A new report called ‘Santa’s Sweatshop,’ released locally by the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, argues that the massive relocation of toy production from the United States to countries with weaker consumer safety enforcement is an underlying cause of the recent surge in dangerous toy recalls.
The Public Citizen report features new analysis of over four decades of data on toy imports, production jobs and safety recalls, and concludes that changes are needed to both consumer protection standards and international trade policy in order to improve toy safety.
“The massive recalls we keep hearing of, that are bringing so much anxiety this holiday season are not a random act of coincidences,” said Alicia Ranney, director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition. “They are the expected result of our manufacturing industry being outsourced to countries that don’t have the most basic consumer protection standards that Americans deem critical.
“As we’ve seen with the thousands of manufacturing jobs lost in Minnesota since NAFTA was passed, these trade deals mean more than trade,” said Ranney. “The trade rules benefit the bottom line of large corporations but in turn they harm our working people, family farms, the environment and unchecked imports threaten the safety and health of our children and families.”
The report shows that U.S. toy production jobs have declined by 70 percent since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO) were enacted in the mid-1990s. The overwhelming majority of toys sold in the United States today are now produced abroad, particularly in China, where wages in toy manufacturing are as low as 36 cents an hour. In recent years, Chinese imports have accounted for a disproportionate share of all U.S. toy recalls (94 percent), a phenomenon driven almost entirely by China’s use of toxic chemicals in toy manufacturing.
“It’s a shame that, instead of enjoying giving my grandchildren toys, I’m experiencing a high level of anxiety ensuring that what I’m selecting is safe and toxic-free. It’s time to change these trade policies.” said Nan Duchene of the United Steel Workers District 11.
The report finds that while toy manufacturing has increasingly shifted to countries with weaker safety regulations, federal funding for consumer product safety oversight has also been on the decline. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s budget has been cut by a third in real dollars since its high in the 1980s, the report finds.
The report can be viewed online at: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Santas%20Sweatshop.pdf