International human trafficking is considered the 21st “century version of slavery” reports the L.A. Times. This week, Ivanka Trump, who strives to be considered a feminist and activist for workers and human rights, spoke out against human trafficking, specifically in China. But she is the worst person in the Trump Administration to serve as this spokesperson, as the optics on her entire work history and credibility as a champion for women are not great.
On the same day that her perfectly poised “end human trafficking” speech occurred, Ivanka Trump’s brand was exposed by the Associated Press as being largely responsible for abusive conditions in China factories that manufacture her own products.
One Chinese worker who was highlighted in the Associated Press report had been bleeding from the head after having been hit by his manager with an Ivanka Trump brand high heeled shoe, reports the National Post. Other Chinese workers were arrested and detained for reporting on the abusive conditions in the factories making Ivanka Trump’s shoes.
Ivanka Trump has done nothing for these workers or made apologies or public statements on the matter since the Associated Press report broke. But she did, in her “signature whisper” as Vanity Fair notes, tell the world she was against human trafficking, also known as human slavery.
This week, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled an annual report on human trafficking. Ivanka Trump, in her immaculately styled voice and flawlessly shaped private school vocabulary, said the following.
“As a mother, this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion call to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused, and the exploited….let us celebrate the heroes that continue to shine a light on the darkness of human trafficking.”
The truth is that the heroes that were shining a light on slavery-like conditions against the abused, the vulnerable, and the exploited, in the factories making Ivanka Trump’s own products were not celebrated. They were detained.
In this photo, Hua Xiaoqin, sister of the activist for the China Labor Watch Hua Haifeng, is blocking a reporter as Haifeng is released from jail after exposing abuses in a factory that makes Ivanka Trump’s clothes in China’s southern Jiangxi Province.
Also this week, Ivanka Trump tweeted on the hashtag #EndTrafficking, with a picture of herself with Boom Mosby of the HUG project in Thailand. The caption to the picture was a quote, “We are all confronted with the choice – to do nothing, or to do something.”
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 28, 2017
When it comes to what Ivanka Trump’s choice is, the only choice that it appears she is making is delivering well-crafted speeches while Chinese workers crafting her shoes bleed from the head.
The L.A. Times reports that in the speech delivered with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a report was unveiled that showed that 20 million people across the world are enslaved. China was listed as No. 3 in the global list of “worst category of offenders.” Rex Tillerson proclaimed that China brings in labor from North Korea by the “tens of thousands” and they are forced into labor camps and “rarely paid.”
Instead, those salaries are allegedly sent to the North Korean government. Tillerson chastised China for not taking “serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking.”
Ivanka Trump nodded emphatically in agreement, knowing that earlier last month, The Guardian reported on similar abusive conditions in an Indonesian factory manufacturing her clothes. In that report, employees were interviewed by The Guardian and revealed that their wages are “one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia.”
The workers in Indonesia are also reportedly subjected to “impossibly high production targets.” Managers were repeatedly accused of verbally abusing workers and violating women’s rights.
Ivanka Trump calls herself a champion for women. She wrote a book titled Women Who Work. She is “rewriting the rules for success” but would not be working in the White House if her father wasn’t. She proudly accepted applause in the Benjamin Franklin Hall of the State Department when saying she was fighting for illegal practices abroad.
【7F洋書売場】『Women Who Work』(Ivanka Trump,Penguin Random House)。トランプ米大統領の長女で、自身の名を冠したアパレルブランドも持つイヴァンカ氏による成功の秘訣。 pic.twitter.com/Ep0PKNwCon
— 丸善名古屋本店 (@MARUZENNAGOYA) June 28, 2017
Adding to her seamless decry against slavery, she said it created an “ugly stain on civilization” and was “a pervasive human rights issue affecting millions, regardless of gender or nationality, and often profoundly secret.”
It is a secret. In China, people went to jail for trying to expose those secrets happening in factories making Ivanka Trump’s shoes. Some of those workers experienced those ugly stains firsthand, such as the gentleman who bled from the head when reportedly attacked by his own manager with one of Ivanka Trump’s high heel shoes.
Rex Tillerson mentioned China, saying the following.
“Their pay does not come to them directly. It goes to the [government in Pyongyang] which confiscates most of that, obviously.”
The Guardian noted that in Indonesia, the pay can reportedly sometimes be as low as $1 an hour. The National Post reported that the China Labor Watch has discovered that even the books were allegedly cooked to keep those secrets of low pay under wraps.
The China Labor Watch allegedly discovered that the company had forced employees to “sign fake pay stubs with inflated salary numbers and threatened to fire workers if they didn’t fill in questionnaires about working conditions with pre-approved answers.”
United States ambassador to China, Susan Coppedge says that China is guilty of many cases of abuse, including indentured children within the factories, forced prostitution, and incarceration at drug rehab centers.
Vanity Fair describes Ivanka Trump as a “complicated messenger” on these issues.
The China Labor Watch hired investigators to go into the Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. This is the company that manufactures the Ivanka Trump brand.
They discovered workers facing 17-hour work days with only two days off monthly. Quotas were also difficult or impossible to meet, but it was the physical and verbal abuse in highly secure facilities that were among the most alarming claims.
The high-heeled assault incident reportedly happened last year, but the Huajian Group says it is completely fabricated. Three men from the China Labor Watch that were investigating this were detained.
Vanity Fair reports the China Labor Watch alleges they have a video from May where a manager is caught on tape abusing someone who improperly arranged shoes. He allegedly said, “If I see them f—ing messed up again, I’ll beat you right here.”
The video was sent to Ivanka Trump by the China Labor Watch; she declined to comment. The White House has also declined to comment.
Technically, however, Ivanka Trump has stepped down from the lifestyles brand in order to assume a more vocal role in the Trump Administration. Critics of Ivanka Trump think it’s all just words.
Even if she has stepped down, an abused worker in China is an abused worker in China.
On its face, Ivanka Trump only appears to be discussing human trafficking and this 21st-century slavery at any place other than the ones manufacturing her own brand. The same goes for her causes for women, women’s rights, and feminism.
The Guardian reports that in Indonesia, women making Ivanka’s shoes are allegedly offered a bonus if they do not take time off while menstruating. Some of those women are paid so little they reportedly can not live with their own children.
One woman, Alia, works in Buma at the Buma Apparel Industry Factor in Subang, West Java. The room she lives in is decorated with pictures of her two children because she can’t afford to live with them. They live “hours away by motorcycle” and see their parents once a month, but only if they can afford the gasoline. She makes $173 a month, and would like more of a “work-life balance.”
The “work-life” balance is something that Ivanka Trump has managed to find for herself. She also may be the first American woman that has gone from selling shoes one day to being a personal counselor to the president the next.
Ivanka has certainly rewritten the rules of “success,” for herself. Ethics rules regarding family members working in the White House alongside a president are fairly strict. It’s not allowed. So Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have “rewritten the rules” and taken the jobs without pay so as to avoid those complicated ethics rules.
Alia in Buma is just one of 2,759 workers that struggle to find the work-life balance Ivanka Trump enjoys. Three-quarters of that workforce in Buma, making Ivanka’s line, are reportedly women.
One 25-year-old male worker told The Guardian, “The management is getting smarter: they tap out our ID cards at 4 p.m. so you can’t prove anything [overtime].” Another said they are frequently called things like “animals, moron, and monkey.”
Another worker observed the price tags going onto the Ivanka Trump brand. He said the following to The Guardian about that.
“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?”
The legality that Ivanka Trump has wriggled through with all of this is that she is no longer in charge of her brand by being in the White House, she says. The reality is that she is still human, and she is still allegedly fighting to end human trafficking. Jim Keady, an American labor rights activist says the following.
“With these poverty wages – and I would call it that – just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is moral. The buck stops with her. It’s her name that’s on the dress. Without her there is no brand.”
Carry Somers, a founder of the Fashion Revolution, told The Guardian, “Ivanka Trump claims to be the ultimate destination for Women Who Work, but this clearly doesn’t extend to the women who work for her in factories around the world.”
Indeed, the optics are bad for Ivanka Trump this week. In one day, she articulates that there is a need to end human slavery and end human trafficking, while a report comes out accusing the factory that makes her clothes of those very things.
She alleges she wants to celebrate heroes that shine a light on human trafficking. But Ivanka Trump won’t discuss the human rights abuses surrounding the Ivanka Trump brand.
The White House may want to consider another representative that might be more credible in the war against human trafficking than Ivanka Trump, who is “rewriting the rules of success” and wriggling around ethics rules so that she can work in the White House alongside her father and husband, without pay.
[Feature Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]