Hua Tai 4K Factory
Longgang District, Buji Township, Nan Ling Village Shenzhen City Guangdong Province, China
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.
If Bratz could speak, they would sing the Sweatshop Blues
Routine 13 ½ to 15 ½ –hour shifts, seven days a week. Workers at the factory 94 ½ hours a week. Paid just 51 ½ cents an hour and $4.13 a day. Workers denied work injury and health insurance, in direct violation of China’s law. Taking a sick day results in loss of three days’ wages. Workers failing to meet their production goals must remain working— unpaid—until the target is met. Workers are not allowed paid days off to get married. Ten workers share a small dorm room, sleeping on metal bunk beds.
There is no shower or TV. If a worker breaks a doll, she is docked five hours’ wages. Before the gullible Wal-Mart auditors arrive, the workers are provided a Cheat Sheet with a list of the “correct” answers, which they must memorize.
Now the factory wants to fire every worker and then bring them back as temporary workers with contracts limited to just one to eight months—which will strip them of any legal rights they have. The workers are planning to strike in January 2007.
The workers are paid just 17 cents for each Bratz doll they assemble.
The total cost of production for a Bratz doll made in China is $3.01. When the doll enters the U.S., the companies mark up the cost by another 428 percent, adding $12.88, for a retail price of $15.89.
The Sweatshop Behind the Bratz
There are approximately 4,000 workers, 60 percent of them women, making Bratz dolls and other toys at the Hua Tai 4K Factory, mostly for the California-based MGA Entertainment Inc. company.
Hua Tai 4K is one of the seven toy factories in Guangdong Province, collectively employing over 30,000 workers, which are part of the large Hong Kong based Hua Cheng Group.
During the busy season, workers are routinely at the factory 94 ½ hours a week, working 13 ½-hour shifts, seven days a week.
The busy season at the Hua Tai factory lasts seven months, from April through October. The This picture of Jade Mermaidz Bratz Babyz typical shift during this period is 13 ½ to 15 ½ was sent to us by workers at the factory hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 or 11:00 p.m., most often seven days a week.
Typical Peak Season Shift
7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (Work / 4 hours)
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Lunch / 1 hour)
12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Work / 4 hours)
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Supper / 1 ½ hours)
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 or 11:00 p.m. (Overtime / 3-5 hours)
The legal workweek in China is eight hours a day, five days a week, for a regular 40-hour week. Legally, overtime is limited to three hours a day and cannot exceed 36 hours in a month. All overtime must be voluntary.
The Hua Tai factory is clearly violating the law. First of all, overtime is mandatory, and during the rush season it is common to be required to work seven days a week. Secondly, the hours workers must work far exceed China’s legal limits: Even if the workers are let out at 9:00 p.m. (after working a 13 ½ -hour shift) rather than at 11:00 p.m., they are still at the factory 94 ½ hours a week, while actually working 77 hours. The workers receive approximately an hour off for lunch and another hour and a half off for supper. This means that the workers are required to work 37 hours of overtime a week, which exceeds China’s legal limit by 445 percent.
Even during the slow season, November through March, it is still typical for the workers to be required to work two to three hours of overtime a day, though they usually get Saturday and Sunday off. In the slow season, the workers can be at the factory over 65 hours a week while actually working 55 hours, which still exceeds China’s legal overtime limit by approximately seven hours each week.
Below Subsistence-level Wages
The base wage is 51 ½ cents per hour and $4.13 a day, which is below subsistence level, making the workers dependent upon excessive overtime to survive.
The base wage at the Hua Tai toy factory is 700 rmb per month, or $89.39. Of course, if a worker is sick and misses time, his or her wages will drop below minimum.
Base Wage 400 rmb per month
51 ½ cents an hour $4.13 a day (8 hours) $20.63 a week (5 days, 40 hours) $89.39 a month $1,072.73 a year (Note: Current exchange rate is 7.8305 rmb to $1.00 U.S.)
Overtime work appears to be paid correctly, with a 50 percent premium for weekday overtime and double or triple pay for overtime required on the weekends and statutory holidays.
However, when assembly line workers fail to reach their assigned daily production goal, they are kept working, without pay, until the target is reached. The factory’s engineering department arbitrarily—without any input from the workers—determines the exact time that will be allowed to complete each toy.
Constant Speed-ups: The workers report that during the first few days after a new toy is introduced, it is almost impossible to finish the work on time. After 20 days or so, when the workers can more or less regularly complete their goal, it is common for the engineering department to again suddenly increase the production target. This is happening right now in the factory. The workers refer to the factory as the “Invincible Man” –since there appears to be no end in sight as to how fast management will expect workers to toil to reach the ever-increasing production goals.
To cover up the illegal, excessive overtime, the workers are paid twice each month. On the seventh of each month, the workers are paid for the previous month’s regular hours and overtime worked within the legal limit. The money goes straight into the workers’ bank accounts. On the 25th of the month, the workers are paid separately for the excessive and illegal overtime hours they were required to work the previous month.
Workers Paid 17 Cents for Each Bratz Doll
At the factory, there are 50 workers on an assembly line, and the current production target is to complete 150 Bratz dolls per hour. In effect this means that each worker must complete three dolls per hour, or one every 20 minutes. Given the 51 ½ cent-an-hour wages, we can determine that the workers are paid just 17 cents for each Bratz doll they assemble. This comes to about 1 percent of the dolls’ retail price which—even at the low end—is around $16.00.
Bratz Dolls Marked Up 428 Percent
Shipping records based on U.S. Customs documents show “Bratz P4F Cloe” doll being shipped from China to Wal-Mart with a landed Customs value of $3.01. This represents the entire cost of production for the Bratz Cloe doll—materials, accessories, direct and indirect labor, shipping costs and profit to the factory in China. The NLC recently purchased a Bratz Cloe doll at a Toys R Us store in Connecticut. It was marked down to $15.89. This means that the MGA Toy Company and retailers like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are marking up the price of the doll by 428 percent ($12.88). (Copies of shipping documents, attached.)
Bought in Wal-Mart for $32.08.
Abuses and Harsh Conditions at the Hua Tai Factory
The factory does not pay workers’ health insurance, work injury insurance or retirement pension, which is a blatant violation of China’s labor law, Article 72.
Workers are not paid for sick days. In fact, a worker who misses a day will be punished with the loss of three days’ wages.
Couples getting married are not paid for the days of work they miss.
If a worker breaks a product, they are fined 20 rmb, about five hours wages.
Dormitory: Ten workers share each small dorm room, sleeping on double-level metal bunk beds. There are just two fans in the room and no shower or television. The workers are charged about 30 rmb ($3.83) per month for the dorm.
(Given the below-subsistence wages, married couples who try to live “off campus” face very difficult conditions. To save money, two couples will rent a two-room apartment, one couple sleeping in the bedroom and the other couple in the front room. Even so, the rent is 700 rmb a month ($89.39) including utilities like water and electricity. It is typical that families cannot afford a sofa. Couples must also budget their food expenses very carefully in order to get through the month.)
Cafeteria food: The factory cafeteria is run by people connected to Nanling Village and the workers describe the food as horrible. (They say, “It sucks” and is too little.) Workers are allowed one small meat dish and one vegetable dish, with no second helpings allowed. The workers can afford to spend just four to eight rmb a day on food, which is just 51 cents to $1.02 a day—or, 17 to 34 cents a meal.
In January 2007, the Workers will Strike
To cut labor costs, Hua Tai management is moving to create a factory workforce made up entirely of temporary workers. All new contracts will be limited to just one month to a maximum of eight months. Management is doing this to circumvent a new government law passed in Shenzhen which, as of January 2007, will mandate that companies must pay a bonus equivalent to one month’s wage to workers who have worked one or more years at the factory. (It is likely that in future years companies will be required to pay their workers one month’s bonus for each year of employment.)
There was already a strike in June 2006, when workers who had more than ten years employment at the Hua Tai factory walked out demanding that the management pay their health insurance and pension as is required by law. The workers wanted to march to the local labor bureau to present their just demands, but were blocked and prevented from doing so by the Nanling Village public security forces. (What it means to be without the legal insurance for work injuries can be tragically seen in the case of a worker named Zhou Chumei, who we believe is a young woman. In the first half of 2006, a fire suddenly broke out near where Zhou Chumei was working and she was badly burned on over 90 percent of her body. Zhou Chumei demanded sufficient compensation for her very severe injuries, which the factory refused. Instead, the factory is paying her $255 a month. But even this could be cut off at any time.)
Now management is demanding that every worker quit and wait out one month before returning as a “new” worker, who will be given a temporary contract limited to less than eight months. Already some workers are being kept on month-to-month contracts.
There is an “official union” at the factory, but according to the workers, the union chairman is only interested in protecting the interests of the company. Few workers deal with the “union,” as there is no point in doing so, since the “union” has never helped.
If management carries out its plan, there will be no hope that the longtime workers will ever receive their legal health insurance, work injury coverage, pension or legal bonus. The Bratz toy workers will have no choice but to strike.
MGA goes to great lengths to protect its label and the “distinctive likeness” of its dolls, but what about the workers behind the label?
Another Farce: Wal-Mart Monitors Pay an Announced Visit. The Workers are instructed to lie.
On December 8, 2006, Wal-Mart auditors paid an announced visit to the Hua Tai 4K Toy factory. Management took certain preparatory steps. Workers with more than 10 years employment were given the day off with pay, since they could not be trusted to lie to Wal-Mart’s monitors. No only was management refusing to pay for their legal health insurance and pension, they now want to turn the longstanding workers into temps with no rights.
The rest of the workers received a Cheat Sheet and were coached and threatened to memorize the correct answers. (See the attached “Regular Work Discussion Questions”)
A sample of the questions and answers included
Q: Does management pay attention to problems that are raised?
A: Yes. For example, it it’s too hot, the factory provides cold tea for the workers.
Q: How are your hours organized?
A: I work five days a week, eight hours a day.
Q: How many overtime hours do you work?
A: In the busy season, I don’t work more than four hours. In the slow season, it is not more than two hours.
Q: If you are working and feel really tired or sick, what do you do? Can you refuse to work overtime?
A: You can ask for time off. You don’t have to work overtime.
Q: Do you work every day, including Saturdays and Sundays?
A: No. For every six days we work in a row, we get one day off.
Q: Have you ever discovered that your salary was wrong? If you have, did you correct it?\ How did you deal with it?
A: Usually, no. If there is, [I] can find a bookkeeper to fix it.”
Q: If, in the course of working, you break or lose company product/equipment, do you have to compensate the company based on the value of the goods?
A: No. [We] don’t have to compensate.
Q: What is the best part about working here?
A: The benefits, the environment, etc.
Q: What kinds of [extra] benefits do you get? Are there rules about who does and doesn’t get these benefits?
A: They provide an entertainment room and an exercise field. If it’s hot, they’ll give us cool tea. There aren’t any rules.
Q: Do you think the rules and the system of keeping records is fair and just? If not, why?
A: It’s very fair.
Q: Have you received or seen anyone receive unfair treatment? (Like fines, getting yelled at, or hit?) How did it happen? Why was it unfair?
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say:
Workers cannot afford any entertainment
Workers report that on an average day they just basically work. When they do have a little free time, they like to walk around and chat with their friends. Clearly the workers do not have the time or disposable income to spend on entertainment. Even going to a karaoke club, which is the least expensive form of entertainment for poor workers, is out of reach of these factory workers. Only occasionally will some of the younger workers splurge on going to a movie. Married workers, lacking money, report almost never going out.
Cheatsheet Given To Workers To Train Them To Fool Monitors
Regular Worker Discussion Questions
1. How long have you worked here?
Answer: Answer according to the amount of time between now and the date of entry stated on your factory ID card.
2. How did you find this factory?
Answer: Answer according to reality (You found it through a job advertisement).
3. Where are you from? How did you get here?
Answer: Answer according to reality.
4. How often do you get to go home and see your family?
Answer: Once a year (Answer according to reality)
5. How old were you when you started working here?
Answer: Answer according to reality.
6. When were you born?
Answer: Answer according to reality (answer according to the birthday posted on your [governmentissued] ID).
7. Are there children (16 yrs. or younger) helping their parents or working here?
8. When you started working here did you have to pay a management, services or introduction fee? If so, did you give them money? How much money (in RMB)?
9.When you started working here did you sign a contract? What did the contract say? Did you keep a copy?
Answer: [I] signed a labor contract when I started working here. The contract included: the time limit of the contract, probationary period, work duties, work hours, work pay and treatment, and [I] kept a copy.
10. What kind of training did you get when you started working here?
Answer: [My] training included: factory rules and regulations, work hours, fire safety, chemical safety, how to use safety equipment, etc.
11. How did you come to understand the rules of the factory?
Answer: By reading the “Work Manual,” trainings and reading the rules posted [on walls].
12. If you have any questions about this, who will you talk to? Would you feel natural bringing questions up with management?
Answer: [I would bring it up] to a worker representative, department supervisor or the relevant person at the human resources department. [I] would not.
13. Are there worker representatives who can discuss problems or new ideas with management? How are the representatives chosen?
Answer: Yes. Worker representative are elected by the workers.
14. Does management pay attention to problems that are raised? Give an example.
Answer: Yes. For example, if it’s too hot the factory provides cold tea for the workers.
15. Does the factory have a policy about using prison labor? As for disciplinary measures, how do you come to understand it?
Answer: Yes. [I understand it through] the “Work Manual” [and] the codes of conduct are posted and publicized in a handbook.
16. Have you ever had a physical exam? Pregnancy test? If there has been, why? How many times? What did they check?
Answer: Yes. When you start working here they take you to the hospital for a checkup and they issue a health certificate. For certain special departments (spraying, printing, chemical work, raw materials dept., etc.) have to get special yearly health checks, including breathing ability and strength tests.
17. How are your hours organized?
Answer: [I] work five days a week, eight hours a day. For specifics, answer according to your department shift.
18. During the day shift do you get a break? When is the break and for how long? Are the breaks the same every day?
Answer: Yes. We get 30 minutes for lunch. For specifics, answer according to your department shift. Every day’s break is usually the same.
19. When is the work busiest?
Answer: During the busy season (usually June-September).
20. How many overtime hours do you work? Last week? Last month?
Answer: In the busy season, I don’t work more than 4 hours. During the slow season it’s not more than 2 hours. If it’s not more [than this], then answer according to reality. Last week and last month [I]don’t remember.
21. How much do you earn for overtime? Is it different from your regular hourly wage?
Answer: Overtime wages are 1.5 times more than regular wages. Weekend overtime is twice as much. Statutory holidays is 3 times.
22. If you’re working and you feel really tired or sick, what do you do? Can you refuse to work overtime?
Answer: You can ask for time off. You don’t have to work overtime.
23. Do you work every day, including Saturdays and Sundays?
Answer: No. For every six days we work in a row we get one day off.
24. When’s the last time you asked for a whole day off? In the last two months how many days have you requested off?
Answer: Answer according to reality. [I] haven’t asked for sick days. In the last two months [I] don’t remember.
25. How does management keep track of your hours? Overtime hours? Who records the hours? You or the managers?
Answer: You can go to the bookkeeping office to check on the hours. The hours are recorded using an electronic card punching system.
26. Your salary is based on how much you work?
27. Can you keep track of how many pieces you make?
28. Do you take work home? What kind of work?
Answer: No. I do it in the factory.
29. How much you earn, roughly, every month?
Answer: Answer according to the pay stub you received.
30. Is your pay based on pieces, hours or monthly? How often do you get paid?
Answer: I get paid by the hour. I get paid once a month.
31. When you get paid, do you get a pay stub?
Answer: [I] get a pay stub.
32. Are there any deductions from your salary? If there are, can you give me an example of what the deductions are?
Answer: Answer according to your pay stub. Usually there aren’t any other deductions.
33. Have you ever discovered that your salary was wrong? If you have, did you correct it? How did you deal with it?
Answer: Usually, no. If there is, [I] can find a bookkeeper to fix it.
34. Has management ever withheld anything from your paycheck? How much? Why? When were you able to get it back?
Answer: This doesn’t happen.
35. If, in the course of working, you break or lose company product/equipment, do you have to compensate the company based on the base value of the good?
Answer: [We] don’t have to compensate. [You] have to explain.
36. Are the workshop doors locked while you’re at work? If so, how do you escape during an emergency?
Answer: The doors aren’t locked. If there is an emergency we can go out the fire escape and use the evacuation plan/map.
37. Have you ever had a work injury? How did it happen? Where did you get help? Will you have to pay the medical bills?
Answer: [I] haven’t been injured. If you have, answer according to reality.
38. Does the factory provide you with health or safety equipment? Like gloves and face masks?
39. Do you know why you need to use this stuff?
Answer: To protect [my] personal health.
40. Does everyone know why you use this stuff and the correct way to use it?
Answer: Yes, [because] when you start working at the factory you go through training.
41. Do you have to spend money for your safety equipment?
Answer: No. The company provides it for free.
42. Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher?
Answer: Yes [because] when you start working at the factory they train you.
43. Can you explain where the evacuation map is in the workshop and how to use it?
Answer: It is in the main entrance. You use the evacuation plan by reading the instructions and following the arrows
44. Are you living in a dormitory provided by the factory?
45. Are you allowed to cook or smoke in the dorm?
46. Is the dorm locked at night?
47. When was the last time you had a fire drill? At the dorm? Have you ever attended afire drill at night?
Answer: Answer according to reality. The dorms has also had fire drills, but not at night.
48. What’s the most common work injury at the factory?
Answer: Fingers, etc.
49. When you get off work, can you leave the factory? Do you have to come back at a certain time?
Answer: Yes. There’s no need [to come back at a certain time].
50. What’s the best part about working here?
Answer: The benefits. The environment. Etc.
51. What kinds of [extra] benefits do you get? Are there rules about who does and doesn’t get these benefits?
Answer: They provide an entertainment room and exercise field, if it’s hot they’ll give us cool tea. There aren’t rules.
52. Do you think the rules and the system of keeping records is fair and just? If not, why?
Answer: It’s very fair.
53. Have you ever received or seen anyone receive unfair treatment? (like fines, getting yelled at or hit)? How did it happen? Why was it unfair?
54. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Checklist For Inspection Documents
Notice that the list is also in English. Why would Chinese factory managers need a list in English unless the list was given to them by English-speaking companies or monitors?
Shipping Data Based on U.S. Customs Documents
MGA Entertainment (HK) Ltd.Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
9/F, Tower 6, The Gateway601 N. Walton Blvd.
Harbour City, 9 Canton Rd. TST KLN HKBentonville, Arkansas 72716, USA
UPS Supply Chain Solutions
1515 West 190th St., Suite 300
Gardena, CA 90248
Estimated Value: $10,866.00 Exporting From: CHINA Importing To: Los Angeles, Port 2704 Date of Arrival: 08/11/2006 Description: Bratz Diamondz Katia Exclusive Quantity: 824 CTN (4 PCS per CTN)
Shipping Data Based on U.S. Customs Documents FROM:
Maersk Logistics (China) Shenzhen O/B
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
MGA Entertainment (HK) Ltd.
601 N. Walton Blvd.
9/F, Tower 6, The Gateway
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716, USA Harbour City, 9 Canton Rd. TST KLN HK
UPS Supply Chain Solutions 1457 Miller Store Rd., Suite 101 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455
Estimated Value:$1,594.00 Exporting From:CHINA
Importing To:Norfolk, Port 1401
Date of Arrival:08/14/2006 Description:Bratz P4F Jade
Shipping Data Based on U.S. Customs Documents
Maersk Logistics (China) Shenzhen O/BWal-Mart Stores, Inc.
MGA Entertainment (HK) Ltd.601 N. Walton Blvd.
9/F, Tower 6, The GatewayBentonville, Arkansas 72716, USA
Harbour City, 9 Canton Rd. TST KLN HK
UPS Supply Chain Solutions
1515 West 190th St., Suite 300
Gardena, CA 90248
Estimated Value: $4,404.00 Exporting From: CHINA Importing To: Los Angeles, Port 2704 Date of Arrival: 08/04/2006 Description: Bratz P4F Cloe Quantity: 366 CTN (4 PCS per CTN)
Company contact information
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Lee Scott, CEO 702 SW 8th Street Bentonville, Arkansas 72716 Phone: 479-273-4000 Fax: 479-277-1830
Toys R Us, Inc.
Gerald L. Storch, Chairman and CEO One Geoffrey Way Wayne, New Jersey 07470-2030 Phone: 973-617-3500 Fax: 973-617-4006
MGA Entertainment Isaac Larian, CEO 16380 Roscoe Blvd., Suite 200 Van Nuys, CA 91406 Phone: 818-894-2525 Fax: 818-894-8094