Tuesday, October 30, 2007,10:12 PM
Safe and Ethical Toys?
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: ,

 
posted by Julie at 10:12 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


9 Comments:


  • At 10/31/2007 02:48:00 AM, Anonymous Sharon

    Thanks for this post Julie. I hope you don't mind if I link to it from my blog as this is a topic I have been thinking about for a while.

    I have been a silent follower (lurker?) on your blog for a while now. I particularly appreciate your posts on social justice issues- it's nice to find others out there in the blogosphere who have similar values.

     
  • At 10/31/2007 08:13:00 AM, Blogger gerbmom

    So, I just finished reading A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. I don't agree entirely with the book, however it was interesting that virtually every toy in our stores is being made in China. Legos are made in Denmark? Uh - not so fast - they are now being outsourced to, you guessed it, China.
    Puts all of us parents in a bind if we want to find ethically made toys. It's not China I object to - it's the way the toys are made and by whom that is the problem.
    Good luck with Christmas, Julie!

     
  • At 10/31/2007 10:34:00 AM, Blogger Rick

    Thanks, Julie - I'm really close to letting this be "burst the bubble Christmas" at our house, as we find out that the Grinch runs the North Pole and it's all been a ruse.

     
  • At 10/31/2007 01:36:00 PM, Anonymous sonja

    Nobody believes me when I tell them this, but I remember having conversations with my parents around the dinner table and we talked about this very thing happening when Nixon opened relations with China in the 70's.

    I'm going to swear ... this is just bullshit. We cannot go to war over this crap in Iraq and then condone it and buy it from China. Fascism is fascism is fascism and I don't care where it is or who's in charge.

    Okay, rant over ... sorry, I have an almost 14 year old daughter and the thought of girls her age being forced into labor and treated that way makes me see red. It's not just toys that you can't buy without the Made In China sticker ... there's practically nothing that doesn't have that horrible sticker on it these days. Our economy would collapse were it not for slavery. Think on that ...

     
  • At 10/31/2007 01:37:00 PM, Anonymous sonja

    Nobody believes me when I tell them this, but I remember having conversations with my parents around the dinner table and we talked about this very thing happening when Nixon opened relations with China in the 70's.

    I'm going to swear ... this is just bullshit. We cannot go to war over this crap in Iraq and then condone it and buy it from China. Fascism is fascism is fascism and I don't care where it is or who's in charge.

    Okay, rant over ... sorry, I have an almost 14 year old daughter and the thought of girls her age being forced into labor and treated that way makes me see red. It's not just toys that you can't buy without the Made In China sticker ... there's practically nothing that doesn't have that horrible sticker on it these days. Our economy would collapse were it not for slavery. Think on that ...

     
  • At 10/31/2007 02:13:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Like Karen mentioned, I don't have a problem with "Made in China" per se. To me outsourcing isn't the problem, people need jobs. It is the quality of those jobs that present the problem. When Mattel can get waivers to pay below minimum wage for China, there are some serious greed and oppression issues occuring. And what makes me even more sick is that after evil like this is exposed the response by the companies is not to reform but to shut down the factories and terminate jobs, they save face but still end up hurting people.

     
  • At 10/13/2009 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

  • At 11/20/2011 08:34:00 PM, Blogger sport

  • At 3/28/2012 07:21:00 PM, Anonymous kobe

    glad to share with you destination wedding dresses

     

Links to this post:

Create a Link

--------------