Colleges all across the nation profit from sales of hoodies and other apparel bearing their logos and mascots. But many college students do not think about where their university apparel comes from. Often, this clothing is made in unethical ways at sweatshops with poor working conditions. Alta Gracia Apparel, however, is a living-wage union apparel project in the Dominican Republic. More than 400 colleges buy Alta Gracia apparel, and our own University of Minnesota Bookstore should sell a significant, rather than token, amount of the apparel that provides its makers a living wage.
For the past few years, students have pushed the University Bookstore to use Alta Gracia apparel. Last year, the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group worked with the bookstore to get it to start selling a small amount of Alta Gracia apparel. Now, a wide variety of more than 20 student groups are joining together to have the bookstore sell at least $300,000 in Alta Gracia clothing.
This is a reasonable request by students that the bookstore should respond to. In a recent letter to the editor in the Minnesota Daily (“U bookstore lacks ethical apparel,” April 4), University student Aaron Keniski said the bookstore apparel buyer didn’t feel the need to purchase Alta Gracia clothing. This is disappointing — we should value ethical working and living conditions over a less expensive option, especially since other colleges have demonstrated that selling living-wage clothing can still be successful.
We should support the student groups working to purchase more Alta Gracia here on campus because it means supporting living wages, better working conditions and better treatment of workers who make our University apparel.