Factory Defies Sweatshop Label, But Can It Thrive?2.27.2012
The New York Times - By Steven Greenhouse - July 17, 2010 SITTING in her tiny living room here, Santa Castillo beams about the new house that she and her husband are building directly behind the wooden shack where they now live.
The New York Times - By Steven Greenhouse - July 17, 2010
The new home will be four times bigger, with two bedrooms and an indoor bathroom; the couple and their three children now share a windowless bedroom and rely on an outhouse two doors away.
Ms. Castillo had long dreamed of a bigger, sturdier house, but three months ago something happened that finally made it possible: she landed a job at one of the world’s most unusual garment factories. Industry experts say it is a pioneer in the developing world because it pays a “living wage” — in this case, three times the average pay of the country’s apparel workers — and allows workers to join a union without a fight.
“We never had the opportunity to make wages like this before,” says Ms. Castillo, a soft-spoken woman who earns $500 a month. “I feel blessed.”
The factory is a high-minded experiment, a response to appeals from myriad university officials and student activists that the garment industry stop using poverty-wage sweatshops. It has 120 employees and is owned by Knights Apparel, a privately held company based in Spartanburg, S.C., that is the leading supplier of college-logo apparel to American universities, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company.
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photo credit: Michael Kamber/New York Times