Garment factory workers visit SMU

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Do you know anything about the sweatshops where your SMU t-shirts and sweatshirts are made? Do you understand the health and safety implications of the people working in them? Quick, name five sweatshops that are in Central America. Yeah, didn’t think so.

Maritza Vargas, 49, and Sobeida Fortuna, 36, work at Alta Gracia. They held a Q&A; earlier today in Hughes Trigg. Alta Gracia is a sweatshop in the Dominican Republic. Vargas and Fortuna are also the union leaders of the sweatshop. Alta Gracia is the only sweatshop in Central America that gives their workers good wage along with health benefits.

Photo credit: Cody Beavers

Vargas and Fortuna are both from another sweatshop in the Dominican Republic, where they worked in horrible conditions and were constantly harassed by staff.

“My life was different back then. There was no union. We were abused and robbed of our overtime pay,” Fortuna said.

Alta Gracia has given these workers a chance to live a comfortable life with their families as well as in the workforce. Unfortunately, only a couple of SMU t-shirts come from Alta Gracia. Alta Gracia wants to challenge SMU students to start looking into the clothing they wear and act if they see something wrong.

“What you do is more important than what you buy. We’re people before consumers,” Fortuna said.

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