A Thread of Hope:   11 / 12 / 2012

By: Jacob Kushner
University of Wisconsin-Madison




"Passing through the black iron gate into the industrial zone of Villa Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic, you might expect to hear the clank of tools and the noise of diesel-powered generators that make its factories run.


Instead, the blaring horns of merengue music drift from the door of a small warehouse, where one hundred and thirty workers talk and joke as they stitch together thousands of colorful T-shirts.


During an age in which nearly all clothing sold in the United States is made in developing countries by workers who are paid just pennies an hour, Alta Gracia Apparel is not your typical textile factory: its employees earn three times the nation’s minimum wage of $150 per month. They get health insurance, a pension, vacation days, and maternity leave. They sit in ergonomic chairs and drink water that they themselves have quality-tested for pathogens.


With the busy factory floor behind her, Maritza Vargas gives visitors a tour of Alta Gracia Apparel. Describing how conditions and wages have changed for the better, Vargas, a worker and a union leader, says of the previous factory owners, “They didn’t value us.”


It’s hard to fathom that a decade ago, many of these same people produced hats for a company that paid them just eighty-four cents an hour, forced them to work overtime without extra pay, and sometimes verbally and physically abused them."


To continue reading Kushner's story clikc here: http://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/a-thread-of-hope/