WASHINGTON — Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) today asked Labor Secretary Tom Perez to investigate whether Trump Model Management violated labor laws, saying she spoke with a former model who described mistreatment at the agency.
A week ago, Boxer asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service director León Rodríguez to probe whether “the company profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here,” citing a piece that appeared in Mother Jones.
“It appears that Trump Model Management failed to obtain work visas on behalf of models they employed despite being aware of their immigration status,” she wrote to Rodríguez. “I am extremely concerned by the claims levied against Trump Model Management and ask that you open an investigation into the company’s employment practices. I hope you will make clear that immigration and labor violations like these will not be tolerated.”
In her new letter today to Perez, Boxer said since writing Rodríguez she had spoken to former Trump model Rachel Blais and is now “expanding my call for an investigation by your agency as well.”
“Blais was particularly concerned about the treatment of girls, some as young as 14, who were actively recruited by the modeling agency. She told me that many underage girls lived with her in cramped dormitory-style living arrangements,” Boxer wrote. “As you know, our labor laws were written to protect workers, especially children, young women and other vulnerable populations, from mistreatment and exploitation.”
The senator said Blais told her that “models contracted with Trump Model Management were required to appear at Trump Organization events without receiving compensation,” specifically mentioning events promoting Trump Vodka and “The Apprentice.”
“Several models have complained that they were charged excessive rates for rent and other services – such as travel, beauty services and administrative costs – and that Trump Model Management deducted those costs from their earnings. Those fees were in addition to a 20 percent commission charged for any job that was booked. In many cases, models were left with little, if any, earnings even after months of work. Do these practices violate federal laws that seek to protect workers from unfair treatment and wage theft?” Boxer asked.
She asked Perez for information such as how many Labor Condition Applications (LCA) Trump Model Management has filed with the Labor Department, the prevailing wage rate Trump Model Management declared for each LCA, how many complaints has the Labor Department received against Trump Model Management, and actions Labor may have taken against the company in past investigations.
Boxer noted a Bloomberg BNA story in response to her Citizenship and Immigration Service request. Ronald Lieberman, executive vice president for management and development at the Trump Organization, told the business-news service the allegations refer to incidents that occurred “many, many years ago.”
“Every girl has what they need to work” and any investigation would “find that everything is in compliance,” Lieberman said. “We run a terrific modeling agency that’s highly respected throughout the modeling industry and we take a lot of pride in the operation and how we treat our girls.”
Boxer responded that “media reports indicate that immigration and labor violations took place within the last five years. That is a further reason for my request.” The Trump campaign had not issued comment on the Perez letter.
Blais has modeled for clients such as Dolce & Gabbana, Sephora and Neiman Marcus. Her website says she “uses her experiences and knowledge to speak out on areas of concern” in the industry, is “a supporter of new industry regulation to prohibit boys and girls (under the age of 18) from being used to portray adults in the fashion industry” and “also supports making boys and girls ineligible for international work visas and permits in connection with modeling work.” The Canadian told CNN last month that she worked for Trump Model Management for about six months without a work visa and was put in a small apartment with seven other models, for which they each paid $1,600.
“I worked with a different agency when I left Trump and they got my visa right away,” she said.