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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 05/10/00
Stop Abuses of McDonald's Toy Workers in China  


Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee

Since 1970s, combining meals and toys into one package has been a major promotional tactics of the fast food industry. The momentum of this promotional strategy came to its peak in the 90s when big global fast food chains like McDonald's launched massive Happy Meal promotional campaigns of licensed characters. Global, cross industry alliances between entertainment and fast food TNCs like Disney, Warner Brothers, Hasbro, Ty and McDonalds, are forged to dominate the eating and fun habits of consumers worldwide.

To defend its global market share from its competitors, promotional toys, especially in limited production, play a more and more important role in McDonald's business strategies. Whether it was Teanie Beanie in the US, Hello Kitty in Taiwan and Singapore, or Snoopy in Hong Kong and Europe, we still remember the frenzy they had caused. The company sold out 100 million Ty Teanie Beanie Baby toys in less than two weeks in 1997. In Hong Kong and Singapore, teenagers were in long qeues outside McDonald's stores to snap up Snoopy and Hello Kitty toys. While these toys, say plastic Snoopy toys, were sold at HKD38 (around USD4.7), they were produced by young female Chinese workers at RMB24 (less than USD3) a day.

To exploit the abundant supply of cheap and "manageable" labor, most of the promotional toys of McDonald's are procured through a marketing and sourcing company called Simon Marketing and manufactured by contracting factories in China. In 1997, McDonald's spent RMB1 billion (USD120.9 million) in domestic procurements in China. This included the purchase of 1.3 billion toys many of which are used by McDonald's around the world.

In the July and August visits to City Toys, one of these contracting toy factories for McDonald's in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, massive violations of labor rights were found. Of around 2000 workers there at City Toys, most of them were young women. These female workers were not insured; nor did they sign any contract with the factory. They worked an unlimited number of hours at a fixed rate of RMB24 (less than USD3) depending on the size of the orders. Toiling till 2 to 3am was the common scene when the factory was rushing the orders of plastic Snoopy toys for McDonald's in 1998 and 1999. To make up for the high turnover rate due to intolerable working conditions, child workers under 16 were recruited this summer from a nearby town.

When the HKCIC and the local newspaper, the South China Morning Post, disclosed the story of this contracting factory of McDonald's on 27 August 2000, the corporation denied all the allegations. The corporation claimed that it had a labor code and a well functioning monitoring system which found nothing wrong with City Toys in its latest investigation. An investigation team was sent to City Toys the next day and despite our warning to the corporation against dismissing and penalizing the workers of City Toys, hundreds of workers, underaged or not, were found to have been laid off without proper notice or compensation. McDonald's washed its hands by "supporting Simon Marketing (the promotion marketing company) 's decision to halt production orders with City Toys." That means McDonald's had nothing to do with the abuses of City Toys workers; nor has it any responsibility for those laid off or would-be-laid-off workers subsequently.

Since the release of the report in August, we have been receiving inquiries from the media, concerned unions and NGOs all over the world about the City Toys case and follow up actions. We are impressed by the anti-McDonald's campaigns worldwide which cover multiple aspects of the exploitation of the environment and store workers done by the corporation. Yet the abuses of tens of thousands of toy workers manufacturing promotional toys that boast the sales and stock price of McDonald's were missing in all these campaigns. As the corporation relies more and more on its toy promotional strategies to maintain the global market share, more and more licensing with giant entertainment TNCs is anticipated. The result is not just huge profits reaped by these TNCs, but more exploitation, and forgetting of the exploitation of these toy workers in China.

We would strongly urge concerned unions, labor organizations and anti-McDonalds campaigners, to pass on the labor abuses of McDonald's toys workers to your community, demonstrate your protest to the corporation and extend your support to the Chinese workers on 16 October, the global anti-McDonald's day.

We would like you to demonstrate your anguish with us to McDonald's and demand them to :

(1) Rehabilitate the child workers at City Toys Because they had been laboring for McDonald's whether it admitted it or not. McDonald's had abused their labor and thus had responsibility for them.

(2) Reinstate the workers of City Toys Because we can no more tolerate the TNCs, which protected by the contracting system, can always wash their hands clean by laying all the blame on the contractors and shift to a "cleaner" one without paying a penny to redress the abuses they have committed to the workers. We should not let workers be penalized.

(3) Pay a decent wage to the Chinese toy workers Despite having the Chinese labor law which states the minimum wage and pay rate for over time work in different Chinese provinces, very often than not they are not abided to in reality. Nor do TNCs care about it and McDonald's is no exception. And the reason McDonald's buys toys from China is because labor is cheap. McDonald's should pay to measure up to its concern for labor which it claims to be central to the corporation.

(4) Let workers participate in labor rights monitoring Like other TNCs, McDonald's labor code, which it claims to have one, is something in the superstructure, important for the company's public relation but too remote and totally irrelevant to workers at the workplace. That the company's internal social auditor, SGS, found nothing wrong with City Toys this May demonstrates the irony of such labor rights monitoring that involves no workers. If McDonald's really wants to, as it says, do everything to ensure that similar thing would not happen again, let workers monitor their work place now!

The HKCIC, together with the Asia Monitor Resource Center, Green Peace Hong Kong and the Confederation of Trade Union will be staging an anti-McDonald's protest on 15 October in Hong Kong. We will make the above demands regarding the City Toys case to McDonald's and protest against the corporation's selling GE food and paying an hourly rate of HKD11 (USD1.4) to local store workers.

This appeal will be sent to McSpotlight to be posted for wider circulation. The City Toys report regarding the working conditions of Chinese toy workers for McDonald's is available at our anti-McDonald's website at : Please let us know if you would pick up the issue and organize some actions on the Chinese workers. And if you have any inquiries about our report and actions, please feel free to contact our researcher Monina Wong at

Proposed Actions for anti-McDonald's campaigns

Since the release of our toy report on McDonald's, the HKCIC has been approached by concerned parties and unions on solidarity actions for the Chinese workers. If City Toys is not an isolated case, we would like to put it in a larger framework to generate stronger momentum for future campaigns.

(I) Workers' Solidarity
McDonald's is notorious for labor abuses. Workers preparing food at McDonald's stores are no different from factory workers. Worse still, they were further exploited by the part-time, low-pay employment which makes unionizing almost impossible. Anti-McDonald's campaigns have focused much on labor abuses of store workers while leaving workers of McDonald's suppliers like toy and logistics very much in the dark. While store workers get HKD11.5 (less than USD1.5) an hour in Hong Kong, the Chinese toy workers are paid at an hourly rate as low as RMB2 (USD0.25). A global sourcing strategy means that a TNC like McDonald's has the advantage of buying from countries which has the weakest unionizing power and contractors that produce at the cheapest price.

The fate of both store workers and contracted toy workers in China (and Vietnam) for McDonald's are the same. While store workers in Europe are able to fight for a higher hourly rate through organized actions, fraternal support for the manufacture workers of McDonald's contracted suppliers, especially where workers' union is absent, is very important.

Things you can do :
(1) Go to McDonald's stores and tell your community about how McDonald's toys are made and how it exploits workers not only at home but abroad through the contracting system.

(2) Send fax, email or protest letters to McDonald's headquarters at Illinois demanding a better pay for toy workers in China.

Tom Albrecht
Senior Vice President and Chief Purchasing Officer
McDonald's Corporation
Oak Brook, Illinois
United States of America

(II) Info Network
While information on both company performance and the devastation done by the corporation on the environment, labor and community development are well-documented in Europe and the US, little information on the Asia-Pacific is known. Such difference is of course is a measure of the strength of campaigns and struggles in different parts of the world. The Asia-Pacific is less vocal in anti-McDonald's campaigns despite its taking up a bigger and bigger share of the corporation's food and toy market especially regarding China.

It is time that an information network on the performance, like sales and profits, sales of promotional toys, marketing strategies, number of workers employed in the Aisa-Pacific etc, be built. A typology of the pay rate of store workers in different Asian countries can be sketched. While the impact and workers and consumers' reaction to McDonaldization, its impact on community development, people's eating and fun habits and workers' life etc can be documented. Such a data base will be important to support further campaigns in the Asia-Pacific.

Things you can do :
(1) You can post relevant information or opinion on our anti-McDonald's website at

(2) Labor, environmental and consumer NGOs in the region are welcome to send their research and findings, like the sourcing of McDonald's food, logistics and toy supply, the working conditions of both store and manufacture workers to us. These will solidify TNC researches for interested parties. It is hoped that such a data base can be a support base for campaigns in the Asia-Pacific.

(III) Subverting the McDonald's share holders meeting
We are also looking into the possibility of raising the City Toys case and Chinese toy workers in the annual shareholders meeting of McDonald's. Protests outside and inside the shareholders' meeting will of course gain more international publicity. Raising labor issues during the shareholders' meeting forces the McDonald's headquarters to throw more transparency on its sourcing, procurement and labor policy.

Things you can do :
(1) We are still working to identify individuals or NGOs that hold McDonald's shares. You are welcome to provide us with further information in this area.

(2) Strategies on how to launch further actions during the annual meeting of McDonald's are welcomed.

All the reports of the HKCIC on McDonald's toy contractors and the stories of labor abuse covered by the South China Morning Post are available on our anti-McDonald's website You can email us at

In Solidarity!

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee (HKCIC)
704-5, 57 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
T#: (852) 2366 5860 F#: (852) 2724 5098

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Tel/Fax: +44 (207) 713 1269
related links  
- Hong Kong Toys Report - How Hasbro, McDonald's, Mattel and Disney Manufacture Their Toys


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