Tea Leaf Nation
Cards Against Humanity Is All For Chinese Workers
The irreverent card game maker claims to have sent Chinese factory workers on a paid vacation.
Some U.S. companies prominently display labels such as “Assembled in USA” or “Designed in California” to emphasize that their products, at least in part, help expand the U.S. manufacturing footprint. While China has long been known as the world’s factory, U.S. companies often try to distance themselves from the “Made in China” label, due to consumer concerns about product safety or U.S. jobs moving abroad. But in a recent holiday publicity campaign, the makers of the politically incorrect party game Cards Against Humanity have given a virtual middle finger to such rebranding, sending out photos of their Chinese factory workers enjoying a week-long paid vacation on the company tab.
In mid-December, the U.S.-based card game maker sent out personal stories and photos from workers employed in a factory in China where the card game is made. Cards Against Humanity stated on its website that it had used some of the money raised during its holiday promotion called “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah” – in which around 150,000 customers paid to receive one mystery gift each day — to send the factory workers on a one-week paid vacation.
Included in the mailer were thank-you notes from workers and photos from the vacations that they took. Many of them used the vacation to spend more time with their families, especially their children. “This vacation I took my son to the river bank to catch fish, and we also climbed a 600-meter-tall mountain,” wrote one worker, adding that Cards Against Humanity is a “very interesting a card game, but I do not know how to play!” The daughter of another employee, Si Chunxiang, hadn’t been doing well in school lately, so Chun used the vacation to locate a tutor and help her study. It’s unclear how many employees received paid vacations or if they were required to write thank-you notes as a condition; the company did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment.
Many factory workers in China are migrant laborers, meaning they have left their often small, rural hometowns to find work in a city. Often, they are only able to return home once a year, during the national week-long holiday for the lunar new year. One factory employee named Zhang Erchang, a manager in the cutting workshop that produces Cards Against Humanity, used the extra week of vacation to go home. “During my vacation, I returned to my hometown and celebrated my [daughter’s] sixth birthday,” wrote Zhang. “My family got together and ate, it was great!” Another, He Guilan, who works in the packaging department, returned to her hometown in Shandong during the week off. (None of these stories could be independently verified).
American consumers want to buy American. A Consumer Reports survey in 2015 found that 8 out of 10 American consumers prefer to buy U.S.-made products rather than ones made abroad. Companies from Apple to U.S. retail giant Walmart have highlighted their U.S. manufacturing footprint. Apple places a now well-known label, “Designed by Apple in California,” on some products such as the iPhone which are largely assembled in China. But a U.S. company that goes out of its way to treat Chinese workers well can also make for effective publicity, despite consumer skittishness towards products made in China. Many are attuned to working conditions in China; a spate of suicides in 2010 among Chinese workers at facilities that produced Apple gadgets brought intense scrutiny to the U.S. tech giant’s labor practices. “This doesn’t undo the ways that all of us profit from unfair working conditions around the world,” read an enclosed note in the mailing campaign from Cards Against Humanity, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”