Make Known Unknown (Blog 9) / Uncategorized

Beanie Babies: stuffed with pain and suffering


Everyone knows and remembers the Beanie Babies phase of the 1990s where millions of children in America and around the world started collecting stuffed animals all made by the same simple Ty brand.

However, how has Ty managed to stay on top today when virtually no Beanie Babies are being collected as before in the 1990s? The answer is surprisingly due to “raiteros”, a spanglish term created in Chicago for one who gives rides on a ferry or bus to work. Ty employs raiteros to recruit and ferry Mexican immigrant workers to the factories by charging them $8 for a ride. . They follow a strict policy of no $8, no work. Ty has created a system in which the immigrants bear the costs of paying for their own opportunity for work for the day.

Ty pays these hired hands as little as $6 per hour which is well below the $8.25 minimum wage in Chicago. the system works for them because there is such a surplus of these immigrant workers in the area eager and willing to pay $8 for a ferry, wake up and show as early as 4 am, just to work for the toy company for below minimum wage. If the immigrants make any sort of complaint, they lose their opportunity for work for the day and possibly for several others following.

How can this wage theft operation be allowed to function in the state of Illinois so unsupervised? The raiteros are employees of Ty and they are taking $8 from each worker every time they offer themselves for work for the day. This is a clear violation of the temporary labor laws in the state of Illinois. Several other companies that employed a similar system stated that they give their temporary employees freedom to get to the work site as they please, however Ty was making it nearly impossible for this to actually happen. If the immigrant workers wanted a secure spot on the assembly line for that day, they literally had to be on the ferry or bus where the primary recruiting occurred. Therefore, each of the temporary workers had to pay the $8 to be able to work that day.

Where the problem arises is the company’s definition of a temporary employee recruiter. In Ty’s case, they are fusing the transportation aspect of this with recruitment person, who is supposed to be a third party entity in the system. If their transportation means were legally a separate entity, then the transportation charge is justified. However, thats not the case.

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5 thoughts on “Beanie Babies: stuffed with pain and suffering

  1. I loved Ty Beanie Babies when I was younger! This gives me a whole new perspective on the company, though. I can’t believe this has been allowed to continue in the state of Illinois. It seems so unethical.

  2. Apparently I missed out on a childhood as I had to Google what a “Ty Beanie Baby” was. I also laughed when you said that the immigrants “bear the cost”.

    I don’t think that this company or the state of Illinois is the only exception to companies paying their employees below minimum wage. There is a surprising number of popular US companies that you encounter daily and may not realize, such as it Hershey.

  3. I found this especially interesting because this goes way beyond just exploiting workers. Ty is literally making profits through getting their cheap immigrant workers to pay the company. The cost of rides to work are more than the cheap wages the company is paying their workers so the company is benefitting and coming out on top. I am surprised this is the first time I am hearing this as it is extremely exploitative and unethical and I hope it becomes an even more publicized story so that the immigrant workers may have some sort of voice

  4. I love that you took a topic, Beanie Babies, that all us 90’s kids know and love, and completely turned it upside down. These unethical practices are completely appalling, but I suspect, not rare. I hope this story gets more exposure and the workers get more support to fight this injustice.

  5. Good summary.

    I think the flagrance of many firms to flout labor laws helps to keep wages low for everyone. there is more and ore awareness of the widening wealth gap in the US. “Serious” people will talk about the role of education, access to technology, globalized outsourcing, immigration into the US, weakened labor unions, and so on. All likley relevant.

    But, how about some basic enforcement of existing laws? I sometimes feel like “it’s all okay because competition is tough” is the underlying rationalization for politicians or people to not demand this stop.

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