Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quick Hit: What Else the Thomas Recall Reveals

Parents across the U.S. are up in arms about the latest toy recall, which this time affects owners of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends trains. I must admit that I felt some smug satisfaction at having known about the recall and responded to it, finding James and his coal tender in my son’s room and dispatching them back to the toy company, long before the news hit the rest of the country’s fan. (I subscribe to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall notification e-list, so I know about a lot of recalls before those who rely on word-of-mouth … although somehow the pet food recall got under my radar until my dad e-mailed me about it.) What I have not previously considered, though, is how much my indulgence of my son’s Thomas habit supports underpaying workers in distant countries. For those who don’t know, even the smallest two-inch wooden Thomas engine is about $10 from most retail outlets (while the metal ones run closer to $7 each, I think). And yet, as mentioned in that article that I linked above, there are Chinese “workers who were paid about $150 a month to spray paint on mostly metal toy trains six days a week.” Since I’m sure that they’re painting more than 22 trains in those six days, they’re grossly underpaid for their work on these, quite frankly, ridiculously overpriced toys – especially now that I know that they’re imports from China. I am ashamed at my thoughtlessness … but, even though apparently as much as 80% of toys in the U.S. are also Chinese in origin, making it likely that most equally thoughtless parents probably have some in their homes, I’m not going to let myself off the hook because of it. I’m sure that there are plenty of beautiful American-made toys that I could have been buying for Alex. Now that I’m informed, I’m going to make a point of looking for them.

(This is the first post that I'm publishing here rather than over on MotherBlogs. I'll see how it goes; then perhaps I'll move everything else here as well. In the meantime, please check out the rest of my blogs about feminist mothering.)

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