Seventeen year old women are forced to work 9 to 10 hours a day, seven days a week, earning as little as six cents an hour in the Keyhinge factory in Vietnam making the popular giveaway promotional toys, many of which are Disney characters, for McDonald's Happy Meals.
After working a 70 hour week, some of the teenage women take home a salary of only $4.20! In February, 200 workers fell ill, 25 collapsed and three were hospitalized as a result of chemical exposure.
Included in the Happy Meals sold at McDonalds are small toys based on characters from Disney films. According to McDonald's senior vice-president Brad Ball, the Happy Meals characters from the "101 Dalmations" movie were the most successful in McDonald's history.
Ball adds, "As we embark on our new global alliance, we anticipate ten great years of unbeatable family fun as customers enjoy 'the magic of Disney' only at McDonald's" (PR Newswire Associates, March 19, 1997).
Located in Da Nang City, Vietnam, the Keyhinge Toys Co. Factory employs approximately 1,000 people. 90% of them are young women 17 to 20 years old. Overtime is mandatory: shifts of 9 to 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Wage rates average between six cents and eight cents an hour - well below subsistence levels.
Overcome by fatigue and poor ventilation in late February, 200 women fell ill, 25 collapsed and three were hospitalized as a result of exposure to acetone. Acute or prolonged exposure to acetone, a chemical solvent, can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, damage to the liver and kidneys and chronic eye, nose, throat and skin irritation.
All appeals from local human and labour rights groups continue to be rejected by Keyhinge management which refuses to improve the ventilation system in the factory or remedy other unsafe working conditions.
Along with demanding forced overtime, Keyhinge management has not made legally required payments for health insurance coverage for its employees, who now receive no compensation for injury or sickness.
Many of the young women at the Keyhinge factory making McDonald's/Disney toys earn just 60 cents after a 10 hour shift. The most basic meal in Vietnam - rice, vegetables, and tofu - costs 70 cents. Three meals would cost $2.10. Wages do not even cover 20 per cent of the daily food and travel costs for a single worker, let alone her family.