What would trade policy look like in a Clinton White House today? | PBS NewsHour

What Would Trade Policy Look Like in A Clinton White House Today?

PBS talks with Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator Brown has been one of the few Senators that has been a true opponent to Free Trade policies that have ravaged the manufacturing jobs of the United States. It was through his hard work that he saved the Hugo Boss Clothing Plant in Brooklyn, Ohio. He brokered the deal that help Keystone Tailoring take over the closing plant, saving 160 jobs. The plant now produces Hart Schaffner Marx Suits (made in the USA).

Source: What would trade policy look like in a Clinton White House today? | PBS NewsHour

GWEN IFILL: But, first: If immigration is one of this year’s big policy debates, the other is free trade. And when it comes to the future of how the U.S. does business abroad, the two major candidates are not sounding that far apart.

Last week, correspondent Paul Solman spoke with economist Peter Navarro about Donald Trump’s approach.

Tonight, Paul talks trade with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest supporters.

It’s part of our Making Sense series, which airs every Thursday.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio): Denise? Denise.

PAUL SOLMAN: Sherrod Brown’s been buying suits made in Brooklyn, Ohio, for years. The Democratic senator has long pushed made in America, long fought free trade agreements which, he says, have shafted blue-collar workers.

MAN: Senator Brown is calling for action against cheating China.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: They don’t play fair, and we have got to fight back.

PAUL SOLMAN: The message carried him to reelection four years ago in a state that’s bled some 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 20 years.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt): We have lost millions of decent-paying jobs. That has got to end.


PAUL SOLMAN: Left-wingers like Bernie Sanders have long shared Brown’s stance on trade. But opposition to trade deals has gone mainstream in 2016.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: We’re letting our jobs go to Mexico.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: As president, I will stand up to China and anyone else who tries to take advantage of American workers and companies.

PAUL SOLMAN: The big switch is Clinton, long associated with free trade agreements. Brown threw his support behind her early on, because, her insists, she now gets it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: She is someone who understands trade, who understands we want more of it, but we want it under a different set of rules.

PAUL SOLMAN: Brown brought us to the Keystone suit plant in the Cleveland suburbs to elaborate.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: What she wants to do on enforcing trade policy, she wants to triple the number of trade enforcement officers, which will really matter in trying to level the playing field fighting with South Korea and China and other countries that don’t play it straight.

She wants a special trade prosecutor directed specifically at China, where we have by far our largest bilateral trade deficit. We lost five million jobs from 2000 to 2010, 60,000 plants closed — this one almost closed — in large part because of unfair trade practices.

PAUL SOLMAN: Two years ago, Hugo Boss it would close this factory. But Brown helped facilitate its sale to Keystone Tailored Manufacturing.

The workers here have been making Hart Schaffner Marx suits ever since.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: You know, these are not high-paying jobs, but they’re good union jobs with good union benefits.

PAUL SOLMAN: No surprise, then, that the senior senator is something of a hero here. Brown says he walks the walk on trade, while Donald Trump doesn’t.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: I have a number of suits that were made in — on this shop floor. Donald Trump outsources his suits to Mexico. He could have bought them here. He could have had them made here. He outsourced — outsources his ties to China. He outsources. This tie’s made in the U.S.

Donald Trump talks a good game on trade, but he’s never lived it. He’s lined his pockets by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries, and now he’s talking about trade as if he actually means it? I have been engaged in this fight for 25 years against bad trade policy, I have never seen Donald Trump stand with us. I have never even heard Donald Trump’s name or voice while we’re working against bad trade policy.

PAUL SOLMAN: Well, you haven’t heard Hillary Clinton’s voice on this issue either.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: I absolutely trust Hillary Clinton to stand strong on these trade agreements. When she was in the Senate, she voted against some, she voted for some.

PAUL SOLMAN: Clinton has taken plenty of heat for changing her mind about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As secretary of state, she said:

HILLARY CLINTON: This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements.

PAUL SOLMAN: But candidate Clinton has reversed course.

HILLARY CLINTON: I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


HILLARY CLINTON: I oppose it now, I will oppose it after the election, and I will oppose it as president.

PAUL SOLMAN: You understand why people would say she’s absolutely done an about-face on this issue, right, and that she might well go back on the position she now has if she becomes president.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: Well, she supported TPP in the early days because she was the — she worked for the president of the United States in his cabinet, and so did everybody else in the Cabinet support TPP.

As a candidate, she understands it, and she looks at TPP in a different way, fixing rules of origin, fixing currency issues, fixing investor-state dispute settlement, which undermines environmental and worker safety standards.

PAUL SOLMAN: In nearby Cleveland, at the former site of
Premier Manufacturing, we met economist Susan Helper, a progressive Democrat who also supports Hillary Clinton.

So, when a plant like this closes down, there’s substantial economic damage.

SUSAN HELPER, Economist: yes. The people in the plant lose their jobs. People working in restaurants nearby lose their jobs. Home values fall, et cetera.

PAUL SOLMAN: This steel wire plant, which moved most of its work to Mexico, exemplifies the migration of U.S. manufacturing.

SUSAN HELPER: The decline of unions and the figuring out by management of strategies to avoid unions in the U.S., and then a movement, particularly after NAFTA was signed, to Mexico, and even lower wages there.

PAUL SOLMAN: The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by Bill Clinton in 1993. But his wife has become a critic, for good reason, says Professor Helper.

SUSAN HELPER: I think that one of the things now, we have greater experience. We can see what — what’s happened as a result of some of the trade agreements.

There’s some very excellent work that suggests that workers who are displaced by trade or other reasons, but particularly by trade, don’t easily find new jobs. And particularly in the case of a lost manufacturing job, the new job that somebody gets doesn’t equal their previous wage.

PAUL SOLMAN: But many economists argue, robots, not trade deals, are the real job-robbers.

So, I asked Sherrod Brown, isn’t it technology that’s actually replacing jobs, as opposed to unfair trade?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: Well, it’s all of the above. It’s unfair trade practices. It’s technology. About five miles from my home is a company called ArcelorMittal. That plant was the first plant in world history where close to one person hour of labor produces one ton of steel.

That’s technology, that’s efficiency. That’s put some steelworkers out of work because they’re so efficient.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN: But unfair trade practices has also — have also put a lot of those workers out of work.

PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, Susan Helper’s research suggests that technology can actually add jobs at ArcelorMittal or anywhere else.

SUSAN HELPER: When your productivity goes up, your price falls, so more people are going to want to buy things made out of steel. We looked at manufacturing industries over the last couple of decades, and found that those industries that had the greatest productivity growth actually had the most job gains.


SUSAN HELPER: Because they found new markets. They were able to expand into new markets and find new uses for the technology that they had innovated.

PAUL SOLMAN: Even so, Sherrod Brown believes candidate Clinton’s tougher stance on trade is a welcome one.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN: I’m glad we are most efficient steel plant in the world less than 10 miles from here, but we have got a lot of work to do to make sure trade enforcement is done the way Secretary Clinton wants it done. And that — that will ultimately provide jobs. It will save jobs. It will help manufacturing rebirth.

PAUL SOLMAN: This is economics correspondent Paul Solman in and around Cleveland, Ohio.


These tiny, wearable robots can cling to your clothes and drive around your body

Source: These tiny, wearable robots can cling to your clothes and drive around your body – Recode

These Tiny, Wearable Robots Can Cling to your Clothes and Drive Around Your Body

They may one day assemble into a screen on your Arm.


America at Work

Work is a beautiful thing. In towns across America, manufacturing is creating jobs – and making our country stronger. Read about companies making a difference.

Source: America at Work


Manufacturing Has Been the Economic Engine of the USA

Manufacturing has been the Economic Engine of the USA

I want to remind everybody about the importance of manufacturing and its vital importance to the U.S. economy. Manufacturing has been the heart of the soul of America. It has been the main “Job Creator” since the 1800s. It is too bad we have abandoned manufacturing by offshoring millions of these U.S. jobs to other countries over the past three decades. It is not only the United States that has had to deal with the loss of manufacturing, but, also, the countries in Europe (except Germany) and Australia. It has been a very difficult adjustment for all of these countries. This one of the major reasons why there is so much unrest in these countries. For the United States, the areas that have been hardest hit have been small towns. Once upon a time, these small towns were agricultural (farming). Over time, with less need for people to work in the fields, these previous “farm” towns became great places to set up for manufacturing because of its lower cost of living. Many jobs were ciphered from the large cities to the small towns. Many big cities have been able to adjust (not all) with this transition. However, the small towns have been decimated by the loss of manufacturing since 1980.

Let us look at a few issues regarding history and globalization.

Is Globalization good?

It depends on how you look at it. Globalization has meant there has been a great improvement of infrastructure to many third world countries. Global poverty has greatly improved over the past three decades. For Europe and the United States, globalization has meant the loss of manufacturing to these third world countries. In the USA, it has caused the loss of 20 million manufacturing jobs to these lower-cost countries since 1980 (8 million manufacturing and 12 million associated manufacturing jobs). Globalization has meant economic hardship for the US, Europe and Australia.

Manufacturing: The Heart of the US economy for More Than a Century

Question: When did the United States first become a major player in economics?

Answer: 1870. The United States was re-building from the civil war. Government was free to complete infrastructure projects such as building railroads, making new trails, canals, and new shipping ports. Industrialization with its ability to make mass-produced, cheaper and newly innovated products created new jobs. And with its newly improved infrastructure, the US could send its products to its ever-expanding borders as well as exporting its products to other countries. Soon, American steel production surpassed the combined total of Britain, Germany and France. By 1890, the USA surpassed Britain for first place in manufacturing output.


A Graph of the Greatest World Economies from Year 1 A.D. to 2008

In the early years it was China and India who had the greatest economies based on their shipping of its wealth of goods.

The following graph shows the history of the World’s GDP and the percentage contribution by major countries.

(Source: History of World GDP)
The shrinking of the US economy started when the U.S. deliberately allowed manufacturing to disappear with the passage of Free Trade Acts in the 1990s. China, as of 2015, is the number one economy in the world.

Why is Manufacturing so Vital for the US Economy?

  1. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, every dollar spent in manufacturing generates $1.48 in economic activity, more than any other major economic sector.
  2. Each manufacturing job creates three other jobs. In the U.S., the Economic Policy Institute has found that each manufacturing job supports three other jobs in the wider economy, through something called “the multiplier effect.”
  3. The growth of manufacturing machinery output, (and technological improvements in that machinery), are the main drivers of economic growth.  Just consider the explosion of the Internet, iPhones, and the like — all made possible by a small subset of production machinery called semiconductor-making equipment (SME), which itself is dependent on other forms of production machinery.
  4. Global Trade is based on goods, not services. A country can’t trade services for most of its goods. According to the WTO, 80% of world trade among regions is merchandise trade — that is, only 20% of world trade is in services.
  5. Services are mostly the act of using manufactured goods.
  6. While manufacturing is only 12% of the U.S. economy, it accounts for two-thirds of all private spending on R&D. While it provides only 9% of U.S. jobs, it employs one out of three engineers. Fully 60% of royalties from licensing intellectual property go to manufacturing firms.
  7. Manufacturing is the engine that drives U.S. innovation.

There are still Free Traders who feel that U.S. manufacturing is not important. Of course, the Free Traders have a hard time contradicting the following graph.The graph demonstrates what happens to the middle class when we abandon supporting manufacturing.

When we employed Top Down Economics – We cut taxes. Technology and competition from abroad started whittling away at blue collar jobs and pay. The financial markets took off. And so when growth returned, it favored the investment class — the top 20 percent, and especially the top 5 percent (and, though it’s not on this chart, the top 1 percent more than anybody).


How Free Trade Has Hurt The US Economy

Since the beginning of the United States, in order to protect U.S. Businesses from being overrun by products from other established countries, our Founding Fathers did what other countries did to protect their own country’s businesses, they levied an import tax. The import tax kept the price of foreign goods more expensive, giving our own business a fair playing field. The import tax fee was anywhere from 50 – 200% on each item.

Then, in the 1970s, some new school economic geniuses thought that it was silly to stay with the tried and true. So, they pressed for “Free Trade” – which meant import taxes are eliminated. It meant lower prices for imported goods, people would spend more. A win/win situation thought these geniuses. These same geniuses also thought Trickle-down economics would also be beneficial – which has caused 90% of all profits to go to the top 1% and caused the greatest economic inequality since the 1920s. The Free Trade agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO) did eliminate many import taxes especially into the USA, but corporations started to notice that they could maximize profits by moving their companies to other countries with their lower cost of living. So, they started new companies in China, Mexico and started closing factories in the United States to open factories in these third world countries (offshoring). This is our present situation. The United States is still a Free Trade nation with manufacturing continuing to wobble – making only 4% of what Americans need.

Which Political Party is for Free Trade?

The Libertarian Party is the greatest backer of Free Trade by far. Gary Johnson, their Presidential candidate has said they are definitely Free Trade at all costs and would like to pass The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Treaty – a deal with the USA and 13 other Asian Nations (not including China at this time).  The TPP waits is Congress waiting to be ratified. The Libertarian Party is Pro- Big Business, feels that consolidation of business into fewer larger corporations (monopolies) is fine, thinks that the “Citizen United” decision is good – Corporations can put unlimited money into elections. They are against “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The Democratic Party has always been the political party against Free Trade. Backed by Unions who felt that Free Trade jobs would take away American jobs – the unions were correct. Unions within private businesses comprise only 7% of companies where it used to run about 45-50% in the 1950s. The Democrats who have been for Free Trade are the so-called “Business Friendly” Democrats. During the 1990s, when Free Trade was the most popular the split was 60% against Free Trade and 40% for Free Trade. Today, the Democratic Party is 80% against Free Trade and 20% for Free Trade.

The Republican Party has always been Free Trade. They are still 95 to 98% Pro Free Trade. The exception is Donald Trump. Now, the question is whether Donald Trump is truly against Free Trade. He has always said I have been the greatest Free Trader. Trump has always been a follower of polls and once he saw that a substantial number of Americans were skeptical of Free Trade he changed his tune. But he has really no plan. He rarely tells the truth. The question is whether the Republican Party is the Trump Party and would get rid of Free Trade (highly doubtful) or that Donald Trump is Pro- Republican and nothing would change (it is more likely that the TPP would pass silently under the cover of darkness under his administration).

The future is now.


America’s Unseen Social Crisis: Men Without Work | TIME

‘America is now home to a vast army of jobless men’

Source: America’s Unseen Social Crisis: Men Without Work | TIME

by Nicholas Eberstadt, October 3, 2016

Nicholas Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute

‘America is now home to a vast army of jobless men’

Over the past two generations, America has suffered a quiet catastrophe: the collapse of work–for men. In the half-century between 1965 and 2015, work rates for the American male spiraled relentlessly downward, and an ominous “flight from work” commenced, with ever greater numbers of working-age men exiting the labor force. America is now home to a vast army of jobless men no longer even looking for work—more than 7 million between the ages of 25 and 54, the traditional prime of working life. (Work rates have fallen in recent years for women too, but the male work crisis has been under way much longer and is of greater magnitude.)

In 2015, the work rate (or employment-to-population ratio) for American males ages 25 to 54 was slightly lower than it had been in 1940, at the tail end of the Great Depression. If we were back at 1965 levels today, nearly 10 million additional men would have paying jobs.

The collapse of male work is due almost entirely to a flight out of the labor force—and that flight has on the whole been voluntary. The fact that only 1 in 7 prime-age men are not in the labor force points to a lack of jobs as the reason they are not working.

And just who are these “missing men” whose departure from the workforce has gone all but unnoticed by the rest of us? As one might imagine, a contingent of 7 million contains some of everybody, but certain groups are represented in bigger numbers: less educated men; never-married men and men without children at home; and African Americans. Yet there are also striking exceptions to these general trends: for example, foreign-born blacks are more likely to be in the workforce than native-born whites.

How to explain our nation’s “men without work” problem? Received wisdom holds this to be a consequence of structural changes in our economy: the decline of manufacturing; the rise of outsourcing and automation; slow growth; and all the rest. It is incontestable that such factors have played a prominent role. But there is clearly more at play in this saga than economic forces alone. Consider: America’s prime-male workforce participation has been declining at a virtually linear rate for half a century–a trajectory unaffected by good times or recessions.

In addition to the economic drivers of the “Men Without Work” problem, there is also what we might call the sociological dynamic: a no-work lifestyle for men is no longer an unthinkable option. Quite the contrary: for every prime-age man who is unemployed today, another three are neither working nor looking for work.

national-labor-force                                                            U.S. Men ages 25-54 (prime working age) 88.3%

By and large, these unworking men are floated by other household members (wives, girlfriends, relatives) and by Uncle Sam. Government disability programs figure prominently in the calculus of support for unworking men—ever more prominently over time. According to Census Bureau data, nearly three-fifths (57%) of prime-male unworkers in 2013 were obtaining benefits from at least one disability program. No one can prove that disability programs have caused the male flight from work–but there is no doubt they are helping to finance it.

There is one other important piece to this puzzle, and it has to do with crime and punishment. Everyone knows that millions of criminal offenders today are behind bars–but few consider that many millions more are in the general population: ex-prisoners, probation cases and convicted felons who never served time. In all, America may now be home to over 20 million persons with a felony conviction in their past, and over 1 in 8 adult men. Men with a criminal history have much worse odds of being or staying in the labor force, regardless of their ethnicity or educational level. The explosive growth of our felon population, unfortunately, helps to explain some of the otherwise puzzling peculiarities of America’s male work crisis.

It is past time for America to recognize the collapse of work for men as the grave ill it truly is. The progressive detachment of so many adult American men from regular paid labor can only result in lower living standards, greater economic disparities and slower economic growth than we might otherwise expect. And the consequences are not just economic. The male exodus from work also undermines the traditional family dynamic, casting men into the role of dependents and encouraging sloth, idleness and vices perhaps more insidious.

Whether we choose to recognize it or not, the new “men without work” normal is inimical to the American tradition and the nation’s very ethos. We need to bring this crisis out of the shadows. As long as we allow it to remain invisible, we can expect it to continue, and even to worsen.
This appears in the October 03, 2016 issue of TIME.

Editor’s Comments

The loss of good paying jobs to non college educated men is primarily due to the loss of manufacturing. And the major loss of US manufacturing jobs is due to off-shoring and globalization. This is how it happened: through globalization: third-world countries got better infrastructure to make and deliver products to the USA. Then, then Free-Trade treaties served to get rid of import taxes, which made these foreign made products much more affordable. So far, sounds good. However, these lower prices (due to decreased labor, decreased cost of living, no need to pay workers any benefits, etc.) under-cut American-made products causing some companies to go under. Then, to add insult to injury, big companies, in order to take advantage of these loopholes, closed up the American factories and send them overseas (offshoring). The resultant loss of 8 million manufacturing jobs since 1980 and its 12 million associated manufacturing jobs have left a giant void of good paying American jobs (primarily for men (manufacturing jobs primarily had been a “Man’s job). Today, America only manufactures 2% of what we need.

The remedy would be to follow the only sane economic policy – which would be Germany’s plan. Germany’s government makes certain that its country makes 25 – 30% of what it needs. That means more trade schools, apprenticeships, etc. It means good paying jobs for all.

It is an interesting statistic that nearly three-fifths (57%) of prime-male unworkers in 2013 were obtaining benefits from at least one disability program.


Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones

This is actually a big story, too bad the main stream media has missed this one. The case that Mother Jones, in this August 30, 2016 article, makes is that the Donald Trump modeling agency was involved in illegal immigration. I make the case that the following is a classic case of slave labor (also known as forced labor).

The Donald Trump Modeling Agency existed from 1999 to the present. The following case of the Donald Trump Model Agency involved slave labor. The model agency brought in under-age foreign models on “tourist” visas to work. If you did not know this – it is illegal to work with a tourist visa. The penalty for employing a person with a tourist visa ranges from $16,000 per employee and/or 6 months in jail. In the below story, Rachel Blias (see also 2:04 CNN Video) states that over her three years (2004-2007) working for the Trump Modeling Agency, while she made tens of thousands of dollars with her modeling jobs, the Trump Agency  paid her only a total of $8,000. That was due to deducting expenses such as exorbitant rent ($1600 a month for a bunk in a room being shared  with five other models (while a similar entire apartment was $1375 per month), and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs). Let us say she made $50,000. They paid her $8,000. That is a fee of $42,0000.

We have heard these stories over and over again. A foreigner is brought into another country – sometimes the worker is charged for the recruiters fee, travel and miscellaneous items – having to work off these “fees”. Sometimes their visas are taken. Then, they are charged exorbitant rates for housing, food, and other miscellaneous items. The workers have no rights and are constantly threatened of being reported to the authorities to be jailed or exiled. Workers continually toil to pay off the continually mounting debt.

The only thing missing from the story is sexual slavery with a 13 year old girl and sexual harassment. The sexual harassment story, from The Guardian, actually involved a make-up artist and not a model. Of course, Donald Trump is no stranger to lawsuits at least 142, see top 15 lawsuits involving Donald Trump.

Just a few informational nuggets before we get to the whole story.

The Incidence of Slave Labor

From End Slavery Now: An estimated 20.9 million are victims of forced labor, a type of enslavement that captures labor and sexual exploitation. Forced labor is most like historic American slavery: coerced, often physically and without pay. All other categories of slavery are a subset of forced labor and can include domestic servitude, child labor, bonded labor and forced sex. State authorities, businesses and individuals force coercive labor practices upon people in order to profit or gain from their work.

Forced Labor in the United States

In the U.S., more foreign victims are found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. Some of these labor trafficking victims entered the country under work or student-based visa programs. Victims can be targeted once they arrived in the U.S., or foreign recruiters may bring these forced laborers to the U.S. using fraudulent or coercive means. Immigrants can be vulnerable to U.S.-based traffickers because of unfamiliarity with the English language, American customs or job processes.

The Story

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones written by James West


Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.” And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management “has risen to the top of the fashion market,” boasts the Trump Organization’s website, and has a name “that symbolizes success.” According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.

Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump’s company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones‘ request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump’s hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.

Former Trump model Rachel Blais appeared in a 2004 episode of Donald Trump’s hit NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump Model Management had yet to secure her work visa. NBC

Two other former Trump models—who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate—said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and Mother Jones confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.)

Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world’s most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. “I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there,” Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump’s agency.

“I was there illegally,” she said. “A sitting duck.”

 According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. “If the US company is benefiting from that person, that’s work,” explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to “protect them from being exploited,” she said. “That US company shouldn’t be making money off you.”

Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you’re just here for meetings.”

Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management’s use of foreign labor. “That has nothing to do with me or the campaign,” she said, adding that she had referred Mother Jones‘ queries to Trump’s modeling agency. Mother Jones also sent detailed questions to Trump Model Management. The company did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.

Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump’s current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the Politico story, Melania Trump said she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”)

Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. “He doesn’t want to let anyone into the US anymore,” she said. “Meanwhile, behind everyone’s back, he’s bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they’re working illegally.”

Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, Girl Model, that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump’s firm stood out: “Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”

Rachel Blais appeared in this Elle fashion spread, published in September 2004, while working for Trump’s agency without a proper visa. Elle

Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like “the majority of models who are young, [have] never been to NYC, and don’t have papers, I was just put in Trump’s models’ apartment,” she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.

Models’ apartments, as they’re known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. Mother Jones is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.

When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds—two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.

“We’re herded into these small spaces,” Kate said. “The apartment was like a sweatshop.”

Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. “I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18,” Anna said. “The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!” She added, “I taught myself how to write, ‘Please clean up after yourself’ in Russian.”

Living in the apartment during a sweltering New York summer, Kate picked a top bunk near a street-level window in the hopes of getting a little fresh air. She awoke one morning to something splashing her face. “Oh, maybe it’s raining today,” she recalled thinking. But when she peered out the window, “I saw the one-eyed monster pissing on me,” she said. “There was a bum pissing on my window, splashing me in my Trump Model bed.”

“Such a glamorous industry,” she said.

Blais, who previously discussed some of her experiences in an interview with Public Radio International, said the models weren’t in a position to complain about their living arrangements. “You’re young,” she remarked, “and you know that if you ask too many questions, you’re not going to get the work.”

A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump’s agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others. Kate said she paid about $1,200 a month—”highway robbery,” she called it. For comparison, in the summer of 2004, an entire studio apartment nearby was advertised at $1,375 a month.

From April to October 2004, Blais traveled between the United States and Europe, picking up a string of high-profile fashion assignments for Trump Model Management and making a name for herself in the modeling world. During the months she spent living and working in New York, Blais said, she only had a tourist visa. “Most of the girls in the apartment that were not American didn’t have a work visa,” she recalled.

Anna and Kate also said they each worked for Trump’s agency while holding tourist visas. “I started out doing test-shoots but ended up doing a couple of lookbooks,” Anna said. (A lookbook is a modeling portfolio.) “Nothing huge, but definitely shoots that classified as ‘work.'”

Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.

The three former Trump models said Trump’s agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, “When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were “dodging around” her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. “Until finally,” she said, “it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out.”

Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. “Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” she added. “It’s hard enough when you’re there perfectly innocently, but when you know you’ve lied on what is essentially a federal document, it’s a whole new world.”

“Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?” Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.

Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. “It’s been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally,” said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.

Bringing models into the United States on tourist visas was “very common,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute. “I’ve had tons of agencies tell me this, that this used to happen all the time, and that the cover story might be something like ‘I’m coming in for a friend’s birthday,’ or ‘I’m coming in to visit my aunt,’ that sort of thing.”

For their part, modeling agencies have complained about the time and resources required to bring a foreign model into the country and have insisted that US immigration laws are out of step with their fast-paced industry. “If there are girls that we can’t get into the United States, the client is going to take that business elsewhere,” Corinne Nicolas, the president of Trump Model Management, told the New York Daily News in 2008. “The market is calling for foreign girls.”

In 2007, a few years before his career imploded in a sexting scandal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sponsored a bill that would give models the same kind of work visas that international entertainers and athletes receive. The tabloids had a field day­—”Give me your torrid, your pure, your totally smokin’ foreign babes,” screamed a Daily News headline—and the effort ultimately failed.

Trump Model Management sponsored only its most successful models for work visas, the three former models said. Those who didn’t cut it were sent home, as was the case, Blais noted, with many of her roommates.

“It was very much the case of you earn your visa,” Anna said. “Essentially, if you got enough work and they liked you enough, they’d pay for a visa, but you weren’t about to see a dime before you could prove your worth.”

The company eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais. Such visas allow US companies to employ workers in specialized fields. According to financial records provided by Blais, the company deducted the costs of obtaining a work visa from her earnings. (The agency did not obtain work visas for Anna and Kate, who each left the United States after their stints with Trump Model Management.)

H-1B visas have been increasingly popular in the high-tech field, and Trump’s companies, including Trump Model Management, have used this program extensively in the past. But on the campaign trail, Trump has railed against the H-1B program and those who he says abuse it. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” Trump said in March. “No exceptions.”

Nearly three years after signing with Trump’s agency, Blais had little to show for it—and it wasn’t for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients’ modeling fees. But these charges—including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid—consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. “I only got one check from Trump Models, and that’s when I left them,” she said. “I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars.” (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)

“This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers,” Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.

This is known in the industry as “agency debt.” Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. “I left indebted to them,” she said, “and I never went back, and I never paid them back.”

The experiences the former Trump models related to Mother Jones echo allegations in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against six major modeling agencies by nine former models who have claimed their agencies charged them exorbitant fees for rent and other expenses. One plaintiff, Marcelle Almonte, has alleged that her agency charged her $1,850 per month to live in a two-bedroom Miami Beach apartment with eight other models. The market rate for apartments in the same building ran no more than $3,300 per month, according to the complaint. (Trump Model Management, which was initially named in an earlier version of this lawsuit, was dropped from the case in 2013, after the judge narrowed the number of defendants.) Models “were largely trapped by these circumstances if they wanted to continue to pursue a career in modeling,” the complaint alleges.

“It is like modern-day slavery” Blais said of working for Trump Model Management—and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump’s company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she “felt like a slave.”

Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty—sometimes mysterious—fees to Trump’s agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump’s company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer’s claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “without merit.”

Palmer filed a complaint with the Department of Labor this spring, and in August the agency dismissed the case. Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said he is appealing the decision. Since he began representing Palmer, he said, fashion models who worked for other agencies have approached him with similar stories. “These are people that are coming out of the closet and explaining to the world how they are being exploited,” he said. “They are the most vulnerable.”

Documents filed in Palmer’s case indicate that she worked in the United States without a work visa after being recruited by Trump’s agency from her native Jamaica. Gehi declined to discuss his client’s immigration status.

Former Trump model Alexia Palmer posed for this Teen Vogue shoot in January 2011. She secured a work visa in October 2011. Teen Vogue

A Caribbean model contest launched Palmer’s career in 2010, and at age 17 she signed an exclusive contract with Trump Model Management in January 2011. Department of Labor records show she received approval to work in the United States beginning in October 2011. Yet according to a financial statement filed as evidence in her case, Palmer started working in the United States nine months before this authorization was granted. Her financial records list a January 22, 2011, job for Condé Nast, when she posed for a Teen Vogue spread featuring the cast of Glee. (The shoot took place at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.)

“That whole period, from January to September, was not authorized,” said Pankaj Malik, a partner at New York-based Ballon, Stoll, Bader & Nadler who has worked on immigration issues for over two decades and who reviewed Palmer’s case for Mother Jones. “You can’t do any of that. It’s so not allowed.”

Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.

The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially,” the New York Sun wrote in 2004. “But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme—sex sells.” Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on The Apprentice—and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, TRUMP.

Part of Blais’ job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, “I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening.” It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. “It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand,” she remembered.

Trump made a strong impression on her that night. “I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level,” she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.

Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump’s company in disgust. “My overall experience was not a very good one,” she said. “I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the agency. I didn’t like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off.”

These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. “He doesn’t like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it’s okay? He’s such a hypocrite.”

Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator from California has asked for an investigation regarding this story according to The Huffington Post.


Best Made in the USA Sparkling Wines 2016

Best Made in the USA Sparkling Wines 2016

This year, we made a commitment to find the best sparkling wine made in the USA. The first step was to identify some of the best wine producers that make sparkling wines. To make the contest fair – all of the wines were covered. The sparkling wines all had to be bruts. (It is sometimes hard to compare a rose with a brut – it is like comparing apples and oranges). From the biggest sparkling producers, we went with their top of the line products which are often not available to the public. The exception was Mumm Napa Brut Prestige instead of their DVX line – the reason – Wine Spectator had rated the Brut Prestige higher than their DVX products. The price listed is the winery price.

So, this is the list from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Gruet Brut (New Mexico) $17
  2. Kenwood Cuvee Brut (Sonoma, CA) $18
  3. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence (Anderson Valley, CA) $20 (WS 90)
  4. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Napa, CA) $22 (WS 91)
  5. Breathless Brut (CA) $25
  6. Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2010 (Russian River, CA) $42 (WS 93)
  7. Laetitia Brut Coquard (Arroyo Grande, CA) $48
  8. L’Ermitage Brut  (Roederer Estate) 2007 (Anderson Valley, CA) $48 (WS 93)
  9. Lichen Blanc De Noir (Anderson Valley, CA) $55
  10. Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee (’04) (Sonoma, CA) $59 (WS 92)
  11. Etoile Tete De Cuvee (Domaine Chandon)(06) Napa, CA) $80 (WS 93 for ’03)
  12. Le Reve (Domaine Carneros) 2009 (Sonoma, CA) $110 (WS 93)
  13. J. Schram  (Schrambsburg) 2006 (Calistoga, CA) $120 (WS 93)

The WS means the Wine Spectator rating of the wine from 70-100.

champagne 2016

These are the bottles after being wrapped up.

blinded champagne


The result: For the novice drinkers, they preferred the sweeter and cheaper Kenwood Brut. For the more seasoned drinkers, the winner was L’Ermitage made by Roederer Estate. A close second and a surprise was Laetitia Brut Coquard.

October 2016
« Sep    


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