FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toys From Abusive Chinese Factories Bring No Holiday Cheer

Here’s a question to ponder this Holiday season — what do toy brands like Barbie, Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine have in common? What about the companies that produce these toys — Mattel, Disney, Fisher Price and other major toy companies such as Crayola and Hasbro? Many parents might say that the shared commonality of these toys and their corporate manufacturers is their young children’s affinity for them, especially around the holiday season when corporate advertising and marketing launches into overdrive. Many parents may be planning or have already purchased these and other toys as holiday gifts for their youngsters.

Here’s one common factor that many parents will likely not consider about the toys they purchase as gifts. According to a recently released 66-page report from the nonprofit organization China Labor Watch (CLW), these aforementioned popular toy brands and many others are manufactured in Chinese factories that have been found to have repeatedly committed a vast number of worker rights violations. This most recent CLW investigation was a follow-up to one conducted and reported on in 2007. Disturbingly, many of the same abuses reported then were discovered once more, seven years later. Despite efforts to bring attention to these harmful labor conditions, the conditions in Chinese factories persist, and Americans continue to buy up these products by the millions. As for the American companies that sell them, finding ways to shirk any responsibility for deplorable factory conditions is their primary public relations concern.

The CLW report states:

Many toy companies divide their toy orders among dozens or hundreds of factories in order to ensure that their orders in any given factory only consists of a small proportion of that factory’s total orders usually no more than 20 percent. Toy companies will also use this as a basis for avoiding responsibility for poor labor conditions. For example, if CLW uncovers labor rights violations at a Disney supplier factory in China, Disney might respond that it only maintains a small number of orders in the plant and is unable to influence the factory’s behavior.

Parents should consider the following harsh realities uncovered by CLW:

Workers who create these toy products often make just over a dollar an hour, nowhere near a living wage. Many live in cramped company dormitories with inadequate bathroom facilities for the number of people who occupy them. Many receive inadequate or no safety training. Many are forced to work excessive overtime hours in violation of Chinese labor laws. Many are provided inadequate safety equipment or work on poorly maintained and potentially dangerous equipment. None of the factories investigated by CLW conducted fire safety training, and one even locked emergency escape doors and had fire escape routes obstructed. Unfortunately, the grievance procedures for factory workers to file complaints or report incidents are ineffective or nonexistent.

Here’s one that might strike a chord with the smartphone generation — a 2013 CLWreport on Mattel factories reported that in one factory, “A worker who checks his cell phone will have that day’s working hours reset to zero, effectively not paying the worker for the actual work that he did.”

These are only some of the numerous issues reported. Taken as a whole, the report describes a truly nightmarish and inhumane work environment that would appall many in the Western world. Behind the friendly plastic smiles of Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Tank engine lays immense human suffering and worker abuse.

Eighty-five percent of all children’s toys that are sold in the United States come from China. Furthermore, these toys often come with too many hazards — burning, choking risks for small children, or toxics in or on the toys. It can be difficult for parents to know what toys are safe for their youngsters. Some are recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (See cpsc.gov for the latest recalls.)

A few examples of recent recalls: A singing monkey toy, sold in Cracker Barrel restaurants, has a battery compartment that can overheat and cause burns. Another is a “Dream on Me” playhouse that reportedly can collapse and pose a strangulation risk to young children. Yet another is a “Hello Kitty” whistle, distributed by McDonald’s, in which a small internal piece can come detached and be swallowed or choked on by young users. The proposed remedy from McDonald’s: “Consumers should immediately take the whistle away from children and return it to any McDonald’s for a free replacement toy and either a yogurt tube or a bag of apple slices.” All of these dangerous products were manufactured in China.

The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act (H.R. 4842) was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) It would require U.S. companies to disclose its contracting practices in annual reports that find instances of “child labor, forced labor, slavery, and human trafficking.” It would also require the Secretary of Labor “to develop and publish annually on the Internet website of the Department of Labor a list of top 100 companies adhering to supply chain labor standards, as established under federal and international guidelines.” This would be an important step in holding toy companies accountable for the inhumane conditions they permit by doing business with abusive factories in China.

In the meantime, being a socially-conscious shopper is one way to let these corporations know that Americans do not approve of products built on the backs of Chinese serf-labor. One easy method is to check the country-of-origin label on products to see where they came from. Parents should know about the products their children request and not give into demands or nagging because the youngster wanted the products to fit in with their friends. These toy companies want their young consumers to be compliant, vulnerable and ever-hooked on fashionable fads.

Is such crass commercialism worth the cost of human suffering?

Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
George Ochenski
Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections in Another cCollaboration Failure
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail