Bratz dolls just stopped being cool…

December 30, 2006

Ok, and with this posting I acknowledge I may stop being “cool” with plenty of readers that bought those cute Bratz dolls over Barbie dolls for Christmas. While Barbie dolls are still more popular, and profitable, than Bratz dolls, many people buy them for a myriad of reasons – such as their ethnic diversity, or because they just party and shop and nothing else – but unfortunately, like many toys, they are manufactured under the worst conditions possible:

The pouty Bratz dolls so popular as Christmas presents are made at a factory in southern China where workers are obliged to toil up to 94 hours a week, among other violations, a labour rights group said in a report released Friday.

The report by U.S.-based China Labour Watch and the National Labour Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of workers’ rights to injury and health insurance.

That’s 94 hours of work a week! And as you can guess, none of these workers has a trust fund. In fact, they get paid 51.5 cents an hour.

The report by China Labour Watch and the National Labour Committee is available here and let me tell you, it is more damning than a sperm-stained blue dress. They included everything, and I mean everything in the report – including pictures of the “cheat sheets” given to the workers in order to fool labor monitors!

And what about the workers? Well, they are definitely protesting, but unfortunately their bosses are not listening:

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.

[…]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’s going to be another strike on January 2007, so watch this space.

By the way, does that sound like Wal-Mart, keeping all workers as temps and not paying them their full benefits? If you guessed “yes”, give yourself a pat on the traps. There are reasons they are keeping their mouth shut:

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.

The National Labour Committes does some outstanding work, so please support them if you can.

They even made a video of Bratz Yasmin and Cloe discussing their life at the factory, which is hilarious (note I said hilarious, and not “professional” but then again making videos is not in their job description)

All work and no play would make a Bratz doll, well, not a Bratz doll. But if Bratz could speak, they would sing the Sweatshop Blues:

* Routine 13 ½ to 15 1/2 –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.

Don’t let these assholes get away with this. Drop them a note and tell ’em who sent you while you are at it.

Company contact information:

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Lee Scott, CEO
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716
Phone: 479-273-4000
Email Wal-Mart 

Toys R Us, Inc.
Gerald L. Storch, Chairman and CEO
One Geoffrey Way
Wayne, New Jersey 07470-2030
Phone: 973-617-3500
Email Toys R Us

MGA Entertainment
Isaac Larian, CEO
16380 Roscoe Blvd., Suite 200
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Phone: 818-894-2525
Email MGA