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View Full Version : Factories hired by Hasbro to make Transformers found to operate under appalling conditions.


Terome
2011-12-20, 11:20 AM
http://www.globallabourrights.org/reports?id=0642http://www.globallabourrights.org/reports?id=0642

Here's a PDF compiled by a whistleblower about the conduct of a factory in Hong Kong that Hasbro enlists the service of. It makes for an uncomfortable read, and is peppered woth some weird cheap shops, but is also sadly unsurprising.

Skyquake87
2011-12-20, 05:29 PM
This doesn't suprise me. Since reading No Logo over a decade ago, i'd wondered about the toy industry use of such factories (they were the one industry not mentioned in the book). It doesn't make for good reading. Particularly the section on 14 - 15 year olds being approved "on a case by case basis".

Sigh. This is the downside of a 'free market economy'. It might sound incredibly naieve to say this, but doesn't it matter to companies that this goes on? Doesn't it bother the executives that make these decisions to use certain factories that they are causing such misery?

inflatable dalek
2011-12-20, 07:35 PM
but is also sadly unsurprising.

Indeed. Hasbro certainly isn't alone in this, but that doesn't make it right. Though as long as these practices are (presumably) legal in China I'm not sure exactly what can be done to stop corporations who don't seem to give a toss doing this.

Denyer
2011-12-20, 08:20 PM
With toys... even the better average factory conditions in China are unlikely to be considered reasonable by the average Westerner, so we can make a choice to moderate or stop buying worthless bits of plastic assembled by kids ten years our junior.

With slightly-less-optional-to-modern-living devices such as fridges / freezers / house phones / computers... where are the ethical producers? Even with premium devices, that doesn't generally equate to better production conditions, just more of a mark-up... are there any reputable Fairtrade-like certifications for electronics and similar goods, and are the certifications worth a damn?

Blackjack
2011-12-20, 08:25 PM
To be fair, those are probably the only job that they could find with any sort of pay. It's not like they would work there if there is a better alternative...

I mean, if it's between living on the streets with only begging as your way of life, and this... it's sort of better. It's not right and the factory in question is probably lower in standards than the usual ones, but for them it's a job..

Warcry
2011-12-20, 08:25 PM
Honestly, I find all of the "Oh no, I had no idea!" reactions I'm seeing on other TF boards hilarious. It's impossible to not know how bad working conditions are in China unless you've willfully buried your head in the sand, because stuff like this gets talked about all the time. It's sad that so many people are only starting to pay attention when a hobby of theirs is explicitly called out.

Just so no one has any illusions, more than half (and maybe close to all) of the things you own were made in Southeast Asia under conditions similar to -- if not worse than -- the ones discussed in the article. That includes the clothes you're wearing, the chair you're sitting in and the computer you're reading this on. It's a global problem and singling out one particular toy company to call out is not only disingenuous, it smacks of a hatchet job. Getting mad at Hasbro for working within the bounds of the system that every manufacturer has to work within isn't going to fix anything. If you want to be mad, get mad at the Chinese government for not enforcing workplace standards and not tossing the corrupt factory owners in jail.

Sigh. This is the downside of a 'free market economy'. It might sound incredibly naieve to say this, but doesn't it matter to companies that this goes on? Doesn't it bother the executives that make these decisions to use certain factories that they are causing such misery?
They literally can't afford to care.

The factory owners can't pay their employees more or upgrade the facilities because if they did, they'd have to charge Hasbro more and would probably end up losing their contract to a cheaper factory with worse conditions. And Hasbro can't be aggressive rooting out and firing sweat shops like this (let alone pulling manufacturing out of China altogether and moving it to Europe or North America) because unless every other toy manufacturer did the same thing (and they obviously wouldn't) Hasbro's costs would skyrocket, the toys' prices would skyrocket and they would sell far, far fewer toys than they do now. And that would basically be the end of Hasbro.

It's a prisoners' dilemma, basically -- neither the workers, the factory owners or the toy companies can safely take action to fix the problem because they can't trust the other parties involved to do what's right. I think the only people who could fix the problem are the Chinese government, but since they're not responsable to the 'little people' like Western governments are I don't know if they'll see any benefit in passing workers' rights laws. And even if they did, all it would take is Bandai or someone moving their production lines to some shithole country in Africa or South America and the whole thing will start all over again.

Even Lego -- whose brand carries so much weight that people are willing to pay double what Megablocks are charging for the same sized set -- have been forced to start using factories in China and Mexico to compete with Chinese-made product. And that says a lot, considering "Made in Europe" was such a big selling point to my parents' generation.

Blackjack
2011-12-20, 08:28 PM
And, adding to my two cents worth of thoughts, there are just so many factories in China and the corporate owners are more concerned about profit than the little people, that I don't think the government actually can fix the problem within a short time.

Certainly not without affecting the economy of China.

And again, if you ask many of the people working in shithole factories like those, some of the reasons are like, 'it's to pay for the milk for my malnourished two-month-old baby brother, I'll take what I can get.' or 'I'm an orphan and no one would take me in' or 'it's this or drug dealing/child prostitution/[insert other horrible fate]'

It's mostly because they don't have any qualifications for a proper job, are too poor to get one, and are too many for the government to do something about.

Skyquake87
2011-12-20, 08:53 PM
Lego have at least been careful to use factories that have a decent level of care for their employees, although the hours are still long for the workers. Its a small step in the right direction and displays some level of care from a Western company.

Whilst I am not totally in the dark about how our goods are produced, i would argue that a company should have some sort of repsonsibility and code of ethics that would govern to whom they award contracts, and working practices should play a part in that. Child labour hasn't been acceptable since the Industrial Revolution, so it shouldn't be acceptable now.

China have demonstrated time and again that they could give a fig about peoples welfare, so in those circumstances, I would hope any firm would do the right thing.

Having some sort of 'Fairtrade' tag across all industries sounds like a good idea to me.

and in all honesty, people really do not know where things come from. there are children growing up who do not know that meat comes from animals. which probably tells you all you need to know about british education. moreover, since we sent manufacturing abroad, no one knows how things are made, where stuff comes from, nor the conditions in which they are made. sad, but true.

Warcry
2011-12-20, 11:47 PM
And, adding to my two cents worth of thoughts, there are just so many factories in China and the corporate owners are more concerned about profit than the little people, that I don't think the government actually can fix the problem within a short time.

Certainly not without affecting the economy of China.
Considering the, ahem, undemocratic nature of the government in China they're probably better-equipped to reign in bad businesses than most other countries, aren't they? If they decided that this was a problem they could round up the executives of a couple dozen of the worst offenders, run a public show-trial and then execute them without needing to worry about the technicalities of the law or evidence. I wager things would turn around pretty quickly after that.

They won't though, at least not as long as cheap manufacturing is such a vital part of their economy. Raising the employment standards too much too quickly will drive the multinationals to a different country and shut down the industry in China entirely. And as horrible as the conditions may be in a job like that, it beats being unemployed in a country like China. Not that I think the government cares about that much, but tossing 1/4 of your workforce onto the streets all at once sounds like a good recipe for having your government overthrown if I've ever heard one.

They could still be making incremental improvements, but frankly they don't seem to be interested in even that.

Lego have at least been careful to use factories that have a decent level of care for their employees, although the hours are still long for the workers. Its a small step in the right direction and displays some level of care from a Western company.
Lego actually own the factories, if I remember correctly. At least they own the ones in Europe and the one they recently opened in Mexico. I think the same thing is true about the Chinese ones they use as well, but I'm not 100% sure. I'm curious how that effects the economics of production, but Lego has somehow managed to find a niche as a 'premium' toy that parents think has more value than the lower-priced competition. If other companies (toys or otherwise) could figure out how to get away with that, I suspect you'd see fewer and fewer items with the 'made in China' tag on them.

I'm curious whether other toy companies that don't have the same following would be able to afford to buy their own factories or not. I also wonder whether the relative simplicity of Lego -- they can basically reuse the same 100 or so parts molds to make anything they want -- means that owning the infrastructure is cheaper than for something like Transformers, where you need to cast new molds for every new item you want to sell.

Child labour hasn't been acceptable since the Industrial Revolution, so it shouldn't be acceptable now.
Does this really count as child labour, though? It sounds like the youngest we're talking about is fourteen or fifteen years old, and (at least in Canada) a lot of people have jobs by then, albeit part-time ones since they need to be in school until 16. And frankly, if these teens weren't working in a factory half of them would be doing back-breaking labour on a family farm and the other half would be street urchins, because if they (or their families) didn't need the extra money to survive then they wouldn't be there. So I wouldn't be too quick to turn them out.

It's not like we're talking about eight year olds chained to a workbench, unless I missed something (quite possible).

and in all honesty, people really do not know where things come from. there are children growing up who do not know that meat comes from animals. which probably tells you all you need to know about british education.
That's disgraceful, but hardly something you can blame on the education system when the parents seemingly don't see any need to teach such basic things either. That's another discussion entirely though, so I won't derail things.

moreover, since we sent manufacturing abroad, no one knows how things are made, where stuff comes from, nor the conditions in which they are made. sad, but true.
A lot of people are willfully ignorant of how and where their stuff is made, but that's not the same thing. It's impossible not to make the connection between the stories you hear of sweat shops and the consumer goods you buy, unless you don't want to make the connection. The truth is that most people don't want to know, because if they did they might have to stop and think about the morality of the consumer-driven society that we live in. And I can completely understand that, because...well, because what can we do to change it?

But not caring is not the same thing as not knowing.

Denyer
2011-12-21, 12:08 AM
I also wonder whether the relative simplicity of Lego -- they can basically reuse the same 100 or so parts molds to make anything they want -- means that owning the infrastructure is cheaper than for something like Transformers, where you need to cast new molds for every new item you want to sell.
Adds to the logistics... yeah, you've got an initial "item" range that's perhaps only a few thousands (low tens of thousands across the lifetime of the product as a whole?) of parts, particularly bearing in mind the licensed ranges, but when you factor in stock control and colour variations, plus exacting quality control (there's far less tolerance in moulds that need to produce parts that 'clutch' to others, including other parts that may be years or decades old -- and keep their shape precisely for those periods) and I'd guess it's more complicated than the pump-and-dump approach Transformers moulds are subject to.

Does this really count as child labour, though? It sounds like the youngest we're talking about is fourteen or fifteen years old, and (at least in Canada) a lot of people have jobs by then, albeit part-time ones since they need to be in school until 16.
Holding a 14 year old to the daily hours/breaks of a Chinese factory isn't much different to holding a 17 year old or 20 year old -- the older workers are likely to be in worse health, if anything. The first case is child (and in this case literally sweatshop) labour, though, insofar as that term has a more emotive meaning for us than the culture it's applied to.

what can we do to change it?
Little. I'm opting for being less materialistic as I get older and not bringing new life onto the hole we call a planet (whilst recognising that if everyone did the latter we'd really be ****ed.)

But no, no particularly good alternatives... I'm not aware of any manufacturers who produce consumer electronics where a higher price tag equals ethical production.

edit:

Honestly, I find all of the "Oh no, I had no idea!" reactions I'm seeing on other TF boards hilarious.
Mmm. Most depressing is the "I can't participate with [a letter writing campaign or online discussion criticising those involved] directly for professional reasons" I've just spotted... basically, having ethics and speaking about them publicly would prejudice the person's employment/freelancing with Hasbro or Takara. The chilling effect is disgusting, really.

Terome
2011-12-21, 12:20 AM
Skyquake87: Sigh. This is the downside of a 'free market economy'. It might sound incredibly naieve to say this, but doesn't it matter to companies that this goes on? Doesn't it bother the executives that make these decisions to use certain factories that they are causing such misery?

As a company that markets to parents, Hasbro most certainly should care about the negative PR this has and will generate. It's possible, through a combination of plausible deniability, strategic bribery and wishful thinking, that they are as blindsided by this report as we are.

Denyer: With slightly-less-optional-to-modern-living devices such as fridges / freezers / house phones / computers... where are the ethical producers? Even with premium devices, that doesn't generally equate to better production conditions, just more of a mark-up... are there any reputable Fairtrade-like certifications for electronics and similar goods, and are the certifications worth a damn?

The Fairtrade labels for food and drink generally aren't worth a damn, unfortunately. And you're right, our whole civilisation is built on a sea of skulls and the bones of the oppressed. It's worth reflecting on just how much misery our daily lives inflict on other people alive today even without taking into consideration luxury items like toys.

Warcry: Considering the, ahem, undemocratic nature of the government in China they're probably better-equipped to reign in bad businesses than most other countries, aren't they?
Hong Kong operates under special laws granting it a bit of freedom from the planned economy. They couldn't be stomped down without causing a ruckus.

Warcry
2011-12-21, 12:32 AM
Adds to the logistics... yeah, you've got an initial "item" range that's perhaps only a few thousands (low tens of thousands?) of parts, particularly bearing in mind the licensed ranges, but when you factor in stock control and colour variations, plus exacting quality control (there's far less tolerance in moulds that need to produce parts that 'clutch' to others, including other parts that may be years or decades old -- and keep their shape precisely for those periods) and I'd guess it's more complicated than the pump-and-dump approach Transformers moulds are subject to.
That's true. It's a lot easier to enforce strict QC standards when you own the factory directly, and I imagine that's a very big factor in their decision as well. And warehousing and supply chain management probably eats up a lot more of the budget for Lego than for an action figure line, but that's going to be a factor no matter who owns the factory.

You also need to factor in what Lego production doesn't need that Transformers does.

There's probably a lot fewer people involved in the assembly line. Bricks can easily be machine-sorted into the correct assortment for any given set, and the human element is probably more tuned to quality control -- people making sure that the parts are coming out within tolerance and that the sets have the right number of each element included. A Lego factory won't have dozens of people sitting at a workbench screwing parts together or popping arms onto ball-jonts.

They also don't need to worry about tearing down old assembly lines and putting up new ones quite as often. When a set goes out of production, it doesn't make as much difference from a manufacturing standpoint. The factory that stamps out 2x2 square bricks is still going to be stamping them out six months from now, while the factory that produced Dark of the Moon toys will have spent a lot more overhead swapping out molds, moving equipment and training employees so that they can produce an entirely different set of figures under the Prime or Generations banner. And that's assuming that Hasbro doesn't retask their factories with producing entirely different toylines -- they could be making Nerf guns or Ponies once the run of Transformers is done.

Making Lego certainly isn't cheaper when you factor in the big picture, and I think the reasons you mentioned are the biggest reasons why. But I think the actual manufacturing process probably costs less. Either way it's definitely a very different process, and that makes it frustratingly hard to judge whether what works for Lego would be viable for a company like Hasbro or not.

Terome
2011-12-21, 12:36 AM
Denyer: Holding a 14 year old to the daily hours/breaks of a Chinese factory isn't much different to holding a 17 year old or 20 year old -- the older workers are likely to be in worse health, if anything. The first case is child (and in this case literally sweatshop) labour, though, insofar as that term has a more emotive meaning for us than the culture it's applied to.

I didn't see anything about the mean age of the workers in the PDF, but if the textile sweatshops I've poked my head inside in South Africa are anything to go by, most of the factory workers would be old ladies and mothers. From anecdotes told to me, it used to be quite common in Taiwan for three generations of women to work alongside each other in the same factory, with mothers bringing their children in for daycare / training and then talking the foreman around to employing them.
No evidence for any of that here, mind.

Thunderwave
2011-12-21, 03:33 AM
Considering the, ahem, undemocratic nature of the government in China they're probably better-equipped to reign in bad businesses than most other countries, aren't they?

Hong Kong is one of China's new "Special Economic Zones" that have cropped up. They don't operate under the same laws as the rest of China and are far far far more able to act in a capitalistic manner.

That said, I saw nothing particularly shocking in that. I've been keeping a keen eye on China and it's factories for a few years now. The upside is that things are improving. A few years ago there was a worker's strike and things got a little scarce on this end. Working conditions have improved, as has pay, overall for the past few years. The upside is that the new improvements have helped China without getting too many companies to move out. Downside, from a Westerner perspective, they are still shite.

Also, I'll point out, that no matter what happens there will always be poor as dirt people willing to do shitty jobs for way to little money. At least in China they can be watched and the like. I'd be much more worried if the factories moved to, say, Africa.

Warcry
2011-12-21, 04:13 AM
Hong Kong operates under special laws granting it a bit of freedom from the planned economy. They couldn't be stomped down without causing a ruckus.

Hong Kong is one of China's new "Special Economic Zones" that have cropped up. They don't operate under the same laws as the rest of China and are far far far more able to act in a capitalistic manner.
The factory isn't in Hong Kong, but Shenzhen (the Chinese province just on the other side of the border) according to some research done at the Allspark (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=84038&st=80&p=1970509&#entry1970509). It was probably identified as Hong Kong to make it easier for people to know where they were talking about, but as you guys say there's a pretty big difference. They're the one city in the same way that Minneapolis and St. Paul are one city, but they're legally and administratively distinct. For our discussion, the important difference is that Shenzhen is only a 'special economic zone', not a 'special administrative region' like Hong Kong or Macau. It doesn't have anywhere near the level of autonomy as those two cities do.

Something this bad probably couldn't happen in Hong Kong itself because the city has used it's autonomy to create much stronger workplace protections than the mainland has. I doubt it's entirely up to Western standards but it seems to be one of the best places to work in Southeast Asia. At least on paper, they have strong safety laws, a reasonable minimum wage and protect workers' rights and the right to form unions. That's presupposing any of these things actually exist in practice.

I didn't see anything about the mean age of the workers in the PDF, but if the textile sweatshops I've poked my head inside in South Africa are anything to go by, most of the factory workers would be old ladies and mothers. From anecdotes told to me, it used to be quite common in Taiwan for three generations of women to work alongside each other in the same factory, with mothers bringing their children in for daycare / training and then talking the foreman around to employing them.
No evidence for any of that here, mind.
I think a big driver of the demographics in a textile plant is sexism, though. By and large clothing is seen as "women's work". At least, that's the sort of attitude that was prevalent when textile plants in Winnipeg were importing Filipino workers in the 70s and 80s.

Cliffjumper
2011-12-21, 05:38 AM
We all knew this before... didn't we? I take it as a given that anything with made in China/Hong Kong/Macau stamped benefits from exploitation, and it's been that way as long as I've been alive (not my understanding, but the situation - G1 figures weren't made in luxurious positions). I try not to think about it and thank my lucky stars I'm on this end of the arrangement, but that's it. I could make a vague smokescreen about never really buying anything new from Has/Tak, but that's something which suits me personally and is meaningless anyway.

That's not a very nice attitude, but unlike some (no-one here, I must stress) I'm not going to pretend to be shocked and bleeding hearted over it while simulatenously buying hundreds of dollars' worth of product (and probably complaining it's 5% more than it was a couple of years ago). A fan boycot would make an impact (more in attracting mainstream media attention than on overall sales), but then who'd do YouTube reviews of the new Prime figures and send IDW wet-brained pitches? Transformers fans in gutless self-interested scum shocker.

Jaynz
2011-12-21, 06:36 AM
Indeed. Hasbro certainly isn't alone in this, but that doesn't make it right. Though as long as these practices are (presumably) legal in China I'm not sure exactly what can be done to stop corporations who don't seem to give a toss doing this.

Hasbro's tried to do more operations in the United States, but they would have to charge over $20 for a Cyberverse Legion figure to do it, thanks to all the increased costs.

While the conditions in China are appaling (and borderline crimes against humanity), it's become more and more impossible to have a manufacturing base in either the United States or Europe, thanks to the insane cost of labor.

Averaging $40/hr for untrained labor before benefits... or $1.20 an hour? ...

Until our labor forces start accepting the idea that unskilled safe labor probably shouldn't top $10 an hour, China and Mexico and so on will be getting the blue-collar jobs.

Skyquake87
2011-12-21, 12:03 PM
Just checked my 'The Brick' magazine that i got from Lego in 2010. They do indeed own the Mexican and Chinese facotries.

I don't know, I'm an optimist. Whilst I understand that improvements in foreign labour conditions are going to be slow progress, I had hoped things would have improved somewhat over the last twenty or so years. Mind you, we don't know if this is just an isolated case. Like Cliffjumper says, this probably wouldn't stop me purchasing goods from said company, but it would be nice if they thought about doing some research into the type of operations they deal with. Do firms still send people abroad to source factories to work with? And do they visit them to check out the production line?

And Vanguard, you are totally right about Labour costs. One of things that tickles me about the UK is that we have all this unemployment, yet there's always factory work going for minimum wage which people refuse to do as if its somehow beneath them. Okay, i appreciate that for some people they've had it so cosy on benefits that going back to work would leave them worse off (which is a whole different problem - one that our current government is now solving by cutting everything), but it seems churlish for idiots to moan that polish, asian or russian migrants are stealing "our jobs" if they're not prepared to do the work themselves. When I got made redundant from my credit control job last year, I went to work in a factory doing quality control work (a friend kindly helped me out as he ran the department) and I was happy to do the work for minimum wage. Apart from him, I was the only british person on the team, working alongside a load of latvian and russian girls :)

Anyway, I've just emailed hasbro, see what they make of all this and whether they'll be doing anything about it (i've suggested that they might want to work with the factory rather than pull their contract) . I had to use hasbro uk though, which is little more than a distribution hub, but we shall see what happens.

Terome
2011-12-21, 02:03 PM
Hmm, just found out that threads about this were deleted on the IDW boards and that TFW2005 aren't reporting it at all.

That's kind of crazy.

A fan boycot would make an impact (more in attracting mainstream media attention than on overall sales),

I think simple e-mails urging Hasbro to sort their shit out would work. Their PR department is probably already on triple-shifts this week working on a response to this.

Cliffjumper
2011-12-21, 02:33 PM
I think simple e-mails urging Hasbro to sort their shit out would work. Their PR department is probably already on triple-shifts this week working on a response to this.

Again, the problem here is self-interest. Half the fandom think they're a bit of brown-nosing away from making the design team and doing that Generations-Jazz-as-Stepper recolour only they've thought of, or that IDW are dying to do their cult-film-redone-with-Transformers Spotlight.

Skyquake87
2011-12-21, 03:38 PM
I've had a reply from hasbro! They are investigating the matter. When i am home and at my pc i will have a look at the link they sent me as part of their csr that is relevant to this.

Jaynz
2011-12-21, 03:48 PM
I don't know, I'm an optimist. Whilst I understand that improvements in foreign labour conditions are going to be slow progress, I had hoped things would have improved somewhat over the last twenty or so years.

That's one main point, they have. It may be shocking to most people, but China's treatment of its workers are a dream compared to the conditions of the same factories only twenty years ago. Progress is being made, though, very obviously, they've got a long long way to go.

And Vanguard, you are totally right about Labour costs. One of things that tickles me about the UK is that we have all this unemployment, yet there's always factory work going for minimum wage which people refuse to do as if its somehow beneath them.

One of the most disturbing trends of the "Boomer Age" has been the use of immigrants as an effective 'replacement class' for the 'servant class'. Too much of the 'posh middle class' really do think that labor of any type is not just beneath them, but also their children and anyone else that's not 'of color' somehow. The fact that our labor force is largely color-coded and of 'lower class' seems to be completely lost on them while they rally in public about 'minority rights' and such... If it were so tragic and dire, it would be a farce.

Anyway, I've just emailed hasbro, see what they make of all this and whether they'll be doing anything about it (i've suggested that they might want to work with the factory rather than pull their contract) . I had to use hasbro uk though, which is little more than a distribution hub, but we shall see what happens.

Hasbro's stuck, for the most part. They have been agressive about updating their factories and manufacturing processes, but they can only do so much while staying in business, and also while dealing with the Chinese goverment and the byzantine laws of the "first world". Ideally Hasbro could open plants in 'red state' America and in parts of Europe not near national capitols... but it's a painful proposition for Hasbro and their consumers.

I would, for instance, be willing to pay an extra dollar for a Legion figure, or two dollars for a deluxe, for Hasbro to move its production Stateside. Sadly, as I said, the cost increase at this point would be far, far more than that.

Jaynz
2011-12-21, 03:52 PM
Again, the problem here is self-interest. Half the fandom think they're a bit of brown-nosing away from making the design team and doing that Generations-Jazz-as-Stepper recolour only they've thought of, or that IDW are dying to do their cult-film-redone-with-Transformers Spotlight.

I don't know if it's half, but certainly the 'bigger' message boards have this idea. If they can 'group think' and 'brownose' the hell out of Hasbro they can get their custom figures, and never ever say anything negative, they'll somehow be all-important 'insiders'.

Sadly, to a limited degree, this has worked in the past. (I say this as one of those that at one point was one of these insiders.) But, in my defense, I wasn't much of a brownnoser and quite willingly called a spade a 'spade' when the situation warrants.

The behaviour of certain sites these days, though, is just embarassing.

Blackjack
2011-12-21, 04:28 PM
I've had a reply from hasbro! They are investigating the matter. When i am home and at my pc i will have a look at the link they sent me as part of their csr that is relevant to this.

While it's nice and all, well, in my opinion, Hasbro really can't do anything about it. If they moved away from the Chinese factories, then they'll have quite a bit more expenses to cover for if they used different factories, since quite a lot of Hasbro products are 'made in China'.

Without increasing the prices of their products to be quite unviable for normal sales (like Lego, nearly double their contemporaries) Hasbro can't let go of the Chinese companies.

And, like I said, the Chinese companies can't do much to change. Pay the kids too much, and they don't make a profit. Sad as it is, it is not illegal and they sure as hell are not going to change what they're doing. Probably some PR stuff like cleaning up the beds and stuff that won't cost them anything. But, if push comes to shove and the factories fire the kids, and those same kids would probably end up curled up, dead by cold or hunger, on the back alley of some street in the city.

Warcry
2011-12-21, 04:33 PM
I've had a reply from hasbro! They are investigating the matter. When i am home and at my pc i will have a look at the link they sent me as part of their csr that is relevant to this.
They sent the exact same form letter to everyone else who complained, so I wouldn't get my hopes up just yet.

"Investigating" may well be code for "cutting all ties with the factory and moving our business to a sweat shop with better security", after all. That does seem to be the usual reaction to stuff like this.

Hmm, just found out that threads about this were deleted on the IDW boards and that TFW2005 aren't reporting it at all.

That's kind of crazy.
Are we really surprised, though? IDW are directly on Hasbro's payroll, and TFW made it's name as the biggest Transformers site by sucking up to their Hasbro contacts. They both know which side their bread is buttered on. The same sort of thing happened when TFSource's database of credit card info got stolen the second time -- TFW refused to front-page it to warn their readers, and their staff ran around trying to play down the problem and blaming other sites because they didn't want to lose the sponsorship dollars.

Hasbro's tried to do more operations in the United States, but they would have to charge over $20 for a Cyberverse Legion figure to do it, thanks to all the increased costs.

...

Averaging $40/hr for untrained labor before benefits... or $1.20 an hour? ...
Ridiculous exaggeration won't help your case at all. There's no way employees would be paid this much, and even if they did there's now way prices could increase that much. Prices are set in large part by Walmart, remember, and they're not going to let Hasbro increase the MSRP by more than a few dollars. Extra labour costs would mainly be absorbed by a decrease in the per-figure profit that Hasbro makes, and probably by a decrease in the quality of the figures themselves.

There's absolutely no way that Hasbro is going to set up shop in Michigan or one of the other states where manufacturing unions have managed to wrestle stupid wages from their employers. They'd find a state in the South with low labour standards and a low minimum wage, hire newly-immigrated and/or illegal Latinos who'll work for $7.25 per hour and treat them like shit, just like every other manufacturer that's moved to the US in the last decade.

I would, for instance, be willing to pay an extra dollar for a Legion figure, or two dollars for a deluxe, for Hasbro to move its production Stateside. Sadly, as I said, the cost increase at this point would be far, far more than that.
But here's the thing: you might not even have the chance to. Walmart sets the prices and if they're paying $5 wholesale for a Deluxe now they won't be willing to pay $6 or $7 for 'ethically produced' toys. Hasbro's margin per figure goes down, and they have to cut costs elsewhere or risk losing money. And then the Deluxe you're buying for $10 has the design complexity of an oversized Legends bootleg and no paint apps.

Prices may go up, but not nearly as much as they 'should' and something would have to give elsewhere in the process.

Jaynz
2011-12-21, 06:25 PM
Ridiculous exaggeration won't help your case at all. There's no way employees would be paid this much, and even if they did there's now way prices could increase that much.

Actually, that is a going rate for labor manufacturing in the United States. Note, this isn't average wage, but average manufacturing wage. I honestly wish I was exaggerating this. Harpers reports that the difference just crossing the Rio Grande is 8:1 (up from 6:1 prior to NAFTA, go figure).

Average unskilled labor, all around, for the US is $21 per hour. This includes farming, etc.

Prices are set in large part by Walmart, remember, and they're not going to let Hasbro increase the MSRP by more than a few dollars.

Sort of. Wal*Mart's influence is a bit of a bogeyman, however. They like to establish certain price-point ranges, yes, but any purusal through the toy aisle will put a lie to the claim that Wal*Mart can dictate prices. There would be a lot more homogeny if that were true.

They'd find a state in the South with low labour standards and a low minimum wage, hire newly-immigrated and/or illegal Latinos who'll work for $7.25 per hour and treat them like shit, just like every other manufacturer that's moved to the US in the last decade.

Again, a pretty solid bogeyman. Though union-shops have put out a lot of propaganda decrying non-union manufacturing plants (particularly in Tennessee, which is the giant of these new plants), tours and inspections and other reports of conditions within them do no match the narrative. Wages and beneifts are commiserate with union shops and the working conditions are usually even better.

Denyer
2011-12-21, 07:55 PM
Averaging $40/hr for untrained labor before benefits
US minimum wage hovering about ~$8/hr is roughly in line with (with adjustment for economies) the ~6/hr it is over here for factory jobs.

I find it hard to believe that factories stump up $40/hr to make popcorn bags, as an example of a production line manufacturing job within the US given by someone elsewhere last night.

threads about this were deleted on the IDW boards
If true, what respect for IDW I had has by this point evaporated.

Warcry
2011-12-21, 08:07 PM
Actually, that is a going rate for labor manufacturing in the United States. Note, this isn't average wage, but average manufacturing wage. I honestly wish I was exaggerating this. Harpers reports that the difference just crossing the Rio Grande is 8:1 (up from 6:1 prior to NAFTA, go figure).

Average unskilled labor, all around, for the US is $21 per hour. This includes farming, etc.
I'm curious where you get your numbers from, because the US Department of Labour disagrees with you.

$21.35 is the median hourly wage for all workers in the US. (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000)

'Assemblers and fabricators', which a toy plant would fall under, have an average hourly wage of $14.92. (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes512099.htm) That includes auto workers, who skew the average up significantly. Take them and their $25.39 average out of the equation and you're probably looking at an average wage under $10.

[EDIT: $10.25 actually, if my quick math is right]

Sort of. Wal*Mart's influence is a bit of a bogeyman, however. They like to establish certain price-point ranges, yes, but any purusal through the toy aisle will put a lie to the claim that Wal*Mart can dictate prices. There would be a lot more homogeny if that were true.
While I'm sure companies use Walmart as a scapegoat more than is strictly necessary, shit like his happens all the time.

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/calgarybusiness/story.html?id=19d78808-43f1-48a8-b8f3-00951cc2c591

http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/11/26/us-walmart-china-idUSTRE5AO51320091126

http://subscribers.supermarketnews.com/retail_financial/wal-mart-delivery-proposal-0607/

Again, a pretty solid bogeyman. Though union-shops have put out a lot of propaganda decrying non-union manufacturing plants (particularly in Tennessee, which is the giant of these new plants), tours and inspections and other reports of conditions within them do no match the narrative. Wages and beneifts are commiserate with union shops and the working conditions are usually even better.
Not in Canada, they're not.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/article984750.ece

$5 per hour difference for doing the exact same job. Unionized auto workers are seriously overpaid for what they do, but still.

Clay
2011-12-21, 08:35 PM
'Assemblers and fabricators', which a toy plant would fall under, have an average hourly wage of $14.92. (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes512099.htm) That includes auto workers, who skew the average up significantly. Take them and their $25.39 average out of the equation and you're probably looking at an average wage under $10.

[EDIT: $10.25 actually, if my quick math is right]

Yeah. There's a plant here in Murray that makes lawn mower engines, and those fellows make around $10-$11 an hour.

inflatable dalek
2011-12-21, 08:47 PM
And Vanguard, you are totally right about Labour costs. One of things that tickles me about the UK is that we have all this unemployment, yet there's always factory work going for minimum wage which people refuse to do as if its somehow beneath them.

If you live in an area where there's a huge amount of factory work that's great, but it's certainly not true round here. The big employer left is the supermarkets, and, at the moment, they're not hiring (my wok, for the first time since I've been there, has taken no temp staff on over Christmas. Which is nearly killing us all in a funny way. Sainsbury's has taken on some "Work Experience" people- basically free labour from the dole office, and that's about it).

My Mother works at Job Centre Plus, and the main "No experience required" minimum wage job that comes up is career (lets leave aside how many of us in need of a career would want one with no prior experience who used to be a sugarbeat beater or whatever). And no, the people on the dole don't especially want to do that job. But once they've been on there a certain amount of time they don't have a choice. There's a lot of bullshit spread about on how benefits work, and frankly most of the governments planned changes are either not going to make any difference or hurt the wrong people. Because most long term unemployed aren't scammers, and a large number of them are never going to get regular work because even the nicest of employers wouldn't want them, there's many with personality problems beyond the dreams of analysts.

I did love it when the Polish people started at work, partly because of the knee jerk reaction from a lot of idiots presumably unaware Kidderminster has had a large Polish community since the end of the War (including my own Grandfather) and partly because within a year all but one of them had decided that poorer paid jobs back home were better than working for Tesco and had left.

Skyquake87
2011-12-21, 09:59 PM
While it's nice and all, well, in my opinion, Hasbro really can't do anything about it. If they moved away from the Chinese factories, then they'll have quite a bit more expenses to cover for if they used different factories, since quite a lot of Hasbro products are 'made in China'.

Without increasing the prices of their products to be quite unviable for normal sales (like Lego, nearly double their contemporaries) Hasbro can't let go of the Chinese companies.

And, like I said, the Chinese companies can't do much to change. Pay the kids too much, and they don't make a profit. Sad as it is, it is not illegal and they sure as hell are not going to change what they're doing. Probably some PR stuff like cleaning up the beds and stuff that won't cost them anything. But, if push comes to shove and the factories fire the kids, and those same kids would probably end up curled up, dead by cold or hunger, on the back alley of some street in the city.

Well...I dunno, I had to do something. And whilst it might be impractical for Hasbro to make these changes immediately, Lego have proved it can be done. I understand that TFs are more complex to engineer and maybe its something that could be attempted in small stages. But there must be something more that can be done. i read Hasbro's CSR and they do have guidelines in place that they use in their global dealings - including manufacturing. Either way, shrugging and saying "that's how it is" isn't acceptable (this isn't directed at anyone personally, just how I feel). We, as consumers, can effect change whether we realise it or not. Berating hasbro for a business practice others are also involved with wont help, but perhaps by finding some way of influencing behaviours , either by contractual obligation or by opening their own factories abroad would be a way forward.

To inflatable dalek : point taken. there's not loads of factories around here, but many recruitment agencies always have work going. the long term unemployed are a problem and employers need to be encouraged to give those willing to work a chance. Likewise, the governments approach to whose benefits to cut is worrying and the involvement of private firm unum in making some of these decisions is deeply concerning, particularly where folk have been on benefits for genuine medical and / or psychological reasons which a private company assessor overlooks to achieve the numbers requirted to hit the targets required by their contract with the government - another reason privatisation isn't always the answer.

Thunderwave
2011-12-21, 10:24 PM
Sort of. Wal*Mart's influence is a bit of a bogeyman, however. They like to establish certain price-point ranges, yes, but any purusal through the toy aisle will put a lie to the claim that Wal*Mart can dictate prices. There would be a lot more homogeny if that were true.

Wal*Mart is notorious in it's treatment of companies like Hasbro, trying to use their leverage to bully them into doing things a certain way. Doing things like telling companies, like Hasbro, that they will give Wal*Mart X-number exclusives the next year or they'll stop carrying their product.

I think, however, Hasbro finally stood up to Wal*Mart. Looking about the store I work at, a older TRU in the states, around last Christmas I saw us get in a shit-ton of former Wal*Mart exclusives from several Hasbro lines, all without the "Only at Wal*Mart" stickers. Doing some more digging I found those same toys at Target as well. If my information is correct, Wal*Mart is also getting fewer exclusives across the board over the next year, not just Transformers, and not very impressive ones while stores like TRU and Target are getting rather nice ones. This points, to me, that Hasbro has, to some degree, told Wal*Mart to back off. Knowing what I do about who makes what, if Wal*Mart suddenly stopped selling Hasbro toys, the toy section of the store would look mighty empty.

Jaynz
2011-12-22, 12:34 AM
I'm curious where you get your numbers from, because the US Department of Labour disagrees with you.

Harpers, but the point is still valid. So long as you have nearly an order of magnitude of wage/salary cost different between the United States and Mexico, much less China, for the same job, it's just not going to be feasible to do much hiring in the States.

While I'm sure companies use Walmart as a scapegoat more than is strictly necessary, shit like his happens all the time.

Hard to fault them too much when you see "Worst of all, two of the factories have rules forcing workers to lie to Wal-Mart auditors" in the stories. The Chinese government forcing workers to be silent on treatment? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! :P

The truth is that Wal*Mart has been a net gain for workers, consumers, and the overall economy in the United States. It's also made a lot of improvements in marketing that people don't think about. Before Wal*Mart's pressure, packaging of CDs were taking as much shelf-space as 33rpm records. Most toys had huge amounts of styrofoam packaging, and the typical video game came in large, mostly empty, 8 1/2" by 11" by 2" boxes.

$5 per hour difference for doing the exact same job. Unionized auto workers are seriously overpaid for what they do, but still.

Is the question that the $5 difference really means one group gets paid too little, or one just too much, though? One big difference, though, I believe is that American companies are well aware that unions will seize any chance to get a company under their thumb and effectively make them 'slaves to the Union and the DNC'. Manufacturing companies therefore have plenty good incentive to keep their workers as happy as possible to avoid this.

Jaynz
2011-12-22, 12:43 AM
Wal*Mart is notorious in it's treatment of companies like Hasbro, trying to use their leverage to bully them into doing things a certain way. Doing things like telling companies, like Hasbro, that they will give Wal*Mart X-number exclusives the next year or they'll stop carrying their product.

And, you know what, that's fine. That's not at all illegal, hardly immoral, and not remotely unethical. Wal*Mart is under no obligation to sell anyone else's stuff, and it's perfectly fine for them to apply leverage to companies to keep costs low, packaging reasonable, and so on. I know people like to act like it's a protection racket, but it's really not.

For Hasbro's part, take a close look at that toy aisle again. See all those "Iron Man II" toys still around"? "Tron"? "Thor"? Wal*Mart has to eat all of those toys and their associated costs... It works both ways, you see. Wal*Mart isn't taking a lot of extra toys at all right now because of a few solid years of very poor sales for toy lines in general. And movie tie-in lines, in particular, have been nothing but shelf-warmers. Why would Wal*Mart want a bunch more exclusives when they're not moving the crap they already have?

Warcry
2011-12-22, 02:53 AM
Harpers, but the point is still valid. So long as you have nearly an order of magnitude of wage/salary cost different between the United States and Mexico, much less China, for the same job, it's just not going to be feasible to do much hiring in the States.
Let's do some back-of-the-envelope math on that, just for fun.

The differences are far less stark than they might appear at first. The assembly-line workers in China work for basically nothing, but the factory owners are making a tidy profit off if their backs. Combine their take with the costs of exporting the figures from China, transporting them to the US and paying the tariffs needed to import them, and you must be looking at a fairly sizable sum.

Now for the sake of argument, let's say that you moved that production to the US and paid the workers minimum wage. Going by that report, assembly-line workers are putting together nine figures per hour. Going off of a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and you're looking at a whopping $0.81 per figure. It sounds like those folk are the bulk of the workforce, but let's be generous and double that cost to account for management, QC and the folk who are running the molds we're looking $1.62 per. If Hasbro offered an industry-average salary and decent benefits you might double it again, to $3.24. That's all guesswork of course, but it seems reasonable to me and I'm actually surprised at how small the number works out to be.

That's not an insurmountable number at all, and it probably goes down some when you subtract the Chinese production and transport costs. We'd probably be looking at a difference of, what, maybe $2 per Deluxe Transformer when all's said and done. But if that's $2 per unit that Hasbro needs to eat because Walmart won't buy the figures from them for $2 more than they're doing now, it adds up very quickly. I seriously doubt that there's much more than $2 worth of plastic and paint in a figure either, so if Hasbro needed to make up the costs internally the most likely place to do it would be in the design side -- which would mean simpler molds with fewer pieces, and a lot more redecos.

Does anyone know how many units of a given toy are made in a production run? I don't, and I can't find any info on that. But let's give a ballpark estimate of 100,000, just for the sake of discussion. $2 each for 100,000 units produced times the 21 different Deluxes sold in the DOTM line is over $4 million -- about 1% of the company's 2010 annual profit. Take a similar slice out of every single line they run, and it's probably enough to put the company in the red. It sounds to me like they couldn't possibly absorb the cost themselves, so they would have to raise prices to stay afloat. And that would be entirely up to retailers like Walmart.

If Hasbro could get away with raising their wholesale prices by $2, that would probably become $4 by the time the product was on the shelves. So you'd be paying $14, in other words, or less than what I have to pay now. If Hasbro and Hasbro alone did it, they'd definitely be putting themselves at a serious disadvantage. But the problem is only a problem because everyone is building toys in China. If everyone stopped, things would go on just as they always have, maybe with a slight dip in sales to compensate for the raised price. You certainly wouldn't see anything absurd like $20 Legends-class toys, or $50 for a G.I. Joe.

Hard to fault them too much when you see "Worst of all, two of the factories have rules forcing workers to lie to Wal-Mart auditors" in the stories. The Chinese government forcing workers to be silent on treatment? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! :P
I'm not sure how you connect "random factory somewhere in China" with "ZOMG GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY". China's a huge country. The government can't even enforce copyright law, they'd hardly be able to orchestrate something like this at every employer in the country. They're far too busy futilely trying to censor the internet.

No, this one is all on Walmart. They pressure their suppliers to cut costs -- the article itself says so, and the Lego and supply-chain articles are good examples of the same thing. The suppliers then have to produce the items they're selling to Walmart for less if they want to make a profit, which means spending less money going into the factory, lower worker salaries and poorer working conditions. You can draw a straight line from Walmart's pricing policies all the way back to the dirt-poor people being treated like shit in a Chinese factory.

And, you know what, that's fine. That's not at all illegal, hardly immoral, and not remotely unethical. Wal*Mart is under no obligation to sell anyone else's stuff, and it's perfectly fine for them to apply leverage to companies to keep costs low, packaging reasonable, and so on. I know people like to act like it's a protection racket, but it's really not.
It really is. Walmart uses their massive size to extort lower costs from their suppliers, then turn around and sell the items for less than other stores can afford to. They use their lower prices to drive the competition out of business, then turn around and demand even lower costs from the supplier because they're now the only game in town. Any company that can't get their products on Walmart shelves is losing access to about half of the US retail market, which would essentially be a death-blow, so they have no choice but to do what they're told and cut costs on the production side of things to compensate.

And that's without getting into all the union-busting they do to keep their own wages low and further increase their advantage over other retailers.

For Hasbro's part, take a close look at that toy aisle again. See all those "Iron Man II" toys still around"? "Tron"? "Thor"? Wal*Mart has to eat all of those toys and their associated costs... It works both ways, you see.
If Hasbro was somehow forcing Walmart to buy all those toys, I might have sympathy. But they're not. Walmart (and other retailers) routinely over-order stock from movie lines because they're hoping that the movie will be a big hit and they'll be ahead of the game by having a warehouse full of toys ready to sell. It almost never happens and they know that perfectly well, but they take the risk anyway because they'd rather be in a position to have to sell those toys on to a discount store (still at a profit, mind you, just a smaller one) than get caught with their pants down when a once- or twice-a-decade hit like the first TF movie shows up.

They're gambling, basically. Sometimes they lose. But it's their own choice. If retailers weren't ordering such a stupid amount of movie-line toys, companies like Hasbro wouldn't produce as much.

Selkadoom
2011-12-22, 02:59 AM
I'm not really surprised, it's actually pretty normal for big companies to due crap like this, but at least their giving people jobs and a source of income, which is better than if Hasbro never built the factory there in the first place.

Jaynz
2011-12-22, 04:46 AM
Combine their take with the costs of exporting the figures from China, transporting them to the US and paying the tariffs needed to import them, and you must be looking at a fairly sizable sum.

To the US, tariffs are nearly negligible. The only real cost is physically shipping them across the ocean - which is done on non-union freighters flagged to other countries... I've been told more than once that it costs much more to ship something from San Fransisco to Denver than it does Shanghai to San Fransisco. (No, I don't have numbers here.)

The basic idea is that the US (and Europe) is much more expensive every step of the way than China. Realistically this leaves us three choices. 1) Do without Chinese-made goods competely. 2) Push China into reforms which will normalize their costs. 3) Lower the expected wages of US and European workers.

Which do you think is likely to happen soon?

I'm not sure how you connect "random factory somewhere in China" with "ZOMG GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY". China's a huge country. The government can't even enforce copyright law, they'd hardly be able to orchestrate something like this at every employer in the country. They're far too busy futilely trying to censor the internet.

You mistake 'conspiracy' with 'procedure'. China could enforce copyright law, except there's no benefit to China to actually do that, and much more benefit in undercutting it. So, that's the procedure. China made state and government an art form over 2000 years ago.

No, this one is all on Walmart. They pressure their suppliers to cut costs -- the article itself says so, and the Lego and supply-chain articles are good examples of the same thing.

So long as the cost-cutting is legitimate, where's the problem again? Again, the only realistic options to the situation as it is now are presented above. Which do you see realistically happening in the near future?

(snips the usual pro-Union anti-Wal*Mart talking points)

If Hasbro was somehow forcing Walmart to buy all those toys, I might have sympathy. But they're not.

No, they're in a a mutually beneficial arrangement. Both Hasbro and Wal*Mart get a lot of money by having Hasbro's product on Wal*Mart's distribution sales. That's how it works. Both sides make demands 'at the table' to get the best deal for themselves that they can.

Warcry
2011-12-22, 06:03 AM
To the US, tariffs are nearly negligible. The only real cost is physically shipping them across the ocean - which is done on non-union freighters flagged to other countries... I've been told more than once that it costs much more to ship something from San Fransisco to Denver than it does Shanghai to San Fransisco. (No, I don't have numbers here.)
I'd actually be very surprised if it wasn't. Shipping by freighter should be very economical -- the labour costs and overhead are very low compared to the volume of cargo that a ship can carry. Shipping something overland by train might be roughly comparable, but trucking it would be a lot more expensive.

The basic idea is that the US (and Europe) is much more expensive every step of the way than China. Realistically this leaves us three choices. 1) Do without Chinese-made goods competely. 2) Push China into reforms which will normalize their costs. 3) Lower the expected wages of US and European workers.

Which do you think is likely to happen soon?
Hopefully, none of the above. The West needs Chinese-made goods because we've destroyed our own economies to the point where we can't afford to pay for stuff we've made ourselves. And China needs shitty factory jobs like this because right now cheap labour is the only resource the country has to export. The alternative -- the collapse of the Chinese economy and the impoverishment of an entire nation -- is flat-out unacceptable. The worst of the excesses should be curbed, obviously. There's absolutely no excuse to be feeding your workers pig slop and making them live in vermin-infested quarters.

If Western companies pulled out of China en masse it would be a disaster for everyone. We could cope to some extent, because we have (relatively) lots of money. Luxury goods would cost more and a lot more people would be 'poor', but we'd survive. I'm honestly not sure if China could, though. Without billions of foreign dollars pouring into the country through cheap manufacturing, would they be able to afford to import all of the food they need? What about all of the metals and other raw materials they're importing from the West and using to modernize the country's infrastructure? Without manufacturing income China could easily fall into the same pattern of famine and deprivation that exists across the border in North Korea.

I just think we need to be realistic about the economics of this situation if we want our opinions to be taken seriously. I'm seeing people on other boards talking about boycotting Hasbro until they leave China entirely, and other people who seem to think that killing the rats in these workers' living quarters will raise the price of every Transformer by $10. Neither of those positions are realistic, and there's no need to fuel that sort of hysteria by talking about $40/hour salaries or $20 Legion-class toys, because that's equally hyperbole.

You mistake 'conspiracy' with 'procedure'. China could enforce copyright law, except there's no benefit to China to actually do that, and much more benefit in undercutting it. So, that's the procedure. China made state and government an art form over 2000 years ago.
But again, the government has nothing to do with two random factories making cheap shit for Walmart. If it did, if this was the government's wink-wink, nudge-nudge procedure, there would be a lot more than just two factories pulling this kind of crap.

So long as the cost-cutting is legitimate, where's the problem again? Again, the only realistic options to the situation as it is now are presented above. Which do you see realistically happening in the near future?
If the cost-cutting could be done without sacrificing product quality, worker rights or the supplier's own bottom line, they wouldn't need to be constantly forced into it by Walmart.

(snips the usual pro-Union anti-Wal*Mart talking points)
Pro-union? No, the large unions that dominate the modern labour movement are corporations in all but name, running a giant protection racket and showing no interest in what's good for the common member because they've grown so big that the union bosses are professional bureaucrats that have no idea what life for the common member is like. Live in Manitoba for a few years and you'll have the chance to see union after union betray the trust of their members when it's expedient (say, when they're looking for a cheap way to make their NDP allies look good in an election year). The labour movement is a shadow of it's former self and needs to be blown up and rebuild from the ground up.

None of that excuses Walmart's habit of throwing it's weight around to increase their own profits on the backs of suppliers, employees and foreign workers.

No, they're in a a mutually beneficial arrangement. Both Hasbro and Wal*Mart get a lot of money by having Hasbro's product on Wal*Mart's distribution sales. That's how it works. Both sides make demands 'at the table' to get the best deal for themselves that they can.
But it is by no means a negotiation between equals. If Hasbro pulls their product from Walmart's shelves, Walmart shrugs and devotes more shelf space to Power Rangers and Beyblade. If Walmart decides to stop selling Hasbro product, Hasbro dies.

Hasbro has zero bargaining power in the relationship.

Jaynz
2011-12-23, 09:54 PM
I'd actually be very surprised if it wasn't. Shipping by freighter should be very economical -- the labour costs and overhead are very low compared to the volume of cargo that a ship can carry. Shipping something overland by train might be roughly comparable, but trucking it would be a lot more expensive.

Again, if they were using US Flagged ships, the costs would be much higher, which is why you see so few US Flagged merchant ships anymore. It's pathetic, really...

Hopefully, none of the above. The West needs Chinese-made goods because we've destroyed our own economies to the point where we can't afford to pay for stuff we've made ourselves.

Yet all three things are beginning to happen. China is beginning to normalize. Factories are prefering Mexico and starting to look at Brazil again. And wages are just starting to go down. As a wise man once said, "anything that can't go on forever, simply won't".

Neither of those positions are realistic, and there's no need to fuel that sort of hysteria by talking about $40/hour salaries or $20 Legion-class toys, because that's equally hyperbole.

The former isn't if you consider that there would be immense pressure from Washington to make sure new factories would be pro-union and high-wage only (as Boeing about this one). The latter not so much already since Legion-class figures are already costing as much as deluxe class figures just a few years ago. ($8.99 for a Legion in Kohls... and they wonder why their toys don't do so well...)

But again, the government has nothing to do with two random factories making cheap shit for Walmart. If it did, if this was the government's wink-wink, nudge-nudge procedure, there would be a lot more than just two factories pulling this kind of crap.

Not really. In China, anything is the government. We're not really used to that in the west, where any manager, any work-boss, etc., are part of the 'Party' and answers the chain on up. Also, the 'culture of pride' means that any sort of bad news is quietly dealt with and hushed up. Dirty launder is not aired.

As I said, China made government bureacracy an art form 2000 years ago.

If the cost-cutting could be done without sacrificing product quality, worker rights or the supplier's own bottom line, they wouldn't need to be constantly forced into it by Walmart.

There are plenty of people who run companies that would resort to slave labor if they think they could get away with it, rather than impact even remotely on their own personal lifestyle. A lot of these Chinese factories could, and this has been proven to be the case, improve conditions for a marginal cut in the final take. But the 'leadership', beit the local provincial authority, the work-boss, or whomever doesn't want to cut their share. Screw the guys under them...

In Communism "Some people are more equal than others."

But it is by no means a negotiation between equals. If Hasbro pulls their product from Walmart's shelves, Walmart shrugs and devotes more shelf space to Power Rangers and Beyblade. If Walmart decides to stop selling Hasbro product, Hasbro dies.

Hasbro has zero bargaining power in the relationship.

It's not that one-sided. Wal*Mart still needs a variety of product to sell, else there's no reason to shop there. Wal*Mart's real primary advantage is their incredibly-efficient distribution network. Sears and Target could wipe the floor with Wal*Mart overnight if they would adopt Wal*Mart's distribution model... but that conflicts with their intended upper-middle-class image. :S

You're talking about changing cultural attitudes here. While not impossible, it's a lot more involved than any of us bitching on www.tfarchive.com are likely to achieve.

Skyquake87
2011-12-24, 12:54 PM
I asked hasbro if i could be kept informed of any developments regarding this.

I had a response from hasbro yesterday saying the ngo allegations are "unfounded" having been out themselves to check the conditions in the factory. They carried out a 9 hour unannounced inspection and found no evidence of the claims raised by ngo in their report. They will continue to monitor the jetfair factory in question along with all the other factories they use,including further jetfair ones.

Terome
2011-12-24, 01:53 PM
I asked hasbro if i could be kept informed of any developments regarding this.

I had a response from hasbro yesterday saying the ngo allegations are "unfounded" having been out themselves to check the conditions in the factory. They carried out a 9 hour unannounced inspection and found no evidence of the claims raised by ngo in their report. They will continue to monitor the jetfair factory in question along with all the other factories they use,including further jetfair ones.

That's interesting. But even if it is all true, it's no proof of anything. An 'unannounced inspection' in a world of search engine alerts, against a background of bribery, is a pretty ineffective way to do things.

The report itself is difficult to dismiss out of hand due to that photo of the unreleased, packaged Bumblebee figure. Someone was there and took pictures and felt compelled to write that report. I'd like to see a report from a third party before I can find these claims of 'no evidence' to be credible.

inflatable dalek
2011-12-24, 02:16 PM
"Oh no Hoshi, look, it;'s Hasbro on a totally unannounced visi! Who'd have expected that right after all this fuss? We've certainly not had chance to throw all the starving working in the river".

Warcry
2011-12-24, 04:27 PM
Yet all three things are beginning to happen. China is beginning to normalize. Factories are prefering Mexico and starting to look at Brazil again. And wages are just starting to go down. As a wise man once said, "anything that can't go on forever, simply won't".
Slowly, yes, those things are happening. But that was always inevitable. When you pour that much money into a country, you have to expect that the standard of living will go up and you won't be able to exploit them anymore. That's the reason why I don't get up in arms about sweat shop accusations myself -- because even though things are bad in some of them, the money they bring in is slowly improving the quality of life for everyone in the country. I still can't say that that level of exploitation is a good thing, because it's horrible for the people who are enduring it. But even for all that, it does help in a way.

As for us? We'll adapt, but it'll be hard because we've dug ourselves a pretty big hole. In the short term by finding other places to exploit, probably. In the long term, a combination of improved automation and, yes, lower wages for unskilled work. But a big part of the problem is that no one in the West wants to work for a living. My dad worked for thirty years at an auto parts plant (non-union, mind, so the wages aren't great). When he started, almost everyone there were working-class Canadian folk. By the time he retired the only people they can hire are freshly-immigrated Filipinos and Aboriginals who've moved to the city from the reserve -- people whose old lives sucked sucked and who are willing to work hard to improve their lot in life. No one else is even willing to give it a shot, because everyone who was born and raised here has been taught to believe that if they can't go to university or college, get a degree and be upper middle class, they're an utter failure. Working as a janitor or at Walmart is in some ways considered even more of a disgrace than being on welfare.

I can understand that to an extent, too. The people I know who are on welfare can not only afford to pay for the necessities of life, if they budget right they've got enough money to afford some luxuries like video game consoles or mountains of DVDs. They're not wealthy by any means, but if they've got a choice between doing nothing and living that life, or working a hard job that only puts them marginally ahead...well, I can understand why so few native-born Canadians apply for those hard jobs anymore.

And that is definitely not sustainable. Eventually we're going to run out of poor brown people who want to move here and do our dirty work. And when that happens, we'll have no choice but to fill the jobs ourselves.

The latter not so much already since Legion-class figures are already costing as much as deluxe class figures just a few years ago. ($8.99 for a Legion in Kohls... and they wonder why their toys don't do so well...)
This, I suspect, has less to do with a raise in 'absolute price' than it does with the US dollar dropping through the floor. Your currency's purchasing power is so low right now that prices almost have to go up for imported goods.

That's the most obvious downside of outsourcing all of your production to a different country.

Not really. In China, anything is the government. We're not really used to that in the west, where any manager, any work-boss, etc., are part of the 'Party' and answers the chain on up. Also, the 'culture of pride' means that any sort of bad news is quietly dealt with and hushed up. Dirty launder is not aired.
I see where you're coming from, and I've seen that sort of behaviour first-hand. The place my dad worked expanded by outsourcing a lot of work to China, and they had huge QC issues with the parts that they produced. The factory managers, meanwhile, absolutely refused to even admit to the outsiders that there was a problem. But I see exactly the same problem with the Indian outsourcers that I sometimes have to deal with at my job, so I suspect it's less a government thing than it is an ingrained cultural one.

In Communism "Some people are more equal than others."
That may or may not be true, but the Chinese government isn't even vaguely communist and the fact that they claim to be is the biggest joke in the world. China is the biggest haven for unregulated business in the world. Their economic policies make the US look communist. China is really nothing more than a slightly more oppressive version of 29th-century Europe.

It's not that one-sided. Wal*Mart still needs a variety of product to sell, else there's no reason to shop there. Wal*Mart's real primary advantage is their incredibly-efficient distribution network. Sears and Target could wipe the floor with Wal*Mart overnight if they would adopt Wal*Mart's distribution model... but that conflicts with their intended upper-middle-class image. :S
It is that one-sided, because Walmart can afford to lose a single supplier a lot more than that supplier can afford to lose Walmart. You would need to see hundreds of corporations band together and refuse to deal with Walmart before they had any appreciable effect on their busness.

That's interesting. But even if it is all true, it's no proof of anything. An 'unannounced inspection' in a world of search engine alerts, against a background of bribery, is a pretty ineffective way to do things.
But if the factory owners are forced to maintain higher standards because Hasbro is keeping them under closer scrutiny, surely that's a good thing? Since this sort of thing is an embarrassment for Hasbro, they really have no choice but to watch Jet Fair more closely if they continue to use them. And we don't know what working conditions are like at other Jet Fair facilities. Maybe they're all the same, but it's possible that this one was the exception to the rule and the news story shamed their management into cleaning things up.

We'll never really know for sure, but this really is the best outcome that you could reasonably expect.

The report itself is difficult to dismiss out of hand due to that photo of the unreleased, packaged Bumblebee figure. Someone was there and took pictures and felt compelled to write that report. I'd like to see a report from a third party before I can find these claims of 'no evidence' to be credible.
http://www.tfw2005.com/boards/transformers-general-discussion/508020-news-story-about-hasbro-working-conditions-6.html#post7011756

A group that exists for no reason but to certify that factories are being run ethically has certified the place. Does that count?

If you're assuming that Jet Fair would rather spend resources on hoodwinking Hasbro inspectors than on genuinely improving working conditions, then how could we trust the results of any inspection or report?

[EDIT]
Also, there's this. (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=84038&st=200&p=1972118&#entry1972118)

The people who created this report seem to be in a bit of hot water for making sweatshop accusations -- which turned out to not be backed up by any evidence -- about another group. Now, maybe this Kardashian nonsense is an isolated incident...but maybe it's not. Without launching an exhaustive investigation, we don't really know.

If this is any indication of how they usually operate, this "Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights" may not be all that credible a source. It could be 100% true, or it could be full of out of context, unverified accusations cherry-picked to make things look as bad as they possibly could. But frankly, considering their recent track record I don't think their accusations hold any more weight for me than Hasbro's denials. I won't accept either one as the unvarnished truth without some strong, independent backup.

So we should probably take the initial report with a grain of salt.

Jaynz
2011-12-27, 11:32 PM
As for us? We'll adapt, but it'll be hard because we've dug ourselves a pretty big hole. In the short term by finding other places to exploit, probably.


Not too many places left. These 'exploitable spaces' have to also be stable, and once you're getting past China and Mexico... well, stability isn't exactly well known in most of Africa or South America. Other areas, like the Middle East, would outright be hostile to such endeavors.

Working as a janitor or at Walmart is in some ways considered even more of a disgrace than being on welfare.

Boomer Culture is a very spoiled one, but we're seeing the end of it. I'm not exactly sure how this is going to all pan out, but I think we're seeing the painful, spiteful end of "I'm too good to work THERE" part of our culture. In short... we have too many 'wanna-be posh' people about to be decidedly 'not posh'.

I see where you're coming from, and I've seen that sort of behaviour first-hand. The place my dad worked expanded by outsourcing a lot of work to China, and they had huge QC issues with the parts that they produced. The factory managers, meanwhile, absolutely refused to even admit to the outsiders that there was a problem. But I see exactly the same problem with the Indian outsourcers that I sometimes have to deal with at my job, so I suspect it's less a government thing than it is an ingrained cultural one.

It's definately cultural. When I worked for Lotus Garden it was pretty rampant (though, thankfully, there were really only a few minor issues there). At CIOE (a networking company) the cultural differences in how to run a business was staggering.

If you're assuming that Jet Fair would rather spend resources on hoodwinking Hasbro inspectors than on genuinely improving working conditions, then how could we trust the results of any inspection or report?

If this is any indication of how they usually operate, this "Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights" may not be all that credible a source.

Without wanting to drag in American-political partisanship into it, let's just say that "no", they are not trustworthy. Put them in the same group as Greenpeace or PETA.