It's that time of year again. Halloween is so over and the store shelves are being cleared for Christmas. Time to start your Christmas shopping. Unfortunately recent news has highlighted that the "Santa's little helpers" making the toys for our children are actually young Chinese women forced to work 90 hour work weeks for pennies an hour and trafficked children held in slavery forced to work in factories. Wow doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy with holiday cheer?
In a report released this past week by the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Rights, the atrocities committed by companies like Gap and Mattel were revealed. Mattel has been in the news a lot these past few months because of revelations of excessive amounts of toxic lead paint in their toys. I find it very interesting that after the lead paint scandal hit the news, my inbox was flooded with emails from other concerned moms spreading the news that our children could be exposed to hazardous conditions. So far no public service emails from moms concerned that people were abused and kept in slavery to make our children's toys. Guess it's the old, "if it doesn't affect me and mine, then I don't give a shit."
You can read the full report here
and a good interview transcript summarizing the report at Democracy Now!
. The horrific conditions at these factories are detailed in these reports. Basically young women making Barbie Mattel toys for Walmart are paid just 53 cents an hour and $21.34 a week. "Forced to work excessive overtime, the toy workers are routinely at the factory 82 to 87 hours a week, while toiling 66 to 70 hours. The standard shift is 14 ½ hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., six days a week. Mandatory overtime at the Xin Yi Factory exceeds China’s legal limit by 260 percent! Workers are routinely cheated on nearly 20 percent of the wages legally due them – resulting in the loss of two days wages each week. After deductions for primitive dorms (12 workers share each room sleeping on double-level bunk beds) and company food that the workers call “awful,” the workers’ take-home wage is just 46 cents an hour. Managers routinely yell and curse at the workers, and it is common – nearly every day – to see young women workers crying. Workers who are insulted have but two options – to bow their heads and remain silent or to quit and leave without the back wages due to them. Workers can be fired for having an “inattentive attitude” or for “speaking during working hours.” Workers falling behind in their mandatory product goal will be punished with the loss of five hours wages. Workers are prohibited from standing up and must remain seated on their benches at all times during working hours. Workers report that the factory is overcrowded and extremely hot, and that everyone is dripping in their own sweat.Workers in the spray paint department who cannot tolerate the strong acrid stench of the oil paint are immediately fired. Failure to properly clean the shared bathroom in the dorm will result in the loss of one and a half day’s wages."
What I find most interesting in this whole thing is Mattel's behavior. This is the Mattel that recently apologized to China for the "excessive" recall of so many lead tainted toys. So if they are apologizing for attempting to make toys safe, then I don't have much confidence in their treatment of workers. This is also the company that sues someone on average once a month for Barbie copyright infringement. Apparently Barbie has more rights than the 14 year old girl who made her in a sweatshop. This is the Mattel that "sought and won special “waivers” from the government of China to pay below the legal minimum wage in its factories. Mattel also received waivers to unilaterally extend allowable working hours to seventy-two hours per week, which exceeds China’s legal limit on overtime by 295 percent." Oh and this is also the Mattel whose CEO paid himself $7,278,178 last year in wages and other compensation—which is 6,533 times what he pays his toy workers in China.
So who wants to go Christmas shopping?
Labels: Ethical Consumption, Social Justice