News & Politics

Ivanka Trump Fancies Herself a Champion of 'Women Who Work'—Tell That to Her Brand's Factory Workers

A new report exposes the absurdity of the first daughter's hashtag feminism.

Photo Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock

Since her father took office, Ivanka Trump has attempted to position herself as a champion of #WomenWhoWork. Unfortunately, the hashtag doesn't appear to include the women toiling in substandard conditions in the overseas factories that manufacture her brand's clothing and accessories. 

A recent investigation by the Washington Post reveals just how much of Ivanka's brand has been outsourced. Virtually all of her clothing line is produced in China and Southeast Asia, despite her father’s constant braying about putting American jobs first

The report also details how the Ivanka Trump brand has taken a more passive and hands-off approach to monitoring overseas production, lagging behind most apparel companies’ practice of overseeing the treatment of its predominantly female workforce. Big and small apparel brands have improved their protections of factory workers abroad in recent years, often by hiring independent auditors to inspect labor conditions, and by being transparent with consumers about where their goods are made.

While the Ivanka Trump brand claims it has a code of conduct to prevent any abuses in its factories, it does not follow the same monitoring practices as other brands, leaving its suppliers to enforce its code of conduct. The apparel company has also declined to follow common industry practice of publishing the addresses of the facilities where its products are made.

In recent years, a large group of North American retailers has donated millions to the Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, two initiatives designed to improve safety conditions in the country’s factories. Neither Trump’s brand nor G-III Apparel, an apparel company that began working with the Trump brand in 2012, has contributed to these initiatives.

Despite Ivanka's personal branding efforts, female laborers in factories that produce her clothing and handbags work under poor conditions with incredibly low pay. According to the Post investigation, working at Trump’s garment factories “come[s] with exhausting hours, subsistence pay and insults from supervisors if they don’t work fast enough.”

“My monthly salary is not enough for everyday expenses, also not for the future,” a 26-year-old sewing operator in Subang, Indonesia, told the Post.

Denim pants are produced in garment factories in Bangladesh, where the minimum wage for garment workers is about $70 a month.

“We are the ultra-poor,” Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor organizer and former garment worker said. “We are making you beautiful, but we are starving.”

In addition, labor movements that protest on behalf of low-paid garment workers are often suppressed. About 1,500 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh were suspended or fired in December after going on strike for higher pay.

In China, three activists from China Labor Watch were detained by authorities after investigating facilities where Trump’s products are made. At one facility, the activists found laborers “working 18-hour workdays and enduring verbal abuse from managers.” Other activists in the country, where more than two-dozen factories have produced Trump’s products, also say surveillance and heavy policing are common practices.

Ivanka Trump has yet to make any public statements about the conditions in the factories that produce her brand’s attire. In May, she published a book titled “Women Who Work,” trumpeting her dedication to fair working conditions.

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Celisa Calacal is a freelance writer for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College's student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.