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Sesame Street Toy Made in Chinese Sweatshop By Teenage Workers

Press Release Newswire  |  July 14, 2008  |  Share  |  Source article

A new Sesame Street "Ernie" toy made by K'NEX and distributed by Hasbro is to be released in the U.S. and Europe on July 15.

"Nightmare on Sesame Street," an in-depth 30-page report being released by the National Labor Committee (NLC), documents -- using factory and product photos and worker interviews -- the abusive sweatshop conditions endured by the 600 mostly young workers, including a hundred 16-year-old high school students and several children, at the Kai Da Toy factory in Shenzhen, China. [Full report:]

Every labor law in China is violated at the factory.

Workers making "Ernie" toys are forced to toil 13 to 15 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, going for months without a single day off. Workers are at the factory 104 hours a week. There are mandatory 19-to-23 1/2-hour, all-night shifts before shipments must leave for the U.S. or Europe.

The workers are systematically cheated of half the wages due them, earning just US$36.55 for working an 89-hour week instead of the US$77.84 they were legally owed. Management cheats the poor workers of over US$100,000 in wages due them each month.

The workers handle potentially toxic oil paints and solvents without protective gear.

The workers sweat as they race to complete 50 "Ernie" toys each hour and 650 in the 13-hour shift. The workers are paid less than one cent for each toy they complete.

Dorm conditions are primitive, with eight workers sharing each room, sleeping on narrow double-level bunk beds. The rooms lack water and toilets.

The cafeteria is filthy and infested with mice. The workers receive a thin rice gruel for breakfast.

One young worker asked that the parents and children who purchase these "Ernie" toys... "think of how much sweat and tears we paid to make these toys."

Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC, stated: "The abuse of young toy workers in China will not end unless parents and children demand that Sesame Street, Hasbro and K'NEX immediately clean up the Kai Da factory and take concrete steps to guarantee that the legal rights of the workers will finally be respected. There is absolutely no reason why these powerful toy companies cannot pay fair wages and treat the workers as human beings."

K'NEX describes itself as the second largest children's construction toy company in the world, controlling 12 percent of the U.S. market and 40 percent of the market in the United Kingdom. K'NEX toys are sold in 45 countries. Hasbro owns 50 percent of K'NEX's international and 10 percent of its domestic operations. K'NEX is an official Sesame Street licensee.

The NLC is the leading anti-sweatshop watchdog group in the U.S.

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