Just last month, presidential adviser and businesswoman Ivanka Trump published Women Who Work, a self-help guide that's meant to help "change the system to make it better for women." But according to an investigation by The Guardian, Ivanka Trump's own clothing label is allegedly doing very little to help the women who work for it. In fact, according to The Guardian's interviews with the people who create the brand's products, the women who sew Ivanka Trump's clothing are treated terribly.
The newspaper's investigation came shortly after a China Labor Watch activist was taken into police custody during his undercover investigation of a Chinese factory assembling Ivanka Trump shoes. Two other activists went missing. The company in charge of manufacturing the shoes told The Independent at the time: "We were unaware of the allegations, this arrest and will look into them immediately."
Not long after the arrest and disappearances, The Guardian spoke to over a dozen workers in another Ivanka Trump factory in Subang, Indonesia — the PT Buma Apparel Industry factory — and the allegations outlined by the women there far from empowering. (It's important to note that Trump is not involved directly with any of the factories and does not oversee conditions herself by any means.)
Workers spoke of earning the legal minimum wage in their province (around $173 a month, or about 40 percent less than the amount Ivanka Trump workers in China earn), and many said they could not afford to live at home with their children. One worker told The Guardian that "one of the company’s ways to cope with extra expenses" was to get rid of contract employees at the end of several months' contract, keeping them from becoming permanent employees. They also allegedly fired employees before Ramadan in order to avoid shelling out a holiday bonus, then hired them back afterwards.
Romper reached out to the Ivanka Trump label and the White House for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
Employees also spoke of being held to unrealistic production standards as a way to justify unpaid overtime, and one worker said management tapped workers' ID cards out while employees continued laboring. And while employees were grateful simply to have jobs, they were allegedly scared of being fired if they joined unions and spoke of being stuck in poverty. "We can never think about leaving debt," Alia, one worker, told The Guardian. Her two children see her only once a month, as she cannot afford to live with them. Instead, they live with their grandparents.
Trump stepped away from her fashion brand when she entered the White House with her father, taking a leave of absence and leaving the corporation in the hands of her trustees (her brother- and sister-in-law, Josh Kushner and Nicole Meyer), according to Vanity Fair. However, since the Trumps still own their myriad businesses, it's impossible to fully separate the family from their brands.
Trump has pushed for better, more family-friendly conditions for employees working in the United States and spoken about the "role of women in the economy." In a recent article for the Financial Times, she wrote:
As world leaders seek to reignite the global economy, a large part of the formula for growth and stability is undervalued: the economic empowerment of women. ... Our challenge now is to work together — in public and private sectors — to move decisively to invest in women worldwide.
However, for women to be empowered by work, they need to earn a livable wage, bring home enough to support their children, and not be treated as replaceable, disposable cogs in a machine. If the allegations laid out in The Guardian's survey of factory workers are true, then Trump needs to either rectify the situation immediately or modify her stance to be more true to reality: that she's only pro-empowerment when it comes to the women who aren't building her fortune.