Alta Gracia factory workers make items such as t-shirts and sweatshirts for Knights Apparel, a US-based clothing company that provides sportswear for universities around the world. The factory was created in response to officials and student activists from numerous universities who challenged and criticised the garment industry for producing university branded clothing at poverty wages.

GU-Q sells the groundbreaking socially-responsible new clothing line, which includes an extensive Georgetown-branded collection of t-shirts and hoodies. Shelley Ford, manager of the GU-Q bookstore (where the clothes are sold), officially launched the Alta Gracia line at Georgetown in Qatar by joining Uday Rosario, community-based learning administrator, and a group of panelists at a community forum to discuss social justice and the Alta Gracia mission to promote ethical standards in factory work. Ford said:

This kind of factory model, where workers have a lunch break, work-chairs with backs, and natural light from windows, is a viable model. It is sustainable. The clothing that we buy does not have to come from sweatshops.  Consumers have the power to make purchases that benefit those who make the clothes.  What we buy can contribute to garment factory workers having nutritional food, sufficient housing, adequate health care, and the means to educate their children.’

In addition to Ford and Rosario, the panel on social justice included GU-Q students Sherif Elgindi (Class of 2016), Indee Thotawattage (Class of 2014), Haroon Yasin (Class of 2016); GU-Q librarian Jacqulyn Williams; and faculty members Fr Thomas Michel, SJ, Dr Ian Almond, Dr Reza Pirbhai, and Dr Elizabeth Andretta.

The social justice panel and the official launch of the Alta Gracia apparel line in the GU-Q bookstore were part of the Georgetown University Jesuit Heritage Week 2014 activities. The annual heritage event encourages the University community to reflect on Georgetown’s Jesuit identity and values.