Da Nang It! Give 'em a Happy Meal 

Ahh, nothing like a cute little spotted plastic doggie in yer Happy Meal, eh? Makes the mustard taste mustardier! Makes the fries taste saltier! Makes young Vietnamese women sick.;;Yes, those fun-lovin' rabble rousers at the National Labor Committee -- who brought you the Kathie Lee Gifford Sweatshop Shame Festival -- send word of yet one more example of Real Life.;;One of the factories that makes the toys that go in McDonald's kiddie meals had a little incident in February: 200 workers -- women between 17 and 20 years old -- were sickened from exposure to acetane, a solvent used in plastics manufacturing. Twenty-five collapsed and three were hospitalized.;;The factory is owned by a Hong Kong corporation called Keyhinge Industrial, whose management has reportedly rejected all appeals to, say, fix the factory's ventilation system.;;Keyhinge also owns factories in China, where workers so impudent as to demand air are shot. If they live long enough to demand it. In January 1992, 23 workers at the company's Chi Wah toy factory were hospitalized and three died following acute poisoning with benzene, another solvent, says the National Labor Committee. ;;McDonald's has a 10-year, $100 million arrangement with Disney to cross-promote each other's images and products. The company's arrangement with Keyhinge is a bit more arms length, facilitated through a Chicago company called MB Sales.;;In MB‘s bids for McDonald's jobs, low bidding is especially important for stuff they give away free. So it's perhaps not surprising that the wages paid by Keyhinge are somewhat modest.;;The women in the Da Nang factory work 10 hours per day, seven days a week, for between six and 10 cents an hour.;;"Generally Americans pay higher, twice the minimum wage," says Thuyen Nguyen of Vietnam Labor Watch in New York. Workers for Coca-Cola make about $85 a month; Nike pays about $47 (and is facing labor riots both in Vietnam and Indonesia presently. ;;The 60 cents a day the McDonald's subcontractor pays is less than it takes to buy one meal, according to the National Labor Committee. Nguyen, who visited Vietnam last month, says the young women rely on food sent from their families on farms. And one other thing: "They skip meals," he says. "That's one thing I found.";;I love the smell of acetane in the morning.

More by Ericson, Edward Jr.


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