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K'Nex investigates 'sweatshop' report

Playthings  |  July 14, 2008  |  Link to article

July 14, 2008—K’Nex Industries is launching an investigation into claims by the National Labor Committee, an international workers' rights watchdog group, that some of its Sesame Street building sets are made under “abusive sweatshop conditions.”

According to an NLC report, the Kai Da Toy factory in Shenzhen, China, where some of K’Nex’s toys are made, violates “every labor law in China” based on factory and product photos, and worker interviews. Its report says Kai Da’s “600 mostly young workers, including a hundred 16-year-old high school students and several children,” are “forced to toil 13 to 15 hours a day… seven days a week, going for months without a single day off” and include “mandatory 19-to-23½-hour, all-night shifts before shipments must leave for the U.S. or Europe.”

In addition to a litany of other complains, the report claims workers “are systematically cheated of half the wages due them, earning just $36.55 for working an 89-hour week instead of the $77.84 they were legally owed”—or “less than 1 cent for each toy they complete.”

In a statement released today, K’Nex said:

“We are a family owned company and we are committed to the safety and welfare of children. The Hoida toy factory is ICTI (International Council of Toy Industries) certified, which means that we comply with the highest safety and labor laws in the toy industry. We take the NLC allegations very seriously and as a result we are launching an immediate investigation.”

The NLC’s announcement was timed to this week’s release in the U.S. and Europe of the latest SKUs in K’Nex’s Sesame Street line. In addition to castigating K’Nex, it also chided Hasbro for distributing K’Nex’s Kai Da-produced products in international markets.