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Child Laborers Make Happy Meal Toys in Flexible 16-hour Shifts

OAK BROOK, ILL. ( — In its annual survey, Working Child magazine today named McDonald's as the "best company for working children," noting that the Chinese factory making McDonald's Happy Meal toys not only allows child laborers to sleep indoors, but gives them nearly eight hours off every day.

Working Child Magazine cover

The magazine's annual list singles out those firms that help working children balance their illegal careers with their relatively non-existent personal lives. McDonald's, through its contract with the mainland China factory, was cited for several innovations, including an unrivaled flex-time policy that lets employees divide their workweek into any combination of seven, 16-hour days.

The magazine also praised McDonald's far-sighted "back-injury prevention" initiative. Factory workers, who live 16 to a room, sleep on wooden pallets with no bedding, thus protecting them from back problems that so often result from a too-soft mattress.

But according to Susan Schreff, editor-in-chief of Working Child, it was the company's "sick sibling" policy that most impressed the magazine's team of researchers. Under the program, child laborers are allowed to extend their normal 16-hour shifts to a full 24 hours if a sibling is injured or too sick to work.

"Some of these families are two-child income families, and they count on getting those $3 daily paychecks," said Schreff. "If one of the children becomes too ill to work, allowing the sibling to work 50 percent longer ensures that the family will at least get $4.50. I don't know of many companies that would do that."

Added 14-year-old factory worker An Luping: "I love my factory and McDonald's and the Communist Party and I am 19 years old."

In a related note, McDonald's announced that all Happy Meal toys not distributed by Dec. 1 will be donated to the "Toys By Tots" campaign.


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