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Hawk apparel supports labor group Alta Gracia

BY ERIC MOORE | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Buy a Hawkeye shirt, help support workers' rights.

Alta Gracia, a clothing line that emphasizes workers' rights, aims to do just that. The clothes are made by workers in Villa Altagracia, a municipality in the Dominican Republic, who are paid $2.83 an hour, three times more than the minimum wage of $.84 an hour.

"One of the big issues is that there aren't unions, and when they try to start unions, it's not uncommon [for employers] to fire all their employees or close down the union and move the company somewhere else," said University of Iowa senior Emily Sullivan, interned with Alta Gracia during the summer.

She will be a part of spreading awareness for the company through collaboration with different student groups this fall. She initially found out about the project through her involvement in the UI Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a group that signed a petition in support of the clothing line.

She says the line hopes to extend the concept of workers' rights to consumers.

"The goal is to have workers actually be respected globally, not just in the Dominican Republic, so this is kind of an experiment, but it's not like we're paying much more for the merchandise we're getting," Sullivan said.

The line is commonly sold at college campuses, and it has been available at the Iowa Hawk Shop for the past year. Knights Apparel, a company specializing in licensed sports apparel, approached the Iowa Hawk Shop via a representative for Alta Gracia.

"After we contacted them, and they had a line put together, they contacted us and showed us their apparel line," Richard Shannon, the general manager of the University Bookstore.

UI sophomore Hilary Schulte, an employee at the bookstore, said despite the line being mostly in junior sizes, the effect of buying its products is significant.

"As far as anything in comparison, it's made really well," the 19-year-old said. "It definitely, as opposed to some of our other products, has good intentions behind it."

Shannon said that while store officials haven't seen much movement with the clothing line yet, they would like to see more.

"We did a big publicity push and worked with a few groups on campus last spring," Shannon said. "We worked with about half a dozen people who are working to promote the product on campus."

Sullivan said she wants people to pay more attention to what they spend money on.

"It really doesn't take that much to help people," she said. "Just doing a little bit of research into where you spend your money can make a world of difference."


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