Shop, shop, shop--but don't forget some of the underside of the mad dash through the holidays--this from our friends at the National Labor Committee:
The Dirty Little Secret behind the flashy, best-selling Bratz dolls: Bratz dolls are all the rage, ranking as the most sought-after toy this holiday season, surpassing even Barbie, which has dropped to third place. Bratz dolls now make up 40 percent of the fashion doll market, and will bring in $3 billion in sales this year. Many parents are already concerned about the big doe-eyed, scantily-clad, high-heeled and half-emaciated Bratz dolls, some of which look like little hookers with supersized lips, being marketed to their very young children.
But there is another dirty little secret behind the Bratz dolls. They are made in a sweatshop in China, where women are routinely forced to work seven days and 94 ½ hours a week, for wages of just 51 ½ cents an hour, $4.13 a day.
As bad as conditions are now, they are about to get worse. The factory wants to fire all the workers and then bring them back as temporary workers with contracts of just one to eight months, which would strip them of any legal rights they might have. As it is, the workers are denied sick days as well as work injury and health insurance.
In January 2007, out of desperation, the Bratz doll makers will go out on a wildcat strike.
There is another dirty little secret behind the Bratz dolls—a secret that MGA, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us do not want us to know: It’s that the workers in China are paid just 17 cents for each doll they assemble, and that the total cost to produce the doll is $3.01. When the Bratz dolls enter the U.S., the companies mark the price up by 428 percent—another $12.88—and retail the dolls for at least $15.89. It’s a good deal for the companies and a very bad deal for the young workers in China, and—for more than one reason—for parents and children across the United States and Europe. Does MGA have a passion for fashion or just a passion for profits?
Tell Wal-Mart (firstname.lastname@example.org), MGA and Toys R Us not to fire these workers! These workers deserve real contracts. Tell them to give their workers full benefits: health care, pensions and work injury insurance.
And the helpful NLC folks even provide a model letter (of course, the more you personalize it, the better):
I urge you to intervene immediately to prevent a major crisis at your contractor’s toy plant in China, the Hua Tai 4K factory in Shenzhen City.
The factory is in routine violation of many of China’s labor laws—and in even greater violation of the United Nations/International Labor Organization’s core worker rights standards. Overtime is mandatory and excessive, at times exceeding China’s legal limit by 445 percent. There are also instances, due to constant arbitrary production line speed-ups, when assembly workers failing to reach their production targets must work for free until they do so. Workers report that there are no paid sick days, and in fact, missing a day can actually result in the loss of three days’ wages. Moreover, in direct violation of China’s labor law, Article 72, factory management does not provide its workers with the required health and work injury insurance or a pension. This is even the case for workers who have been employed at the Hua Tai 4K factory for over ten years. Wages are also below subsistence levels, and workers can be fined five hours’ pay if they damage a toy they are working on. The workers also report that factory dormitory conditions are primitive and that at the plant’s cafeteria the food is too little and of very poor quality.
However, the main crisis is this: To avoid complying with a recently passed law in Shenzhen—which makes it mandatory beginning in January 2007 that factories pay a bonus equal to one month’s wage to every worker who has been employed for one year or more—management is about to fire 4,000 workers, with the intention of bringing them back as “new” temporary workers. As mentioned above, some workers have been employed at the Hua Tai 4K factory for more than 10 years. From this point forward, management wants to limit all new work contracts to durations of just one to eight months. Indeed, some workers are already being kept under such contracts. This reduction to “temporary” status, will strip the workers of any legal rights they might have hoped to eventually win. The workers can kiss goodbye any hope of receiving their legal health and work injury insurance, pension or yearly bonus.
It is possible, if management refuses to sit down in good faith with workers and reverse this illegal course, that there could be a wildcat strike in January—as the workers will have no other recourse.
Please immediately urge your contractor to reverse any attempt to turn its dedicated workforce into mere temporary workers. We have all been told that worker rights conditions in China are improving along with rising wages, but at your contractor’s plant, this definitely does not appear to be the case. pppp Thank you for your assistance on this very urgent matter.