Fair trade apparel — finally — at the University

Tom Raley - Economic Justice Task Force Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

Alta Gracia, recently introduced at the University of Minnesota Bookstore, is a new brand of collegiate licensed apparel that is 100-percent sweatshop-free and supports its workers with living wages and fair working conditions.
This is a huge step for the Bookstore and the University as a whole. We now see a stand against labor abuses in the global garment industry. At the Bookstore students now have the option of two Alta Gracia items that are comparable to âÄî and in most cases cheaper than âÄî the prices of other University apparel.
Now it is time to maintain the momentum and start introducing more products that are in line with this philosophy.
Throughout the past few years, there have been many violations of the UniversityâÄôs Trademark Licensee Code of Conduct, which sets forth principles that aim to ensure sweatshop labor is not used in the making of our collegiate apparel. These violations came from companies like Russell Athletics and Nike. Alta Gracia is a response to these violations.
I commend the University for beginning to carry Alta Gracia products. After hearing Yenny, an Alta Gracia factory worker, speak at the University recently, it made me realize that this issue is of paramount importance. As students, we have unique power over this situation. Buying Alta Gracia and fair trade products on campus has a direct impact on workers overseas, helping them raise their standards of living.
The stage has now been set for the University to truly live up to its proclaimed commitment to workersâÄô rights. Introducing more products made under the sweat-free philosophy will help further this and the University has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in this fight.
That is exactly what we need to do.