In his Division III documentary film, Will Delphia tells a story of hope in economically trying times.
Tejid@s Junt@s (Stitched Together in English) follows the story of a factory in Villa Altagracia, the Dominican Republic, that manufactured garments for large companies.
When the factory workers became fed up with low wages and poor treatment, they unionized. Conditions improved, but over a period of years orders waned as companies gave their business to nonunionized factories offering cheaper prices.
“That’s the cutthroat nature of what’s called ‘the race to the bottom,’” Delphia says, referring to the socioeconomic concept that countries in competition for business will relax restrictions to offer lower prices to foreign vendors.
The factory eventually shut down, leaving the majority of Villa Altagracia unemployed. Then, rather than becoming another sad story about corporate greed, Villa Altagracia became an example of hope.
A company in the U.S., Knights Apparel took note of increasing consumer demand for ethically produced garments, due in large part to the campaigning of activist organizations such as United States Against Sweatshops (USAS). Knights Apparel launched the brand Alta Gracia and financed the reopening of the factory in the town.
Alta Gracia’s focus on ethical treatment of workers and paying them living wages makes it a unique brand. Alta Gracia pays 4,806 pesos per week, compared to the national average of 1,300 pesos.
“It’s been two years since this new factory opened up, and there has been the beginning of an economic recovery,” Delphia says.
Delphia’s documentary portrays all sides of the story, showing interviews with Alta Gracia employees in the Dominican Republic, and following USAS activists as they campaign in the United States.
Delphia says that the success of Alta Gracia should serve as an example for other companies. “I think the success of Alta Gracia will pave the way for similar projects in other countries or towns. Companies are going to listen to market forces more than anything else,” he says.
“Students and other consumers need to push for large orders from those sources that produce goods ethically. It will become less profitable for any company to exploit workers. It’s a matter of leveraging supply and demand.”
Following graduation, Delphia plans to return to Villa Altagracia and hold a screening for the workers of Alta Gracia. While in the Dominican Republic, he will offer media-making workshops to American students, “so that future students can keep up a habit of documenting the progress of the Alta Gracia project,” he says.