The Alta Gracia Research Project

The Alta Gracia Research Project is a multi-year effort to document the development and eventual success or failure of Alta Gracia, the only apparel factory in the developing world to:

  • pay workers a “living wage” (over 300% more than the legal minimum wage);
  • recognize a legitimate union and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement;
  • maintain high safety and health standards;
  • all verified by an independent labor rights organization. 

Over the period 2010 – 2014, the Project published three academic reports that are available online below. Subsequently the initiative was merged with an effort to develop a book to tell the full story of the Alta Gracia factory in a more complete and broadly accessible fashion. Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry’s Sweatshops, was published on October 3, 2017.  It examines the origin, evolution, impacts and significance of this unique apparel factory.

Joining Professor John Kline as co-author of the book is Sarah Adler-Milstein who, as Field Director for the Worker Rights Consortium, was instrumental in development of a living wage formula and compliance audits of labor standards.  Written from personal experience and based on the lives of factory workers, the book reveals how adding just $0.90 to a sweatshirt’s production price can change the workers’ lives: from getting a life-saving operation to reuniting families; buying school uniforms to first-ever bank loans.

Sewing Hope Cover

An initial Research Report issued in August 2010, traced the factory’s origins in the anti-sweatshop movement and its initial start-up period. Alta Gracia: Branding Decent Working Conditions

A Research Progress Report was released on December 5, 2011 that examines the first 18 months of operations at the Alta Gracia apparel factory in the Dominican Republic. Alta Gracia: Work with a Salario Digno

The third Research Report, Alta Gracia: Four Years and Counting was released in August, 2014. This report analyzes the factory’s growing success; documents its impact on the lives of workers, their families and the local community; and contrasts this model with failures in the apparel industry’s current system of factory labor codes and monitoring.

Many universities have labor codes of conduct covering the production of licensed apparel carrying their college logo. The Issue Primer Reassessing Collegiate Anti-Sweatshop Efforts: Can University Licensing Codes Meet Workers’ Basic Needs? draws on a study of nearly 70 different university codes and assesses the major alternative approaches to code reform.

Georgetown University Office of Communications Press Releases:

New Students Don T-Shirts Made at ‘Living Wage’ Caribbean Factory

Alta Gracia: Continuing Georgetown's Leadership

Living Wage: Above and Beyond Anti-Sweatshop Codes