Santa’s workshops are actually sweatshops.
So says a holiday spirit-crushing report out Tuesday uncovering unfair labor practices at Asian toymaking plants where popular brands like Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine, Hot Wheels and others are made so kids can enjoy them on Christmas morning.
There’s little to be joyful about in China Labor Watch’s “Investigation Report in Four Toy Factories.” The account by the New York-based non-government research and advocacy group found that toys manufactured for Mattel, Hasbro, Disney, McDonald’s and Walmart are done so in unacceptable environments.
“They are sweatshop conditions,” said Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, which conducted anonymous toy factory studies in May and September of this year. The report found that workers endured “heavy workloads,” “toxic conditions” and “extremely low pay.” For one month of 174 hours the base wage would be $300, according to the 50-plus page report.
“Workers are under enormous pressure,” said Li Qiang. “They are verbally abused.” Or worse. The report found that “none of the four factories had ever taken the pre-work safety training seriously.” As a result, workers were exposed to toxic materials and didn’t even know it.
The report calls the situation “a world of misery for toy factory workers.” But it’s not a new world. “One of the most shocking things about the investigation is that these issues keep cropping up,” said Li Qiang. “Management always says it’s going to make improvements but little is seen. They don’t keep promises.”
The labor group shared a letter from Disney in which the famous brand noted that China Labor Watch “has made no attempt in recent years to contact us directly to share their concerns in a timely manner.” The group refuted that claim, adding that “We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares.”