Nightmare on Sesame Street  |  July 16, 2008  |  Link to article

DISPATCH: Nightmare on Sesame Street

Posted on July 14, 2008 by Brooke Shelby Biggs

Our friends at the National Labor Committee have issued a brand-new report reveling that toys for the Christmas holidays distributed by K'NEX and Hasbro are being manufactured in sweatshops in China under horrifying conditions. Imagine, toys to brighten the lives of first-world children made by third-world children who are forced to work 15 hours a day and systematically cheated out of half of their wages!

We always respect the work of the NLC and they've outdone themselves here. Hasbro is one of the largest toy makers in the United states, and here in the UK, K'NEX controls fully 40 percent of the construction toy market.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

" Sesame Street's Kid K'NEX "Ernie" construction toys are made at the Kai Da factory in Shenzhen City, China, by 600 mostly young workers, including a hundred 16 year olds high school students, and even several children. The child workers were seen in the factory in April, which is exactly the time a local newspaper in China exposed that hundreds, if not thousands of children were trafficked from Sichuan Province to the south of China, where they worked under slave labor conditions in toy and other assembly plants.

" Every single labor law in China is systematically and grossly violated at the Kai Da Toy factory.

" Illegally, all workers are hired as temps with contracts, lasting just three to six months. Once inside the factory, workers cannot leave until their contracts expire. If anyone does quit, they will be docked one-month's wages.

" Routine 14 to 15 hour shifts, from 8:00 am to 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00 pm, seven days a week, with the workers toiling for months without a single day off. There are also mandatory 19 and 23 ½ hour all-night shifts before the toy shipments must leave for the U.S. or Europe. Workers are typically at the factory 103 hours a week. All overtime is mandatory, and the 49 hours of overtime worked each week exceeds China's legal limit by 489 percent!

" Workers are systematically cheated of half the wage legally due them. Many workers earn just 43 cents an hour which is 31 percent below Shenzhen City's minimum wage of 62 cents, which is itself not a subsistence level wage. Workers are paid just $36.55 for working an 89 hour week, including 49 hours of overtime. They should have earned at least $77.84. Management routinely cheats the poor workers of over $100,000 a month in wages due them. After deductions for primitive room and board, take home wages can drop to just 28 cents an hour.

" Workers sweat as they race to assemble 50 Ernie toys per hour, and up to 650 in a 13 hour shift. The workers are paid less than a penny for each toy they assemble. Workers must complete an operation every four seconds, 950 per hour, and 12,350 options in the 14 hour shift.

" Workers handle potentially toxic oil spray paints and solvents without being provided even the most rudimentary protective gears.

" Workers are denied basic work injury and health insurance, despite the fact that this is mandatory under China's laws.

" Eight workers share each dorm room, sleeping in narrow, double-level metal bunk beds. The workers drape old sheets or pieces of plastic over their cubicle opening for privacy. The dorm rooms lack water or a toilet.

" The workers' cafeteria is filthy, with grease on the floor and infested with mice. For breakfast the workers are fed a rice gruel. The egg soup, which is in a dirty vat, is made with just 34 eggs to serve 600 workers. The so-called meat dishes have little or no meat.

" One toy worker asked parents who purchase the Ernie toy to—"think of how much sweat and tears we paid in order to make these toys."

" K'NEX is an official licensee of Sesame Street Toys. Hasbro owns 50 percent of K'NEX's international operation (Hasbro denies this).

" Parents and children should demand that Sesame Street, Hasbro and K'NEX immediately clean up the Kai Da Toy 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 could not pay fair wages and treat the workers as human beings.

" The American people purchase $25/29 billion-worth of toys each year—more than 85 percent of which are made in China.

Let's make Christmas truly a holiday for children and tell Hasbro and K'NEX that we will not buy their tainted products. Read the NLC Report: Nightmare on Sesame Street

Shelby Biggs, Brooke. "DISPATCH: Nightmare on Sesame Street." 14 July 2008. 16 July 2008