Apparently, Ivanka Trump doesn’t actually care about “women who work.” The workers at an Indonesian factory that produces clothing for her brand have recently come forward describing being verbally abused by supervisors. They also, not surprisingly, receive one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia, according to a report in The Guardian.
In the piece, it should be noted, dozens of workers were interviewed about their experience, reporting that many employees regularly worked unpaid overtime, making about $173 a month–which is not a livable wage for anyone–and certainly not empowering. One worker was quoted as saying:
“The management is getting smarter: they tap out our ID cards at 4pm so you can’t prove anything.”
Others said that their supervisors called them names like “animals,” “moron” and “monkey.”
Of course, Trump isn’t present regularly (if at all) at the factory—and many brands make their clothing under such conditions—but the fact that this gets okayed under her proverbial watch is still wrong. It’s very wrong, considering she’s supposedly trying to make conditions better for working women–unless she just means wealthy working women in the U.S.
These accusations come at a rather coincidental time, considering similar stories have been told about her brand in China, as previously reported. The workers in the China factories apparently make about $60 a week for 60 hours of work. So, you know, $1 an hour. Talk about allowing people to “rise up and thrive!”
To make matters worse, according to reports from The Hill, activists started protesting these conditions, and one was arrested and several others went missing this past May. It seems the Chinese government has refused to release the activists, and released a statement this month June:
“Other nations have no right to interfere in our judicial sovereignty and independence. The police found these people illegally possessed secret cameras, secret listening devices and other illegal monitoring devices.”
Abigail Klem, the president of Ivanka Trump’s brand, responded with a statement that doesn’t say much:
“After discussions with our licensee, we have determined that Ivanka Trump brand products have not been produced at the factory in question since March.
Our licensee works with many footwear production factories and all factories are required to operate within strict social compliance regulations.”
For the Trumps, the fact that Ivanka’s products are being produced overseas to begin with is tirelessly ironic and endlessly hypocritical considering their platform, which is ‘Buy American, Hire American.” The DNC has criticized Ivanka for this oversight, stating:
“China has confirmed it will not release the human rights workers detained after investigating Ivanka Trump’s shoe factory, but Ivanka’s company has stayed silent about the detainment and mistreatment of workers at the factories they use. At the least, Ivanka’s company should switch suppliers, and the Trumps should stop hypocritically telling corporations to ‘buy American and hire American’ while they continue to knowingly take advantage of workers abuses abroad.”
Why the criticism for Ivanka Trump? Not because I like being critical, but because she has publicly made “women’s empowerment” her signature issue in her father’s White House. I mean, she even wrote a book on it, where she misquoted Toni Morrison. As Jennifer Senior wrote at The New York Times:
“It’s a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes. Lee Iacocca appears two pages before Socrates. Toni Morrison appears one page after Estée Lauder. A quote from Nelson Mandela introduces the section that encourages women to ask for flextime: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
And yet, for a woman who tries to encourage people with inspiring quotes, the women in her factories can’t even afford to live with their children. How would Ivanka feel if she was separated from her own children?
One worker in the Guardian’s report, Alia, lives in a boarding house near the factory, hours away from her children, and can only afford to visit them at their grandmother’s house once a month, according:
“When Alia was told the gist of Ivanka Trump’s new book on women in the workplace, she burst out laughing. Her idea of work-life balance, she said, would be if she could see her children more than once a month.”
The article notes that three-quarters of the estimated 2,500 non-union workers at the factory are women, and many “devote almost all their income to children with whom they can’t afford to live.” The only silver lining (which is really more like a dirt lining) is the fact that workers get three months paid maternity leave and an extra $10.50 a month if they don’t take a day off for their menstrual periods.
And yet, Ivanka has publicly said she regrets not “treating [her]self to a massage” during her father’s presidential campaign, and also wrote in the book that women “must fight for ourselves, for our rights not just as workers but also as women,” and that “all women benefit immeasurably by architecting their lives.” Oh, and “honor yourself by exploring the kind of life you deserve.”
If only these women could honor themselves and “architect” their lives. But, you know, their salaries make that impossible. While Trump, now a senior adviser to her dad, stepped down from running the fashion label in January, the brand still bears her name. And she’s still reaping the benefits from overworking women elsewhere.
One of the workers said it best:
“Sure, I’m proud to make clothes for a well-known brand. But because I see the price tags, I have to wonder, can’t they pay us a bit more?”
Can’t they? Can’t they do better for everyone?