US: McDonald's Uses Sweatshop

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

HONG KONG -- Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty toys sold with
McDonald's meals in Hong Kong are made at a mainland Chinese sweatshop that
illegally employs child laborers to package the toys, a newspaper reported
Sunday. The children, as young as 14, work 16-hour days for about $3 - barely the
cost of one McDonald's meal in Hong Kong, the Sunday Morning Post reported.

The newspaper said one of its reporters mingled with some of the youngsters
in a guarded factory complex in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong
Kong, where they live in spartan conditions. It said 16 workers sleep in a
single room on wooden beds with no mattresses.

The newspaper quoted some of the youngsters as saying they lied about their
age and used false identification documents to obtain jobs with a company
called City Toys Ltd., a subsidiary of Hong Hong-based Pleasure Tech
Holdings Ltd. that works under contract for a McDonald's supplier, Simon
Marketing (Hong Kong) Ltd.

McDonald's said it has a strict code on labor rights that prohibits child
labor and that for more than a year an independent auditing firm has
carried out periodic, unannounced inspections of its suppliers. In October,
auditing firm Societe Generale de Surveillance, or SGS, inspected City Toys
and found it to be in compliance with corporate guidelines, McDonald's and
SGS said in statements released Sunday.

"We take the current allegations very seriously and are taking immediate
action to get all the facts," said a statement from McDonald's corporate
spokesman Walt Riker. The statement said that if any McDonald's suppliers
do not comply with its code of conduct, they could lose the company's
business.

The newspaper quoted a City Toys director, Hong Kong businessman Jack Lau
Kim-hung, as saying he "knew nothing about the underage workers" but would
investigate. It also quoted a spokeswoman at Simon Marketing, Vivian Foo,
as denying that the plant employed child laborers.

The newspaper quoted one worker it identified as 14-year-old An Luping as
saying she lied about her age so she could work at the plant.

"My family is poor," An was quoted as saying. "It can't afford to keep four
children."

"Many people do this," the girl was quoted as saying. "I used a fake name -
Yang Li. She is my friend living in my village who is 17 years old."

Meanwhile, about 20 activists who accuse McDonald's of child exploitation
demonstrated outside one of its outlets at a busy tourist spot in the
territory Sunday.

"Stop exploitation, shame on McDonald's," the activists chanted.

Several McDonald's customers outside the branch said child labor was bad,
but it would not stop them from eating at the fast-food chain.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
  • 184 Labor