Can headlines change habits?
In 2016 China Labour Watch - an NGO established to create "meaningful change for workers’ rights" - showed us what it's like to make the Barbies and HotWheels that sit under Christmas Trees the world over.
And it wasn't pretty.
The report listed heaps of labour law infractions, from low pay, to over 100 hours of overtime a month (the legal limit is 36) and excessive exposure to toxic chemicals.
China Labour Founder Watch and executive director, Li Qiang, said:
“We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares, and we must fight against the unfair oppression of workers who manufacture toys.”
That 2016 Christmas season, headlines like this one from the Guardian in the UK started popping up:
And the issue rose again in 2018 in US headlines:
And then, I didn't hear much....
But I can tell you this. After much discussion in my house about these appalling conditions, you know what we did????
I'm a little ashamed to say. Not a whole lot.
Sure we talked about it, but our kids really love Hot Wheels and other hit toys of the day, and so we caved (with Santa's help).
Now, in fairness, it did push us to find some cool alternatives like Kiwi Co. But our kids watch Disney movies, they trade Pokemon cards with their friends and they are inundated with messages and stories, books and movies about these toys and so we felt a little stuck.
When I tried to find out what has changed since these reports came out, it's hard to know if the needle has moved.
The latest report from China Labour Watch, released in 2020, included the headline: "Workers in Misery, An Investigation into 2 Toy Factories", and it chronicles poor conditions in a Mattel (Barbie and Hot Wheels) owned factory, so it looks like the problem is still a problem.
And what am I doing about it? Trying and teach my kids compassion for the workers who make the toys they are so stoked to receive on Christmas Day, while continuing to look for alternatives.
But it's tricky because my kids are under 10 and 'don't Santa's Elves make all the toys'? Oh boy...
And so, as with many lessons I try to teach my kids (like stopping to take a breath before 'whomping' your brother) this is another one that will take some time.
If you have any suggestions or alternatives, please share!