Toys bring great joy to many young children. But produced under abusive conditions, they also bring pain.
An undercover investigation in Shenzhen, China has revealed alleged labor abuse inside a factory that produces products inspired by Disney's Cars 2, as well as other toys for Mattel and Wal-Mart, the Guardian reports.
A human rights group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, or Sacom, carried out the investigation, reporting a minimum of one instance of child labor at the factory, operated by manufacturer Sturdy Products. The group also documented employees working over three times the legal amount of monthly overtime in unsafe conditions amongst poorly-ventilated chemical fumes.
Mistreatment by managers reportedly led one worker to suicide.
This isn't the first reported instance of worker abuse linked to Disney toys. In 2007, a report found that management at the Disney producer Haowei Toys factory, also located in Shenzhen, forced workers to work 28 days a month, 15 hours a day for almost half the minimum wage. Employees similarly complained of poor ventilation.
More recently, instances of poor working conditions seem to be increasingly prevalent in Asia as companies continue to cut costs and raise profits. Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of Apple products whose high-pressure work conditions caused nine employees to commit suicide last year, continues to expose employees to standards well below those outlined in Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct, according to a recent investigation also by Sacom.
Nike has also come under fire for exposing workers to poor conditions. Employees at a factory in Jakarta, Indonesia, which produces Nike's Converse brand of sneakers, reportedly work long hours for the paltry hourly wage of around 50 cents all while being frequently pelted with shoes or belittled by verbal abuse.
Allegations of worker abuse aren't limited to Asia either. Questions have been raised at a Hershey candy packaging plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, after it was revealed that exchange students who had been hired to work for the summer were accruing a net loss in compensation. Nearly 400 guestworkers from Eastern Europe and Asia, alongside three Pennsylvania labor union leaders, protested the conditions that some claim are exploitative.
As for the corporations whose products are made by Sturdy Products, the response has been varied, if not immediately effective, according to the Guardian. Wal-Mart and Disney have promised forthcoming investigations into worker abuse in the Shenzhen factory. Mattel, on the other hand, stated the suicide was "very tragic" but an isolated event.