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'Elves' in Chinese sweat shops live in very grim fairy tale

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 10th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When we think of elves laboring in Santa's North Pole workshops, we think of happy, smiling creatures dressed in green full of Christmas cheer. The harsh reality in China is the fact that these same "elves" - real, living breathing Chinese workers are forced to endure inhuman treatment in order to crank out toys to meet the demands of the U.S. holiday shopping season.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chinese factory workers are forced to work long hours and sleep on factory floors, among piles of toy parts.

It's all part of the grueling, monotonous life endured by thousands of Chinese factory workers. China makes 75 percent of the world's toys, including well-known American characters such as Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Across China, there are an estimated 8,000 toy-making factories employing 3.5 million people.

China Labor Watch, a non-governmental organization based in New York, says that the typical Chinese factory worker often works an extra 36.5 hours a week -- but are only paid 59 percent of the minimum wage.
 
While conditions have improved for workers after factories implemented a code of conduct, China Labor Watch says that the abuses still continue.

A report in 2009 revealed that one million Chinese factory workers suffered industrial accidents in that year alone.

The National Labor Committee in 2010 released photos of workers asleep on their stations making computer mice and web cams for an American multinational computer company.

Employed for 15-hour shifts, the laborers work in appalling conditions and 86-degree heat. Many fall asleep on their stations during their meager ten-minute breaks.

The accompanying photo and others like it were smuggled out of the KYE Systems factory at Dongguan, China, as part of a three-year investigation by the National Labor Committee, a human rights organization which campaigns for workers across the globe.

The mostly female workers, aged 18 to 25 years of age work from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m., sometimes with 1,000 workers crammed into one 105 by 105 foot room.

Workers not allowed to talk or listen to music, are forced to eat substandard meals from the factory cafeterias, have no bathroom breaks during their shifts and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

The workers also sleep on site, in factory dormitories, with 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28 inch-wide plywood boards. Workers "shower" with a sponge and a bucket.

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