Tag Archives: Knights Apparel

The Alta Gracia story – Sweatfree Collegiate Apparel

Knights Apparel founded the Alta Gracia collegiate apparel factory in the Dominican Republic to pay the workers a living wage. Many collegiate bookstores, including the University of Houston and my alma mater for my bachelors degree, Penn State University now carry Alta Gracia apparel.

Alta Gracia display at the Penn State bookstore

Here’s another picture I took a couple of weeks ago in the Penn State bookstore:

Alta Gracia display

You can support the workers by purchasing your UH Cougar Alta Gracia clothes at the bookstore on campus or online right here.

Here’s a video about the factory:

Tim O’Brien, PhD


Sweatfree clothes @ UH Bookstore!

You can now buy sweat free collegiate apparel at the U of H bookstore on the main campus in the University Center! Yes it’s true! This is the Knights Apparel initiative that we blogged about earlier. The brand name is Alta Garcia

When we existed on U of Houston campus from Fall 2007 until Spring 2009 we did a lot of great stuff, including winning our campaign to get the University to join the Worker Rights Consortium.

We forced the University to become the first school in Texas to do so. We also demanded that they stock Alta Garcia apparel when their factory opened in the Dominican Republic. Now that time has come and Alta Garcia clothes are in the bookstore.

Alta Garcia is an experiment in apparel manufacturing because it pays a living wage. See their  website here to learn how they “pay our workers a wage that enables them to provide adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care, child care, and education for themselves and their families–a “living wage”—and hope for a better future.” Also they don’t “charge more for the clothing than other major brands and your purchase makes an enormous difference in the lives of the people who make the Alta Gracia clothing you wear.”

What are you waiting for? Vote with your dollars so we can get all the rest of the clothes that are made in sweatshops out of our bookstore!

Get involved by clicking here!

UH admininstrator greenwashes sweat free apparel initiative

Emily Messa, assistant vice president for university services has been involved in a major greenwashing campaign at the University of Houston for some time now. First let’s define the terms. Merriam Webster dictionary defines greenwashing as “expressions of environmentalist concerns especially as a cover for products, policies, or activities.” Remember that Ms. Messa and the University of Houston’s main reason for existence is to ensure profits for corporations.

UH Students Against Sweatshops has been working for two long years on our campus to bring ethical garments to our school. Recently, as our previous post (see below) details, Knights Apparel released a letter to the affiliates of the Worker Rights Consortium. The letter contains details about a project Knights is working on to manufacture collegiate logo apparel in a socially responsible way. We got our school to affiliate with the WRC back in November 2008.

We requested a short meeting with Ms. Messa to discuss how UH could take part in this unprecedented opportunity. For example, Duke university made a commitment to purchase $250,000 worth of apparel from Knights Apparel to show their support for socially responsible garments. See: Duke to buy $250,000 in sweat free apparel

Instead of taking thirty minutes to meet concerned students, on June 5, 2009 Ms. Messa had her office issue a press release  that is full of inaccuracies. Here’s the press release: Apparel (click link and you come to another page, then click link again) For example, the press release claims that “… by associating  with the WRC the UH bookstore…”  Now we’re to believe that the UH Bookstore (run by Barnes and Nobles) is a member of the Worker Rights Consortium! Actually only universities and schools can be affiliates of the WRC, see the list of affiliates on their website.

When we went to Ms. Messa’s office on Monday June 8, she refused to come out and speak with us. So as you see, UH is all about trying to make corporations look good, not about actually doing anything themselves like top tier school Duke did by making a quarter million dollar commitment to purchase the sweat free clothes. No, Messa and the rest of the corporate flunkies who run UH are only interested in getting money for their corporate masters.

Click the link to see the video of our appointment request:

Unfortunately for Ms. Messa and other immoral UH administrators of her ilk, we never stop fighting for social justice. In fact we and / or our allies make house calls. Last Saturday June 6 Students for Fair Trade stopped by Ms. Messa’s house on similar social justice causes to ours. See the Students for Fair Trade website for details on that house protest: SFT Messa house protest

Here’s one of several videos of the Students for Fair Trade in action at Emily Messa’s house:

Knights Apparel sweat free collegiate initiative gains ground

The Knights Apparel company has been working for several years to provide a sweat free alternative to all the licensed collegiate apparel that is sold in college bookstores and other retailers across the country.

In a memo to all Worker Rights Consortium (WRC)  members Scott Nova, WRC director wrote:

“Overall, we are very happy with the progress that has been made to date. To cite a key example of this progress, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers has committed to selling the Knights Apparel product in roughly 350 of their stores and they have made a strong commitment to launch a robust and multi-faceted marketing campaign to spread awareness of the initiative. This is obviously a very significant development: there is widespread agreement that achieving a higher level of respect for workers’ rights in the apparel industry requires greater participation on the part of large retailers. For a major retailer like Barnes & Noble to lend its enthusiastic support to this initiative is very heartening and we commend the company’s leadership…

Meanwhile, discussions on the ground in the Dominican Republic with the manufacturer, and with worker representatives and local civil society groups, are continuing. These discussions, which focus on the labor rights compliance and verification process, have gone very well. This work is being coordinated on the ground by the WRC’s staff person in Santo Domingo.”

UH SAS’  liaison with the WRC, Theresa Haas, informs us that the plan is to have the sweat free clothes in Barnes and Nobles bookstores as soon as the factory gets up and running. The University of Houston bookstore is run by Barnes and Nobles so we’re hoping to see a sweat free alternative on our campus soon.

If you click on the link below you can see the details in a 3 page memo from Joe Bozich, the CEO of Knights Apparel to all the universities (including U of Houston!) affiliated with the WRC.

Knights Apparel Memo to WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges 05-01-09