$158 dresses, $79 blouses, 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62
Trump signs ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order, promising to fight for American workers
Washington Post, By Drew Harwell April 25 at 3:29 PM
Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week, according to a factory audit released Monday.
The factory’s 80 workers knit clothes for the contractor, G-III Apparel Group, which has held the exclusive license to make the Ivanka Trump brand’s $158 dresses, $79 blouses and other clothes since 2012. The company also makes clothes for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands.
Trump has no leadership role in G-III, and the report did not give the factory’s name or location, or say whether it was working on Ivanka-brand products at the time of the inspection.
Inspectors with the Fair Labor Association, an industry monitoring group whose members include Apple and Nike, found two dozen violations of international labor standards during a two-day tour of the factory in October, saying in a report that workers faced daunting hours, high turnover, and pay near or below China’s minimum wage.
The inspection offers a rare look at the working conditions of the global manufacturing machine that helped make Trump’s fashion brand a multimillion-dollar business.
Its release also comes as the president’s daughter has sought to cast herself as both a champion of workplace issues and a defender of her father’s “buy American, hire American” agenda. Trump, whose book “Women Who Work” debuts next week, was in Germany on Tuesday for public discussions about global entrepreneurship and empowerment.
“We can add billions to the global economy by creating an enabling environment, increasing women’s labour force participation and business ownership, and improving the productivity of their work,” Trump wrote in a Financial Times essay Monday.
Trump’s company declined to comment on the factory inspection. Messages left with G-III were not returned.
Now an official adviser to her father’s White House, Trump stepped down from her management role but retains an ownership interest in her name-brand company. Its assets were moved into a trust that is now overseen by her husband’s siblings. Trump is the sole beneficiary of the trust, which is valued at more than $50 million.
Chinese factories are by far the dominant suppliers for Ivanka clothes, though G-III also works with manufacturers across Vietnam, Bangladesh and South America. G-III factories overseas have shipped more than 110 tons of Ivanka-brand blouses, skirts, dresses and other garments to the United States since October, shipping data shows.
The clothing line licensed by President Trump’s private business is also almost entirely made in foreign factories. Trump last week signed an executive order that he said would push the government to “aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”
Workers at the G-III factory in China were required to work 57 hours a week “on a regular basis” to hit production targets, inspectors found. Though Chinese law sets the limit for overtime at 36 hours per month, workers in all of the factory’s departments exceeded that limit, working up to 82 hours of overtime a month between September 2015 and August 2016.
The factory’s workers made between 1,879 and 2,088 yuan a month, or roughly $255 to $283, which would be below minimum wage in some parts of China. The average manufacturing employee in urban China made twice as much money as the factory’s workers, or roughly 4,280 yuan a month, according to national data from 2014.
Fewer than a third of the factory’s workers were offered legally mandated coverage under China’s “social insurance” benefits, including a pension and medical, maternity, unemployment and work-related injury insurance, inspectors found. The factory also did not contribute, as legally required, to a fund designed to help workers afford housing, inspectors said.
Workers earned five days of leave a year, though a small fraction of experienced employees were eligible for more. The factory did not have a union, inspectors said, and the workers’ lone representative was a factory appointee.
Inspectors also cited the factory for a number of workplace safety concerns. It did not train loading workers on safety techniques or provide employees with equipment that could reduce injury, including lifting belts or seats with backrests.
The factory, which began operating in 1992, had also never sought an assessment of occupational disease hazards like those common among workers dealing with repetitive tasks and harsh chemicals.
Two inspectors from SMT-Global, a third-party monitoring group, inspected the factory one month before President Trump’s election victory. The Fair Labor Association then alerted G-III to the problems it had discovered — including 24 violations of standards set by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization — and asked what steps it would take in response.
The factory pledged to make some progress to improve training, assess hazards, hire more workers and reduce overtime demands. But it did not commit to increasing worker pay and at times pushed back against recommendations that could improve workplace safety.
Of occupational hazards, inspectors wrote that the “factory thinks the worker’s health is covered by social welfare and insurance policy, and working conditions such as chair and loading staff safety are not as important.”
The Washington-based Fair Labor Association was founded in 1999 by a group of nonprofits, universities and clothing companies after a series of scandals over sweatshop labor and other abuses.
The group has inspected more than 1,500 factories used by its affiliate companies, including G-III, whose contract factories in China, India and Pakistan have been inspected seven times since 2007. Factories are chosen at random for inspection, though company leaders are alerted of the audits beforehand, a Fair Labor Association spokesman said.
Other G-III factories in China have been cited for similar issues. In a 2015 Fair Labor Association audit, inspectors found that 15 percent of one factory’s workers made below minimum wage, or as little as $3.30 a day. The factory was also cited for weak safety protections, including running most of its sewing machines without needle guards and stocking its first-aid kits with only cotton swabs and Band-Aids.
Since partnering with Ivanka Trump’s company in 2012, G-III has been the sole licensor of Ivanka-brand clothing, though other firms hold contracts to make the brand’s shoes, handbags and jewelry. Trump has championed the company, saying in a 2012 statement that “G-III has distinguished itself as a trusted partner for some of the world’s finest and most visible brands.”
Global sales of Trump’s brand have boomed in the months since her father began his pursuit of the White House. Net sales for her clothing collection soared by $17.9 million in the year that ended Jan. 31, G-III data shows.
An Ivanka company executive said the brand saw some of its “best performance ever” in February, the same month President Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” Conway was counseled by White House officials after the statement, which appeared to violate a federal rule banning public officials from endorsing private products.
Ivanka Trump sat next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month during a White House roundtable discussion on workforce development. She also spoke Tuesday in Berlin as part of a panel, alongside Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, devoted to women’s entrepreneurship.
Matea Gold contributed to this report.