25 April 2006

Who's lovin it?

What is pasted below is nothing new, at least to people who have some inkling of how MNC fast food chains work. I cant remember if I have posted about No Logo. It's a very meticulously researched book about the stories of many lives behind each branded T-shirt that we wear, cold drink that we consume, PC that we use. In fact, the book says that there is no way you can use something in today's world that is not touched by sweatshop labour.

The whole game is about cheap labour and covering it up with feel-good advertising to the extent that you become numb to the sweatshop stories. It's all there in the book, No Logo. I would say it is a consumer's must-read. If for nothing else, to just know how much extra he or she is shelling out for something that cost so little to make.

An extract from a Guardian article:

McDonald's Happy Meal toys are manufactured in countries where the prices are low. On the bottom of these toys you often find the phrase "Made in China". Too often the lives of the workers who make Happy Meal toys are anything but happy. In 2000, a reporter for the South China Morning Post visited a factory near Hong Kong. The factory made Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty toys for McDonald's Happy Meals. Some of the workers at the factory said they were 14 years old and often worked 16 hours a day. Their wages were less than 20 cents (11p) an hour - almost 30 times less than the lowest amount you can pay an American worker. They slept in small rooms crammed with eight bunk beds without mattresses.

At first, McDonald's said it had seen no evidence that such poor conditions existed at the factory, but later it admitted that some things were wrong there. A few months later, a reporter found that another factory in China that made Happy Meal toys was mistreating its workers. They were working 17 hours a day - and being paid less than 10 cents an hour. McDonald's now tries to ensure that children aren't employed to make its toys. But the company hasn't done much to increase the wages of the workers at Chinese toy factories. Low wages are one of the things that keep Happy Meal toys so cheap.

In fact, low wages are at the heart of the whole enterprise. Danielle Brent is a 17-year-old schoolgirl at Martinsburg High School in West Virginia. On Saturday mornings the alarm in her mobile phone goes off at 5.30am. It's still dark outside as she stumbles into the bathroom, takes a shower, puts on her makeup and gets into her McDonald's uniform. Her father stays in bed, but her mother always comes downstairs to the kitchen and says goodbye before Danielle leaves for work. Sometimes, it's really cold in the morning and it takes a while for the engine of the family's old car to start cranking out heat. There are a lot of other things she would rather be doing early on a Saturday morning - such as sleeping. But like thousands of other American kids of her age, Danielle gets up and goes to work at a fast food restaurant.

When Danielle was a little girl, she loved to eat at McDonald's. Sometimes she would even go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she was 16, a friend suggested that she apply for a job at the McDonald's near Interstate 81. The friend already worked there, classmates of theirs always ate there and working behind the counter sounded like fun.

Danielle soon realised that the job was different from what she had expected. Some of the customers were rude. Workers in the kitchen didn't always wash their hands and didn't care if the food got dirty as a result. Her friend soon quit the job, but Danielle can't afford to do that. She needs the money. A number of kids at school tease her for working so hard at a job that pays so little. Kids who break the law and sell drugs at her high school earn more money in a couple of hours than Danielle earns at McDonald's in a couple of weeks.

You can read the full article here.


Sham said...

McD's, Walmart, Coke, Pepsi... The brands we can all do without..
but seem almost necessary for civilization to survive today..y

blow said...

dude that's just sad. and the saddest part is that most of us who read this stuff go back to using these same brands. sometimes i don't understand the meaning of 'civilization'.