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<nettime> Beware of Mickey - Disney Sweatshops in South China

Dear Friends,

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee (CIC) has released our latest
Disney report (BOM- Beware Of Mickey Disney sweatshops in the South China)
on December 1. It is about the labour rights violations at 12 China
factories producing for Disney. So far, we did not get much public
attention to urge Disney to fix the problems, especially in the US, the
main battlefield supposed.

We have drafted a letter to Michael Eisner Disney CEO. Please see the
letter below and circulate through your network. We are collecting the
letters in local, regional, international levels and planning to pass them
to Disney company in their shareholder meeting in February. pls return
your signed letter to

In case you don't have all the materials -- attached you'll find a summary
of the report. The detailed information in English is available on MSN's

Below is a draft letter to Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

If you want to know more about the report and campaign, please feel free
to contact me at

Show your support to Disney workers in China.
in solidarity,

Alice Kwan

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee (HKCIC)
704-5, 57 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
T#: (852) 2366 5860     F#: (852) 2724 5098

Sample Letter

December  15,  2000

Mr. Michael Eisner, CEO
Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521
Fax: 818-846-7319

Dear Mr. Eisner:

RE: Disney Sweatshops in South China

I am/We are writing to express my/our very serious concerns about recent
reports of sweatshop abuses in factories producing Disney products in
China. According to a report by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial
Committee, workers are being forced to work up to 18 hours a day, seven
days a week, often under dangerous working conditions, for poverty wages.
Workers interviewed complain of bad food and dangerous and overcrowded
living conditions. Obviously, these working and living conditions are
totally unacceptable, and are clearly in violation of both Chinese Labour
Law and your company's code of conduct.

As promised in your code of conduct, Disney should ensure that its
contractors respect workers' rights. However, your company's current
monitoring program appears to be inadequate and ineffective. Rather than
cutting and running from contract factories in violation of the Disney
code and Chinese law, which would only cause more suffering for the
affected workers, Disney should act responsibly and work with your
contractors to correct the problems immediately.

I/We strongly urge Disney to do the following:
1. Promote workers' rights education at the workplace so that workers are
aware of their rights and able to make complaints when those rights are
2. Involve workers in the monitoring process. They should be empowered to
act as on-going workplace monitors.
3. Provide accessible and trustworthy channels (e.g. letter box in the
factory with prepaid postal envelopes) for workers to lodge complaints to
the company and interested third parties. The company should guarantee that
there will be no retaliation against workers who register complaints.
4. Strictly monitor and assist your suppliers to comply with the national
labour laws and Disney's Code. Instead of simply cutting and running,
Disney should work with the non-complying factories to improve the
5. Disclose all information on your suppliers for public scrutiny.

I/we look forward to receiving a prompt reply outlining the specific steps
your company is taking to correct these problems and to make your
monitoring program more transparent, credible and effective.

Yours sincerely,
Name/ Organization / Contact Information

About the Study:

In March-November 2000, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee (CIC)
investigated working conditions in 12 Disney contract factories in
Guangdong province in southern China. Five were toy factories, two
garment, three accessory, one plastics, and one watch factory. Some are
regular suppliers to Disney, and some are seasonal suppliers. All were
producing for Disney during the investigation period. Most of the products
manufactured in the factories were for export to North America and Europe.
At least one factory was producing for export to Canada. The CIC
interviewed five to 15 workers from each factory.

Worker Profile:

The vast majority of workers in the 12 factories are young, single,
female, migrant workers from rural areas in inland provinces. Most are
between the ages of 18 and 30, though some are as young as 16.

General Findings and Recommendations:

Although Disney claims that its code of conduct and so-called
"independent" monitoring system are ensuring respect for workers' right in
its supply factories in China and other countries, the CIC study found
that violations of the Disney code of conduct and Chinese labour law were
commonplace. Those violations include: excessively long hours of work,
poverty wages, unreasonable fines, workplace hazards, poor food, and
dangerously overcrowded dormitories.

The study also found that few workers interviewed were familiar with the
Disney code of conduct and monitoring system, and that workers who had
been exposed to the code and/or interviewed by monitors were often
subjected to threats and intimidation to falsify work records or answer
monitors' questions "properly" according to management-prepared scripts.

The study concludes that Disney's code of conduct and monitoring system
are ineffective and of little use to workers.

The report recommends that Disney do the following:
1. Promote workers' rights training at the workplace.
2. Actively involve workers in the on-going workplace monitoring process.
3. Provide accessible and trustworthy channels (e.g. letter boxes in
factories with prepaid postal envelopes) for workers to lodge complaints to
the company and other interested third parties.
4. Guarantee that there will be no retaliation against workers who make
5. Strictly monitor compliance with, and assist their suppliers to comply
with, national labour laws and the Disney Code. Instead of simply cutting
and running whenever violations are uncovered, the company should work with
non-compliant factories to improve working conditions and labour practices.
6. Disclose all information on its suppliers for public scrutiny.

The authors of the report are not disclosing the names of the factories
investigated at this time in order to ensure that Disney or its suppliers
do not use the report to penalize the contracting factories thus doubly
victimizing the workers. The CIC will continue to monitor the factories
and consider taking stronger actions if factory conditions remain

Specific Findings:

1. Wages:

Most workers interviewed were receiving between US$49-85 a month,
including pay for overtime. Given the long hours they worked, this was
less than the legal minimum wage. In the toy factories, most workers were
paid US$37-61 a month. Many workers were being paid on a piece rate basis,
and most of their overtime work was not fully compensated. Many factories
were not providing payroll slips, and where slips were provided, they were
often unclear on how pay was calculated. It is common for factories to pay
workers a month in arrears. Some pay two months in arrears.

2. Hours of Work:

In peak season, working hours can be as long as 13-17 hours a day, seven
days a week, for months at a stretch. In some factories, workers are
pressured to work overnight. Workers can not refuse to work overtime. In
one factory, a worker interviewed in August said that, except for the
four-day holiday over Chinese New Year, he had only had two day off this

3. Food and Housing:

Overcrowded dormitories with 10, 12, or 14 workers sharing a single room
is common. In one factory, 21-24 workers shared a single dorm room,
sleeping on triple-decker bunk beds. In some dormitories, the corridor
between the two rows of beds was not wide enough for two workers to pass
each other. Overcrowding creates a serious fire hazard. Complaints about
factory canteen food were common. In one factory, workers described the
food as being "worse than pig feed."

4. Health and Safety:

Workers are generally unaware of health and safety issues. Some workers
complained that management only distributed gloves and masks when guests
visited the factory. Some workers complained of frequent sore throats. In
one factory, workers complained about the bad smell of the paints in the
spraying section.

5. Fines and Fees:

Workers reported being fined for talking at work, reporting to work late,
taking leave without permission, forgetting to switch lights off in
dormitories during the day time, littering in the canteen, etc. In one
factory workers said that if they were caught smoking in the peak
production period, they would receive a financial fine, but in the low
season they would be fined and fired. In one factory workers have to pay a
fee when they start work to cover costs for a temporary residential pass
and their factory uniform. In another factory, workers have to pay for
tools, uniforms and the factory ID card.

6. Social Security:

In violation of Chinese law, most factories do not participate in that
country's social security system, thus denying workers the benefits they
deserve in event of retirement, occupational injury or death.

7. Freedom of Association:

There were no unions in any of the factories investigated, and most
workers interviewed were not aware of what a union is. In one factory,
workers reported that there had been a strike in the spring because wages
were in arrears. Management eventually released the wages owed, but all
the workers who had participated in the strike were fired. In a second
factory, workers reported that had been several strikes, most of them over
late payment of wages. Male workers who participated in a strike in April
were fired. Despite the number of strikes that had taken place at the
factory, workers interviewed did not know what a union was, and thought
the word "union" might mean a morning assembly. In a third factory, a
security guard who circulated a petition protesting the poor quality of
the food at the factory canteen was immediately fired.

8. Job Security:

In October, more than half the workers at one factory were asked to take a
long unpaid leave. According to the workers interviewed, this is the same
as being fired. When new orders are placed, management reportedly writes
to the workers and asks them to return to work. However, workers rehired
are treated as new employees. In another factory, workers report that if a
worker chooses to resign, she has to sacrifice wages owing and is not
allowed to retrieve her personal belongings from the dormitory. At least
one factory illegally subcontracts Disney orders to other factories.

Disney Code and Monitoring Program

1. Awareness of Code:

Most workers interviewed were not aware of the Disney code of conduct. In
only three of the factories was the code posted. Workers who had heard of
or seen the code were usually unaware of its content or purpose. Very few
realized that the code was intended to protect their rights.

2. Monitoring:

Workers interviewed spoke of visitors to the factories, but generally had
no idea who the visitors were - buyers, Disney representatives, Disney
monitors, officials from the labour bureau? None of the workers
interviewed had spoken to the visitors or seen other workers speak to the
visitors. They reported being afraid to talk to visitors because there was
no guarantee they wouldn't be punished for doing so.

3. Management Tricks:

Workers from two factories reported that their factories were cleaned up
before visitors arrived. Workers in three factories reported double
bookkeeping that misrepresented workers wages, the falsification of
timecards to hide overtime hours worked, and/or workers being forced to
sign false payroll statements. In two factories, workers were given a set
of model answers and trained how to respond to questions from visitors.
Workers from one of those factories said they would be fined if they
didn't answer the questions "properly." Workers from a third factory said
they were warned by management not to say anything negative about the
factory to visitors. In one factory, workers reported that "young" workers
were removed from the factory before visitors arrived.

Previous CIC Studies on Disney

In February 1999, the CIC released a report entitled "Mulan's Sisters:
Working for Disney is no Fairly Tale." The report documented similar
worker rights violations in four Disney supply factories in southern
China. Disney appears to have stopped placing orders with three of the
factories. For this reason, CIC will not release the names of the
factories that are the focus of this current report. Rather than cutting
and running whenever labour rights violations are uncovered, which only
further victimizes the workers whose rights are being violated, Disney
should work with its contractors to bring them into compliance with
Chinese labour law and the Disney code of conduct.

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