Students for Fair Labor urge Supe Store to source ethical apparel
This is the only section of the Supe Store that offers Alta Gracia apparel, and it is not marked by any signs or displays to educate buyers on the company’s mission.
Inside the Supe Store, hidden behind aisles of Polo, Nike and Adidas apparel, is a section of clothing made from a company that offers its workers a living wage.
There’s no display that points buyers towards the collection, though, yet the apparel itself Is nearly indistinguishable by price and by style from generic sportswear.
“We’ve seen stickers before, but no signs are telling people what Alta Gracia is,” David Swayne, a sophomore member of Students for Fair Labor, said. “[The company and its mission] progressively gets less and less apparent [within the university].”
Senior member Leif Midgorden canvassed the store, comparing prices between brands. A sweatshirt from
Alta Gracia costed $55, while a generic brand costed around $40, while a Polo sweatshirt rang in at a whopping $95.
According to a Georgetown University report, Alta Gracia is a clothing factory in the Dominican Republic that “pays more than three times the legal minimum wage, maintains excellent workplace health and safety standards, and has negotiated a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with a workers’ union.”
The Students for Fair Labor held a documentary screening on Alta Gracia and the global apparel industry Monday night in Lloyd 337, where they hold weekly meetings.
Following the screening, they proposed plans for a letter-drop to occur that Wednesday, in which they planned to present a petition signed by over 100 students to the owner of the Supe Store Noele Butler.
This is not the first time the group has met with Butler, Swayne said. Butler has complete authority over all inventory, and as of now, the Supe Store sources about five percent of its apparel from Alta Gracia.
The Students for Fair Labor are pushing to increase that to 25 percent.
“This is not an angry protest; it’s more of a friendly request,” Swayne said, noting that Butler, who is fond of the company, has been generally enthusiastic and receptive of their efforts in the past.
That Wednesday, Swayne and a group comprised of seniors Raiha Bajwa, Maddy Lewis and Midgorden arranged to meet Noele, hoping to read their petition aloud in a formal demand to increase Alta Gracia inventory.
However, neither Butler nor the store’s manager were there, so the group was left to recite their letter to a supervisor.
“You know, we have League here,” the supervisor said.
According to Lewis, this is a common response to the students’ protests.
“League markets themselves as an ethical brand, but not to the same standard as Alta Gracia,” Lewis said.
“The workers don’t have the same voice in the brand, as opposed to Alta Gracia, where the workers have a say in how everything operates.”
Moving forward, the Students for Fair Labor are striving to get more names on the petition and will reschedule a meeting with Butler in the future. Alta Gracia in the Supe Store remains a primary objective for the group, along with making meal plans optional for freshmen.