An ongoing partnership with Alta Gracia, an apparel company that pays a living wage to its factory workers, has resulted in the company making masks for the limited number of students, faculty and staff on campus this fall.
Georgetown will provide two Alta Gracia-produced masks to every individual on campus.
The university has purchased T-shirts from Alta Gracia for first-year students since 2014, and the university has supported the facility in a variety of other ways, including selling its clothing in the Georgetown Bookstore and providing comprehensive research on the facility.
Alta Gracia, whose factory is located in the Dominican Republic, typically produces licensed apparel for Georgetown and other colleges and universities.
Earlier this year, Alta Gracia decided to pivot from making T-shirts and sweatshirts to sewing face masks in order to meet a new need in the apparel market and keep workers employed during the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis.
“Not simply the support, but the continued partnership of universities such as Georgetown through both calm and stormy seas has been the cornerstone that has allowed the Alta Gracia Living Wage project to survive,” says John Allen, Alta Gracia’s COO. “The only way for that to happen is the continued support from the students, faculty, and administrators at top institutions like Georgetown, who through their voice and actions demonstrate their understanding of the need for equity in a global industry where so many are taken advantage of.”
Geoff Chatas (C’85), the university’s senior vice president and chief operations officer and a WRC board member, paved the way for the purchase of the masks.
“We are proud to continue our support for this inspiring enterprise in this new way,” he says.
Georgetown professors John Kline, a School of Foreign Service professor, and Ed Soule, a professor at the McDonough School of Business, have conducted extensive research on the facility. Soule is a LOC member.
“By purchasing these face masks, the university has thrown a lifeline to Alta Gracia,” Soule says. “Georgetown was instrumental in the launch of Alta Gracia in 2010, and it’s still leading the way today.”
Kline and Sarah Adler-Milstein, a former WRC field director, are the authors of Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry’s Sweatshops, which explores the history and future of the factory.
Promoting the Common Good
Alta Gracia’s living wage has allowed workers to pay for lifesaving operations, reunited families, paid for school uniforms and allowed workers to obtain their first-ever bank loans.
The book is a call to larger apparel companies to reform their operations to bring them up to the Alta Gracia standard, Kline has explained.
“Alta Gracia sets an example for the global apparel industry by paying a living wage and treating workers with the respect each of us deserves,” says Chatas. “In keeping with Georgetown’s mission to promote the common good, we will continue to look for ways to support this life-changing organization.”