In recent months, China Labor Watch—a workers’ rights group that has successfully connected numerous US corporations with exploitive working conditions in Chinese factories—has tried and failed to locate the facilities in China that have churned out millions of dollars’ worth of gaudy shirts, pants, and neckties for Donald Trump’s various clothing lines. With little publicly released information to work from, the organization scoured Chinese-language job-board postings, contacted a third-party intelligence firm, and even queried a congressional committee. Yet it was all to no avail. The names and locations of Trump’s overseas factories appear to be yet another secret relating to his fortune.
Although Trump’s own businesses have manufactured his various clothing lines overseas, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has largely built his political brand on blasting the exporting of US jobs to foreign countries such as China, a nation that he claims is “ripping this country off like nobody’s ever seen before.” And while observers have highlighted the rich irony of Trump’s rhetoric on global trade, many of the most basic details of his overseas manufacturing deals remain elusive.
And it appears that Trump would like to keep it that way. In response to repeated requests from The Nation, Trump and his businesses provided no information about the foreign factories that have helped to expand his fortune. Trump’s presidential campaign, the Trump Organization, and the Ivanka Trump Collection all did not respond to inquiries from The Nation seeking names of any specific factories or manufacturers that have produced Trump-branded merchandise.
Previous reports have cited clothing tags and shipping records that trace the origin of Trump’s goods to China, Honduras, and Bangladesh. It is also known that the production of Trump-branded merchandise is facilitated through third-party companies that act as intermediaries between large Western clothing brands and overseas factories. PVH, a leading sourcing company that is tied to the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection, did not respond to multiple requests from The Nation for the names of any factories that have made Trump-branded products. (Last July, after his racist remarks about Mexican immigrants, PVH announced it was phasing out its business with Trump.)
The businessman’s candidacy comes at a time of increasing alarm among labor advocates over working conditions along the global supply chain. In April of 2013, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, an eight-story factory building known as Rana Plaza collapsed, killing more than 1,100 garment workers, who were earning well under a dollar an hour for their perilous work. The victims of the fatal collapse had been making clothing for large global brands including Walmart, JC Penney, and Carrefour. In the months following the catastrophe, human-rights groups found that managers of the factories had scoffed at workers’ fears for their safety. “At Rana Plaza, factory managers compelled reluctant workers to enter the building despite major cracks in the complex’s walls,” noted a report by Human Rights Watch. “In some instances it is said that the managers threatened workers who hesitated to comply,” the group noted in a separate report.