Hong Kong student activists search in vain for Mickey Mouse’s Conscience

sacom.jpgOn March 6th Disney shareholders will meet in Albuquerque to celebrate record sales and profits.  A small group of student activists based in Hong Kong wants to remind Disney of its unfulfilled promises to end sweatshop labor at its Chinese suppliers.

In March 2006, four institutional shareholders (New York City Employees’ Retirement System, NYC City Teachers’ Retirement System, NYC Police Pension Fund, and NYC Fire Department Pension Fund) filed a shareholder proposal demanding that Disney end its use of sweatshops in China.

Since then Disney has promised but failed to resolve labor abuses committed by its overseas suppliers. It announced the creation of Project Kaleidoscope, purported to be a pilot training program designed to promote sustained code compliance at ten Chinese manufacturers of Disney and McDonald’s products.

However there has been no disclosure of the facilities, suppliers, or monitoring and training methods involved. In fact a final report on Project Kaleidoscope, which the Disney Board promised to release in early 2006, is still not available.

Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong student group fighting for worker rights in mainland China, is demanding that John E. Pepper, Chair of the Disney Board, disclose updated information from Project Kaleidoscope.

In September 2005, just before the opening of Disney’s theme park Hong Kong Disneyland, SACOM launched its campaign “Looking for Mickey Mouse’s Conscience campaign. Since then, SACOM has exposed 11 Disney sweatshops in the Pearl River Delta region of southern China. Its first-hand investigations document illegal wage payments, excessive and forced overtime, illegal non-provision of labor contracts and social security payments, unsafe production environments, humiliating management practices, and substandard living conditions.

“Disney continues to deny social responsibility for the conditions of Chinese migrant workers, predominately young girls, who produce their merchandise. There is no fairytale ending for overworked Disney toy workers, who often work up to seven days a week 16 hours a day” commented Jenny Chan,chief coordinator of SACOM.

In some printing facilities that manufacture Disney-branded children’s books, work injuries are almost a daily occurrence. Hundreds of workers’ fingers are cut off by the dangerous machines.

Factory employers not only require hazardous work, but silence their workers by forcing them to sign one-sided “agreements” in which wages, work hours, and benefits are left out. Managers then fill in the blanks as they see most useful in convincing “social auditors” sent by Disney that they comply with local law. Since Disney refuses to share the results of these “audits,” neither the workers nor SACOM has any way of knowing if corrective actions have been taken.

Disney’s annual shareholder meeting will be held on March 6th inAlbuquerque, New Mexico. SACOM will send the Disney CEO a letter
(SACOM letterto Disney),already co-signed by many Chinese and international human rights groups, demanding transparency and compliance with basic worker rights.

  1. SACOM’s demands on Disney are quite basic and reasonable that Disney divulge a full list of their outsourcing suppliers (as Nike and Adidas have already done);
  2. that Disney give every Chinese worker in its supplying factories a copy of a written labor contract (with the blanks filled in!) in accordance with the new Labor Contract Law;
  3. that Disney respect the right of workers to develop democratic mechanisms of worker representation at all Disney suppliers.

To support SACOM’s letter to Disney, sign their on-line petition or send a message before 6th March to

Jenny CHAN, Chief Coordinator
Email: wlchan@sacom.hk
Website: http://www.sacom.hk
Tel/fax: (011)852 2392 5463
Tel : (011) 852 2392 5464

It would be really helpful if SACOM received support from New York City unions or other institutions, since the shareholder action filed by NYC municipal pension funds two years ago has been thwarted by Disney’s hypocrisy.

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