Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Sunday, September 24, 2023

UF T-shirt, fleece supplier pays workers living wages

Next time a student buys a Gator T-shirt, he may be helping Maritza Vargas, who, at 45, has her own bedroom and bathroom for the first time.

Seven months ago, the largest university and college logo apparel supplier, Knights Apparel, opened a factory in Alta Gracia, Dominican Republic, where workers are paid three and a half times more than the legal minimum wage in an effort to ensure they and their families have adequate housing, food and an opportunity for an education.

“It was impossible for me to save up enough for all that before,” said Vargas, a union leader at the factory. “If I could save up enough money for the rent and food, that would be a good week.”

At the factory, about 125 workers produce T-shirts and fleeces for more than 400 U.S. universities, including UF.

Students will be able to purchase the apparel starting in mid-September at the UF Bookstore.

T-shirts will sell for about $18 and fleeces for about $35. 

UF Amnesty International President Daniel Wolfe is confident the apparel will be popular among students.

“The clothes look the same, but if students look deeper, they will realize that they should buy clothing from Alta Gracia as opposed to from other companies,” he said.

According to Knights Apparel CEO Joseph Bozich and the company’s President Donnie Hodge, workers at the factory are paid about $500 a month as opposed to $147, the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic.

They work 40-hour weeks and also receive benefits such as a pensions, vacations and coverage for severance.

The idea for the factory was both a personal and a business decision for Bozich and Hodge.

“Yes, we have shareholders and yes, we need to make a profit, but we also believe that we have a responsibility to better the lives of the people we touch,” Bozich said.  

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

The factory is named Alta Gracia, after the town in which it was built. Translated, “alta” means higher and “gracia” means grace, or to aspire to a higher feeling.

“The actual meaning of the town, we thought, is appropriate for the project we are trying to do,” Bozich explained.

“I know that if I wanted to buy a Gator T-shirt, and this one brand in the store had some redeeming social quality that will make someone’s life better, I will make that choice,” she said.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.