China Labor Watch investigators went undercover at four toy factories where workers make products for Disney, Mattel, Fisher-Price and McDonald’s for 11 hours a day, seven days a week, and all for minimum wage.
The investigation in southern China’s Guangdong Province discovered 10 workers crammed in small dorms without warm showers during winter, News.com.au reported.
“The situation has lasted for many decades. Tragically, not much has changed so far,” said the organization, which fights for workers’ rights.
Inside the sweatshops, toys such as Thomas the Tank, Barbie, DJ Suki Trolls, Hello Kitty, Hot Wheels and Disney princesses can be seen on conveyor belts.
Workers in the assembly department have a target goal of 4,000 toys a day, often without a break.
The April and September investigation also found that three of the four factories only paid their workers about $300/month, while others were paid $400/month.
Employees can only work a maximum of eight hours a day, but can sometimes do no more than 36 hours of overtime per month.
“We found that the average working hours in these four factories was 11 hours a day, with more than 50 overtime hours a month, and at half of the factories, overtime hours had reached 100 hours,” the Chinese Labor Watch report read. “Moreover, the extremely high production requirements left workers with barely any time to rest. During the 11 hours that workers put in within a day, all they had was a 40 to 60 minute lunch break.”
The workers live in filthy, unsanitary or hazardous conditions, with the floor covered by electrical wires, and about 14 people sharing a shower and toilet.
There is one cafeteria where workers can purchase food that isn’t considered nutritious.
“We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares. Any toy that is manufactured in China is a process where workers’ rights have been infringed upon,” the report said.
“Workers in toy factories face heavy workloads every day, but only earn an extremely low wage. They have children as well,” it read. “But after years of separation, when the workers finally return home with various illness or occupational injuries, who will protect the dream of their children?”
They are allegedly given a lump of paper towel for their birthdays, which some factories organize, while new employees are presented with yogurt.
Workers are also exposed to dangerous chemicals such as isoamyl acetate, also known banana oil.
They are reportedly not given gloves, glasses or masks to shield them from high concentrations of banana oil, which can cause headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, chapped skin, lung and central nervous system damage.
China Labor Watch pointed out that workers were not briefed about the dangers of the chemical.
This isn’t the first time the group has spoken out against working conditions in factories.
In 2015, China Labor Watch urged Apple to raise workers’ wage at an iPhone factory it investigated in Shanghai.
The Cupertino-based company has since enforced guidelines for working conditions and pay, with regular supplier audits and annual reports in compliance with standards, CNET reported.
McDonald’s gets its toys from Combine Will, one of the factories China Labor Watch investigated, and the fast food chain took the group’s allegations very seriously.
“We are committed to ensuring fair and ethical workplace standards in every corner of our supply chain. We are working closely with the International Council of Toy Industries in their investigation as well as overseeing a thorough review of these allegations and will swiftly and effectively address any issues that are identified,” a company spokesperson told News.com.au.