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Sub-Minimum Wage Salaries, Rights Violations & Missing Activists: Inside Ivanka Trump’s Sweatshops


Ivanka Trump’s book Women Who Work was presented as a guide for self-actualization, helping women balance life and work because yes, you can have it all! At least, if you are as wealthy, white, well-staffed and well-connected as Ivanka Trump, you can. The idea that Trump the Younger could offer any insight into the lives of real working women, or any working person, was already laughable. Then reporters and activists started revealing the conditions workers are forced to endure in the Asian sweatshops that produce her clothing and footwear line, and her callous obliviousness is almost–almost–too extreme to believe.

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Ivanka Trump’s brand has caused her a number of problems over recent months, what with all the mean reporters and internet people who won’t just let her enjoy her conflicts of interest in peace. But even her ethical violations pale in comparison to her company’s human rights violations.

Last month, while working undercover to investigate conditions in the Chinese factory where Ivanka’s shoe line is produced, two activists went missing, and one other has been detained. The executive director of the group they were working with, China Labor Watch, has made it clear that in 17 years, no other activist has ever gone missing, and he believes it happened now specifically because of the factory’s ties to Trump.

The group says that the activists found a long list of violations, including verbal abuse, payment below the country’s minimum wage, and “violations of women’s rights.” All this is happening in a factory in a country that Ivanka’s father & boss rails against for “taking” American jobs, yet one where the Trump family continues to apply for business trademarks.

Now The Guardian has revealed similar conditions in Ivanka Trump’s Subang, Indonesian factory. Subang has one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia, and employees at the factory–about 2/3 of whom are women–describe making such little money, they can’t afford to live with their children. They report being called names like “animals, moron and monkey,” and production targets regularly set at deliberately unattainable levels so the factory could force them into unpaid overtime.

According to The Guardian, one female employee had the premise of Ivanka’s book described to her and “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.”

Technically, Ivanka has stepped down from the day-to-day managing of the company that still bears her name, but she’s kept it in family, handing it off to her brother-in-law and his wife. She also retains her ownership stake in the company. House Democrats recently wrote a letter to the president of Trump’s brand, letting her know Ivanka isn’t off the hook, and no one actually believes she’s not still benefitting from her company, or responsible for its potential ethical violations and crimes. “Of course,” they wrote, “resigning from day-to-day management of the Ivanka Trump Collection does not diminish Ms. Trump’s private interest in her company, or in any way mitigate her obligations under federal law.”

Trump has stated that she will no longer work with the Chinese factory, but neither she nor the White House have addressed the missing activists. Neither has she spoken about the Indonesian factory’s conditions, or whether she’s simply planning to replace one human rights violation-ridden factory with another. I’m guessing she’s banking on a Donald Trump tweetstorm providing a sizeable distraction any minute now, allowing her to get back to ‘having it all.’
(via The Guardian, image: Marc Levin/Flickr)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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