Sweatshops And Disney


Sweatshops And Disney Essay, Research Paper

Consumers can play an important role in closing sweatshops, and they have a right to know what

companies are using sweatshops to produce their product there are simple steps consumers can

take to help fight against the use of sweatshops. Right now many famous companies are using

sweatshops readily to save money. However, ironically, the companies that use them are the

companies that can afford to spend the extra money for regular labor. Some of these name brand

companies include; Nike, Disney, Kathie- Lee Gifford, Gap, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren, and

Wal-Mart. Many people have no idea that these companies are using sweatshops. Disney for

example is a very well known company. No one would ever expect that their favorite childhood

Disney memory could have been created through sweatshops and child labor. Disney is just one

of the many well respected, loved companies with dark secrets. It is hard to believe as a

consumer that a company that consumers have grown to trust and love uses such forced labor,

with underaged sweatshop employees making consumers favorite characters come to life. Well,

Peter and Rochelle Schweizer makes it clear that it could be a possibility: ? The face of Disney the

manufacturer is not a pretty one. All too often Disney clothes, toys, and trinkets are made by

child laborers. Disney licensees have been caught using child labor on three continents? (245).

Many other companies are practicing the same type of labor policies without consumers?s

knowledge. If companies feel that sweatshops are a decent and fair way of doing business and

have no problems with continuing to use them, they should at least make these reasons public and

confront their consumers?s concerns. They should let their consumers know why they choose to

conduct their business in this manner. Consumers would then have the real information on the

product that they choose, and not only what the company wants them to

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know. Consumers would then be able to base their product choice on work place conditions as

well as the over all product information.

Some companies?s use of sweatshops have been made public. Kathie-Lee Gifford?s

designer clothes company for example was widely evident in the news in 1996. Gifford was

shocked when she heard of the sweatshop conditions her company was using. Since this Gifford

has been involved in organizing the Apparel Industry Partnership with the U.S. Department of

Labor. This organization tries to crack down on the use of child labor. This is one example of

where the public influenced a company to change its policies. This gives hope that with consumer

support other companies can be influenced in similar ways.

Disney, however, has not been so noteworthy in their efforts. Disney licensees go out of

their way to bring their company to countries such as Burma, where the practice of child labor is a

normal everyday event, and they exploit this to create their product as cheaply as possible.

Schweizer explains how remote the locations that Disney licensees use, ? For years Disney

licensees were manufacturing in a country few Americans could locate on a map. Burma- also

known as Myanmar, the name given it by the ruling military junta- is a poverty – stricken nation

wedged between India, China, and the lush mountains of Thailand.? (251). This is an ideal

location because so few people are aware of it. This makes it easy for the Disney licensees to

continue their business without being detected. Another insight to Burma is that drug lords hold

great power and are protected by the government. Disney licensees had to get the permission to

have sweatshops in Burma from these drug lords. This shows how the drug lords are the ones

with the power in Burma. First companies must win the respect of these drug lords before they

are able to work there. ? Burma?s attraction as a manufacturing site is obvious: ultracheap labor.?


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When consumers and human rights groups along with labor organizations took action in

1996, they did get a response from Disney. The National Labor Committee and other

organizations together made Disney?s involvement in Burma public with the Free Burma

Campaign. Disney denied these claims. They pretended they had no involvement in Burma.

They knew how the negative public announcement would hurt the company, which is the major

reason why companies hide the facts from the consumers. Schweizer explains that many other

respectable companies have volunteered to monitor their working conditions, however, Disney is

not one of them. This shows that Disney is aware that the problem of sweatshop exists in their

licensees operation.

Disney may have changed its ways concerning Burma after public protests, but it

seems less than interested in tackling the child labor problem. Retailers and

manufacturers have been asked by the U.S. Department of Labor to voluntarily

pledge to monitor their contractors to make sure no child labor is being used.

Dozens of well- known companies have joined, including Abercrombie and Fitch,

Guess, Lands? End, Lerner New York, Levi Strauss, the Limited, and others.

Disney has not (254).

However, Disney continues to be a very hypocritical company by continuing to stay active in

UNICEF activities. Yet, Disney can continue to entertain millions of children everyday. It is a

shame that the children that are working for them do not receive the same benefits. It is quite

possible that they would love to have a short break to enjoy a cute Disney movie.

This shows how companies try to rationalize what they know is wrong. Consumers must

know that they are being deceived by the image they have of the company. The company CEO?s

can no longer ignore the situation. Consumers have to let the companies know that they are

aware of this situation. They need to let the companies know that they can not continue to hide

the problem. Something needs to be done. Consumers must stop supporting these companies. If

the consumers keep on ignoring this, then the companies win. Consumers have to start fighting

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for those children?s rights because no one else will until someone starts. The children are trapped

in a society that encourages this horrible situation. After the consumers get involved, then the

companies can not ignore their public. They will have to look for another source of economic

growth. Without the companies there wanting the children to work, they will be set free from

these conditions. But we do then face the problem of what the children would do for income. It is

horrible to think that the children have to depend on these jobs to live. Although that is the ugly

truth, there has to be a way that these children can get into school where they belong. An even

better situation outcome would be that the children could get better wages and working

conditions. That would be the ideal situation.

The reasons the companies have for using sweatshops must be considered as well. We

know that they are feeling pressure to find cheap labor in order to drive up profits. But if the

earnings of Michael Eisner are compared to a Haitian worker, as the National Labor Committee

states, ? It would take a Haitian worker sewing Disney garments 156 years to earn what Michael

Eisner earned in one hour!? (sec.2) Something needs to be done so that the difference between

these wages are not so great. The National Labor Committee provides more horrifying statistics

to think about; ? Disney reported a record 63% increase on its first quarter profits, Disney TV

stations reach one out of every four households in the U.S., one out of every four movie tickets

sold in the U.S. is for a Disney film or for a film distributed by Disney, Disney radio stations reach

123 million people a week? (sec.3). This shows just a part of the influence the Disney company

holds on the U.S. public. It also illustrates the fact that Disney can definitely afford to stay away

from child labor and the use of sweatshops to create its products. Many companies are just like

Disney this is just one of the many examples.

It is important for consumers to know and understand these facts. Consumers are then

faced with a decision: to get involved, or to go on ignoring the problem because they feel there is

nothing they can do. But without the aid of these consumers, organizations? attempts at stopping

these companies fail. The organizations rely on consumer support for their movements. It is also

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important for these organizations to show the consumers how easy it is to get involved and have

their opinions and voices heard. All consumers?s ideas are important.

There are many small steps that the consumers can take to make a difference in the use of

sweatshops. The best way would be to get everyone to take just one step. If just a few people

took a step a day there would be a tremendous difference. But if just a one person took a step a

day, the effect would not be as great. It is important for the consumers to take the first step in

showing their concern. If consumers never voice this concern to the companies, they (the

companies) continue to think that they are getting away with using this cheap labor. Here are

some ideas on how consumers can easily get involved on a daily basis to ensure they are showing

support. Holstein makes consumers aware that the process of getting involved can be a simple

one, ? There is no way to pick up a product and instantly know how it was made. But there are

very practical things you can do over a period of time to give yourself greater confidence about

what you buy.? ( par. 1)

One of the simplest things consumers can do is to check where the articles are made.

Consumers can do this by looking at the label on the merchandise. If they see that it was made in

a third world country that regularly uses sweatshops such as: China, Burma, Haiti etc.., the

possibility is greater that the merchandise was made in a sweatshop. If the consumer does not feel

comfortable going by the label alone, they can ask a store manager. Store managers are usually

friendly and willing to share any information that they know about their products with the

consumer. However, this could both be an advantage or a disadvantage. The store manager may

know less than you do about the situation or could have even been instructed not to talk about

such an issue with customers. The opposite could be true as well. The store manager could have

been trained with the knowledge of all the company?s labor laws and issues and would be eager to

share this learned knowledge. It is worth the chance to try either way.

Once a consumer has found where the product was made, they should be cautious of

certain countries. Some of the tactics taken are consumer boycotts. This is the tactic that the

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opponents of the regime in Burma employed. Boycotting is not always the best action to take, as

explained by a Reebok executive: ? If Americans decided that they weren?t going to buy soccer

balls made in Pakistan, a million people would be out of jobs tomorrow? (par. 3). Simply,

boycotting is not helpful, all this does is make more people lose their job. This is not a permanent

solution. A more effective way to show concern is to ask questions about the countries of origin.

Learn more about the products that consumers buy.

If the consumer sees a made in the U.S.A label, they should not assume it is safe. Many

products made in the United States are also made under less then ideal situations. Consulting a

monthly State Labor Review shows that the United States is still trying to work against this.

?Child labor continues to be an issue of great interest at both the Federal and State level. A mix

of legislation was enacted this year, with laws passed both to strengthen and to relax child labor

regulation.[ in the U.S.]? ( Nelson, par. 7). The United States itself is still having problems

weeding out these companies who are producing merchandise in such conditions. The problem of

sweatshops is also evident in the U.S..

Consumers should use the resources given to them. One extremely useful resource is the

U.S. Department of Labor?s website [http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/public/nosweat/trands.htm].

Here they can find a list of retailers that are using enlightened sourcing practices. They can also

contact the consumer group that they use most regularly and persuade them to include workplace

conditions in their report. By doing this the U.S. Department of Labor is making a lot of

consumers more aware of a situation of sweatshops, most of these consumers they reach are

completely ignorant of the situation. This could greatly influence the way people shop.

After consumers take these steps, the companies will see the effect. Hopefully the effect

will be great enough that the company will change their labor practices. By making the

companies change their labor practices, the consumer has made a difference. Without the

consumer and the aid of different National Labor Committees, the companies could not be

persuaded to change their ways.

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Consumer?s children can also get involved. Children have a voice and when they are

informed of such activities as child labor and sweatshops they can be useful tools. Maria Sweeney

saw this potential in her fourth grade class. Every year she has her students choose a topic of

social significance for an end of the year play. One year her students chose global sweatshops and

chose the Nike and Disney companies to be their focus (par. 2). The children were cautious with

choosing these companies.

Nike was at the top of the list, ?Most kids think they can?t live without Nike,? one

student observed. The others agreed that the company holds great sway over

young people. Several wondered if we could even compete with its power: ? The

whole point of the play would be to get them to join the boycott,? one student

cautioned,? but most kids would never stop wearing Nike stuff. It wouldn?t be

cool at all to be against Nike? ( par. 3).

The students agreed that kids have the right to know of the awful conditions. These children

knew that they could make a difference if they informed their peers of the situations that they have

become aware of.

The students wanted to be able to reach all of their intended audience. This is why they

choose Disney as the second company, hoping to reach the younger audience. The students knew

this was important news to get out. Parents of these children showed some concern in their

children not hearing both sides of this issue, so their teacher made the effort to stress the

difference between the goals behind the companies? public relations department versus the human

rights groups. The public relations department?s goal being to promote a positive public image

and thereby enhance earnings, their motive here being profit. This would somehow explain to the

students why the public relations departments would publicly deny any involvement with child

labor or sweatshops. The human rights groups however are motivated by morality and justice.

This way the children knew the differences between both sides and could make their own

opinions. (par. 15)

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Once the children?s play was put together, the school refused to let them perform it in

front of the rest of the school as originally planned. The children recognized this as censorship.

They were being forced to only perform it in front of an audience consisting of their parents.

However, a reporter heard of the children?s misfortune and got response from the community. By

extreme luck the students were asked to perform their play on Broadway (par. 19-20).

Consumers of all ages can make a difference if they are given the chance. Everyone can

bring their own personal experiences and opinions to get involved. This shows how anyone can

make a difference. The children?s ideas would now be heard by a larger audience then ever

expected. Their feelings are being heard by a more diverse group of people. This means that they

may help even more people realize the truth to this awful situation in these poor third world

countries, who rely on U.S. companies to set up sweatshops so they can earn a meager living.

In conclusion, Moberg shows us that consumers can make a difference in the fight against

sweatshops, ? Consumer power propels the drive against sweatshops today, but most organizers

think that this alone will produce only limited advances.? (par. 8) Consumers must aid

organizations in their fight against International sweatshops by getting involved, being aware, and

being not ignorant. Without the consumers the organizations fight is pointless. They are fighting

for what most consumers are ignorant about. It is important to get the information out to

everyone about the poor conditions, our everyday products are being created in. Everyday more

and more consumers are being made aware, although they do not know how to help. That is

where the organizations get involved. They provide the information on how individual consumers

can make a difference. Everyone is important in this cause. The information is out there, it just

needs to be accessed.

Moberg, David. Bringing Down Niketown. The Nation. v268 no21 p15-16. 7 June 1999.

National Labor Committee.Campaign For Labor Rights. Disney Alert #2. 11 June, 1997.

22 March 2000.

National Labor Committee. Are Human Rights Compaigns Necessary? 28 July, 1997. 22

March 2000

Nelson, Richard R. State labor legistration enacted in 1998. Monthly Labor Review. v122

no1 p3-15 January 1999.

Schweizer, Peter and Rochelle. Disney the Mouse Betrayed. Washington DC: Regnery

Publishing: 1998.

Sweeney, Maria. Sweating the Small Stuff: Mickey, Michael, and Global Sweatshop.

Radical Teacher. no 55 p11-14 1999

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