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Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

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Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Greg B » Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:03 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/aug/27/disney-factory-sweatshop-suicide-claims

Didn't we go through this twice in the past ten years or so?
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:01 pm

Here's the article from the link Greg posted above.

..............



Disney factory faces probe into sweatshop suicide claims

Human rights campaigners say Chinese factories using children as young as 14 and that workers forced to do overtime

Gethin Chamberlain
Saturday 27 August 2011
guardian.co.uk

Disney's best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law, according to an investigation.

One worker reportedly killed herself after being repeatedly shouted at by bosses. Others cited worries over poisonous chemicals. Disney has now launched its own investigation.

It is claimed some of the 6,000 employees have to work an extra 120 hours every month to meet demand from western shops for the latest toys.

The factory, called Sturdy Products, makes toys for the giant Mattel company, which last month announced quarterly profits of £48m on the back of strong sales of Barbie dolls and Cars 2 toys. Sturdy Products, in the city of Shenzhen, also makes toys for US superstore chain Walmart. Among the brands produced are the Thomas the Tank Engine range, Matchbox cars, Cars, Toy Story, Barbie and Fisher Price products, Scrabble and the Hot Wheels sets.

The undercover investigation was carried out with the help of human rights group Sacom (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour), which helped to expose abuses in Apple's Foxconn plant in China this year.

Workers were interviewed away from the factory, and an investigator then spent a month working inside it to gather more information. He found evidence of the use of child labour and illegal working hours, along with concerns over the use of poisonous chemicals.

Sacom's accusations against the factory include:

■ The employment of a 14-year-old. Staff also reported the presence of other child workers, according to the investigator.

■ Routine excessive overtime. Employees produced a "voluntary" document they said they had to sign agreeing to work beyond the maximum overtime legal limit of 36 hours a month, along with wage slips that suggested they were averaging 120 hours of overtime a month.

■ A harsh working environment in which workers complained of mistreatment by management. One worker injured on the production line was shouted at and ordered back to work despite needing medical treatment.

■ Concerns about the chemicals in use and poor ventilation. Employees claimed three workers had fallen ill. They said they had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies.

■ They also claimed that they were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. The calculation of wages for different workers was described by Sacom as arbitrary.

Concerns were raised about conditions at Sturdy Products when a 45-year-old female employee, Hu Nianzhen, jumped to her death from a factory building in May after she was allegedly shouted at by managers.

Colleagues subsequently described the environment in the factory as tense and complained about the demanding workload. "A female worker committed suicide," one said, "because she was always scolded. However, I feel helpless because it is not easy for me to find another job."

The allegations are sure to concern many parents whose children are pestering them to buy the extensive range of Cars 2 toys launched to coincide with the movie, which hit UK cinema screens in July. Cars 2 has so far grossed £303m worldwide, overtaking the original movie despite being panned by critics. The poor reviews have not hindered sales of the merchandise, which Disney expects to exceed the £1.7bn spent last year on Toy Story 3 merchandise. Cars 2 toys will compete with Transformers and Smurfs items as the must-have Christmas toys.

But Sacom said that parents should think twice before buying the toys. A spokeswoman said: "Mattel, Walmart and Disney, the renowned toy companies, always claim they strictly comply with local laws and adhere to their respective code of conduct. The rampant violations at Sturdy Products, including excessive overtime, arbitrary wages, unfair punitive fines, child labour and negligence of occupational health, prove that the pledges are empty statements. There is no effective enforcement mechanism and remedies for workers at all."

She said the violations exposed the failings of the International Council of Toy Industries, which is supposed to police the industry.

"Consumers could never expect that the lovely toys which bring joy to children are manufactured in such deplorable conditions. They should convey messages to toy companies including Mattel, Walmart and Disney to launch remedial actions to compensate the wronged workers. Without remedies, there is no cost for labour rights violations."

She said the companies should already have been aware of the dangers of dealing with Sturdy Products after a previous investigation in 2007 uncovered similar problems. That investigation also found a six-day working week, with staff working up to 288 hours a month. During peak periods there was a compulsory seven-day week and the company was found to be failing to pay the minimum wage. Investigators said that some employees had attempted to raise awareness of the abuses by setting up their own group to inspire colleagues to fight for their rights.

Sturdy Products' parent company, Winson, failed to respond to requests to discuss the allegations.

Walmart issued a statement in which it said: "As soon as we learned of the allegations of human rights abuses at the Sturdy Products factory, we immediately launched an investigation. We are also in contact with the International Council of Toy Industries, a worldwide toy industry organisation that is also investigating this issue. We take reports like this very seriously and we will implement a corrective action plan if our investigations confirm any of the findings.

"We remain committed to sourcing merchandise that is produced responsibly by suppliers that adhere to Walmart's rigorous Standards for Suppliers code of conduct."

Disney said: "We take these matters impacting our licensees and business partners very seriously and will continue to evaluate this situation based upon the information available to us."

Mattel declined to comment directly on any of the allegations other than to note that the company was "deeply saddened" by the suicide but that, while it was "very tragic", it was an isolated event and local authorities had found nothing suspicious about the circumstances.

The company said it had carried out a detailed investigation. It said it was committed to working collaboratively through the International Council of Toy Industries' Care (Caring, Awareness, Responsible, Ethical) process "to achieve continuous improvements in factory working conditions".

Sacom's findings brought a rebuke from the International Council of Toy Industries' Care Foundation. "We are the first to concede that much more work lies ahead of us, but we refuse to accept the sensationalist, media-oriented declarations of any group, especially when they are carping and filled with incorrect information. It is simply counter-productive," the foundation said.

"The plain truth is that workers in many toy factories in China are better off now than they were before and that this is due in considerable part to the ICTI Care Process."
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Greg B » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:29 pm

Charles, if I recall, during the Animation Wars a few years ago when Michael Eisner was asked by Disney shareholders about sweatshop and child labor in China, Eisner responded, "We can't do anything about it." if I can recall the quote correctly.

Mind you, we're talking the so called "Happiest Place On Earth" and if this story is true, then it's up to Disney and all of us shareholders to stand up and say no to these practices even if it means no toys.
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:53 pm

I recall Eisner said something along those lines.

But... Disney could take action about their pirated properties in China, right?

In fact, that's how Bob Iger, the current head of the Disney Corporation, ingratiated himself with Eisner. By going to China and hunting down the people who were selling Disney CDs and DVDs without Disney's permission.

It's too much trouble to make sure that the places that manufacture their toys observe at least China's labor laws, as questionable as they are.

This is a symptom of a broader condition. The disease of corporatism.

Bob Iger, the guy hunting down Disney's pirated movies in China, is today the highest compensated executive in America and maybe even the western world, who knows.

Mattel has been turning a blind eye to this as well.

There's an easy way for folks who care to fight back.

Don't buy Disney toys produced in China, don't but Mattel toys produced in China.

Maybe things will slow down enough to give some of those workers a little time off.

Spread the word about this please and help create a broader awareness.
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Greg B » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:16 am

Yes, it's a double-edged sword.

Those folks in Asia would be starving if it wasn't for the cheap manufacturing market. That's the excuse the governments make for looking the other way.

Mind you, China has always been its own worse enemy.

Believe it or not, it was the Chinese government that killed more of its citizens than any invader ever did and it happened in our lifetime!

Back in the late 50's and early 60's over 30 million Chinese starved to death or killed each other because of famine created BY the government.

Yes, just look it up regarding the Great Famine. Some morons over there felt it was a good idea to not only murder the intellectuals or the 'smart' people and then move the farmers or the 'people who know how to grow food' to the factories to make steel. At some point Mao and his henchmen didn't realize you needed farmers when you have a population of over 600 million like they had then. 30+ million died, stories of rampant cannibalism and murder too. Mainland China was never a military threat and the U.S. could have wiped them out in a matter of six months on the outside.

So China has a major problem coming up, their citizens want more pay to live the good life and it's forcing companies to want to come back to the U.S. to hire people. Communist leaders know they can't hold back an uprising like you see in the Middle East so they're walking on eggshells. I suspect what's going to happen, and yes I've got good sources on this, is that the people of China might file lawsuits against Disney for child labor violations and worse. With 50 million lawsuits about to hit, yes there's lawyers that would love that, could Disney shareholders withstand the storm?
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 29, 2011 10:17 am

That's correct Greg. It was called the Great Leap Forward, which preceded the Cultural Revolution of the mid to late 1960s.

Some estimates place the number at 35 million deaths. To put the enormity of that into perspective, that's the population of California.

Under pressure by Mao and the communists to be industrially competitive with the US, the Chinese people were encouraged to make steel. What was produced was of poor quality, since most of it was being made by farmers in homemade kilns. At the same time, in order to impress the local communist party officials, they wildly exaggerated projections and reports on the productivity of their agricultural collectives, and by 1963 there was widespread famine throughout the land.

An attempt to head into a more western style decentralized free market economy was stymied by the Cultural Revolution and by 1966 the young people were thoroughly indoctrinated by Mao's Little Red Book and went on a purge of intellectuals, landlords, religious people including Buddhists and Christians, anyone who wore glasses, all in an attempt for something that nobody really knows what it was all for.

Now China has fully embraced corporatism and has become the production hub of the planet, but the abuse of the people still goes on as is evidenced by this report.

China is perhaps the only empire in the history of the world that never embarked on an expansionist path. In fact, they built a wall around their country to keep people out. When foreigners finally got in that's when things started getting bad. The Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, nationalism, civil war, invasion by Japan, another civil war, the communist victory and now whatever this is.

At least at this point in their history, they pretty much own the USA, and as Chairman Mao predicted, they would sell us the rope to hang ourselves.

Humanity in the workplace, please. They can afford it.
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:16 am

The article that Greg posted is from two days ago on August 27.

I found another article about this very same issue, with reassurances that Disney will be investigating, dating to November 12, 2010.

So what's happened in nearly nine months?

...............


Kids in Chinese sweatshops

Independent | Friday, November 12, 2010

To Western children, Disney is a fairytale world of talking mice, princesses and dragons.

To Chinese children it sometimes means working from 8am to 10pm, handling chemicals without protection, being chastised for failing to hit production targets and eating food laden with cockroaches.

Staff at two factories making Disney toys employed children between the ages of 14 and 16 according to a report by China Labour Watch (CLW).

The children worked 12-hour days in "unacceptable conditions", the 25-page document says.

CLW said it launched the undercover investigation because problems had been found at factories producing Disney-branded goods in the past. Last year, CLW found breaches of working hours, wage and contract laws at a factory in Guangdong producing Disney gifts after a 17-year-old worker, Liu Pan, was crushed to death in machinery.

In a report, CLW claimed the factory was hiring workers as young as 13.

CLW randomly selected two plants making Disney-branded merchandise, sent in undercover investigators and interviewed staff.

According to the report, working hours were excessively long: two four-hour stints daily between Monday and Saturday were typically followed by another four hours of compulsory overtime in the evenings, adding up to 76 hours a week. The children sometimes worked seven days in a row.

Workers were supplied with gloves for handling hazardous chemicals but allegedly did not wear them because it made their work rate too slow. As a result, some of them had developed skin rashes, while for some layers of skin were "falling off".

Staff complained they found it difficult to resign, and could only do so at set times, leaving with less pay than they were owed. There were "harsh and unreasonable" discipline practices, and dormitories - housing typically 12 workers each - were said to be dirty and smelly.

Daily food at one of the factories consisted of two vegetable dishes and one meat meal. The report said: "In all of the meat dishes, one can only see two small pieces of meat or fish. Regardless of what kind of food or oil it is cooked in, workers often detect food additives, hair or cockroaches."

Although members of staff were allowed to join a trade union, they were not aware it existed and were not members. There was no safety training, no fire drills and "fire hazards existed", the report said. After deductions for accommodation, meals and drinking water, one factory paid 1100 yuan ($210 a month).

CLW said: "The investigations showed the old problems with Disney remain: child labourers are still hired in factories, and labour conditions are still unacceptable."

A Disney spokeswoman said: "Clearly the conditions outlined in this report are a breach of our labour standards and are unacceptable. We have started to investigate."

"For the most part we don't have direct relationships with the factories. The factories undertake multiple relationships with our licensees. We work very hard to ensure that factories are monitored on a regular basis."

Asked if Disney was doing enough, she said: "We have a long-standing commitment to the safety and well-being of our workers.

"To imply that we do not address that is untrue."

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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:25 am

From four years ago this month in 2007.

Boy, the latest news must be a real surprise to corporate Disney and Mattel.

Good thing they decided to investigate.

............


Mattel's real toy story: slave labour in sweatshops

By ERIC CLARK

16 August 2007

This week Mattel recalled nearly two million Chinese-made toys over concerns they contain excessive levels of lead paint and loose parts.

Dirt-cheap labour and a massive expansion in capacity means China makes more than three-quarters of the world's toys, with an export value in excess of £7 billion.

But increasingly, there is evidence of inadequate safety standards, poor quality control and slave labour.

Here, in an extract from his book about the toy industry, ERIC CLARK reveals the real cost of cheap toys from China.

Read more
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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:56 am

This is amazing.

So Disney says it will investigate? Must be a real surprise to them the sweatshops in China making their products. Check out this photo. It's from a demonstration against Disney sweatshops in China.

This is from an article published six years ago this month in August, 2005.

They were investigating back then.

..........

DisneyChinaSweatshop1.jpg

Outrage over Disney-run Chinese sweat shops

August 19 2005

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co said it will investigate claims by a labor rights advocacy group of unsafe conditions at Chinese factories that make books for Disney.

The National Labor Committee said the factories forced employees to work 10- to 13-hour work days and paid them below the legal minimum wage.

Disney said in a statement it had contacted Verite, a non-profit social auditing and training firm, to conduct an investigation of the claims.

In New York, the National Labor Committee released a videotape of people with faces obscured to hide their identities who said they were workers at the Hung Hing printing factory in Shenzhen province and faced dangerous conditions.

The footage was provided to the Committee by a Hong Kong human rights group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior.

The group of university students and academics interviewed 120 workers in four factories in China's southern province of Guangdong between May and August this year and found that they were forced to work a minimum of 12 hours a day.

If they refused to work overtime, their pay would be withheld or deducted, the study found. In return, the workers were paid 2.70 yuan (33 U.S. cents) an hour, well below the minimum wage of 3.33 yuan per hour required by law in the districts where they worked.

"At one printing factory producing Disney books, there are four to five accidents a week. People have lost their fingers and palms," said Billy Hung, coordinator of the group.

"But instead of doing something about the machines, the factory just hires new workers," Hung told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. "And the accidents simply continue."

National Labor Committee Director Charles Kernaghan said Disney should make public the names of the factories that make its consumer goods and its process for ensuring safe and fair labor conditions.

"Disney has its own code of conduct but these manufacturers may not be telling the truth," Hung said.

"These practices must stop, especially the industrial accidents."

Disney said in a statement that it takes the Labor Committee's claims "very seriously" and that it conducts regular audits of the factories that produce Disney-branded merchandise.

The company said it will work closely with Verite and "take the appropriate actions to remediate violations found."

Disney spokesmen in Hong Kong were not immediately available for comment.

Disney will throw open the doors of its new theme park in Hong Kong on Sept. 12, but in the months leading up to the event the company has been dogged by negative publicity.

Its insistence on serving sharks' fin soup at restaurants at the park riled conservationists and the company was finally forced to back down.

The public was also dismayed when it learned that more than 40 stray dogs at the park were rounded up and put down.

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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:13 pm

This article goes back to November 26, 2004...

...........

ChinaToySweatshop.jpg
ChinaToySweatshop.jpg (17.17 KiB) Viewed 1404 times

Christmas Joy Based on Worker Suffering

Mattel makes toys in sweatshop conditions in China, Indonesia, and Mexico. Charlie Kernaghan wants to end sweatshops.

Children will again this Christmas gleefully open gifts and whoop with joy at the toys they receive. Parents and grandparents and other gift givers would have shopped for these toys and tried to find the lowest possible price. But few will stop to think about where the toys come from and why prices are low.

The facts are that the toys come from China and other places where wages are extremely low, where workers have no choices but to work for long hours day in and day out, making maybe 20 cents an hour. Christmas joy in this country is based on worker suffering in others.

For those of us who want to face the facts Abigail Goodman has written a story in the Los Angeles Times called Sweat, Fear and Resignation Amid All the Toys. The article features the Mattel company which is called "one of the best" which has established an independent system for monitoring and publicizing how factory workers are treated. But despite this system conditions are horrible for most of these workers as discovered in interviews by the newspaper.

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Re: Disney to investigate sweatshop charges in China?

Postby Greg B » Mon Aug 29, 2011 1:57 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kader_Toy_Factory_fire

http://asianfoodworker.net/?p=195

[center][/center]

As a child I would hear the old folks tell me of the infamous Triangle Fire in New York. Over 100 people, mostly women and girls died when a sweatshop caught fire. That story stuck with me and haunted me.

Then in the early '90's my friend Mark who is an expert on Thai culture told me about the working conditions in Thailand and throughout Asia. He was with me while I had created a new comic book series called "The Monster Posse". The series had been picked up for publishing and film development and the toy licensing campaign had started up. One of the licensing companies was producing in Thailand and I asked about the workers conditions there. They didn't comply and yes, I, Greg Boone turned them down. It would have been a possible multi-multi million dollar project but I was not about to take part in that nonsense.

Eight friggin' days later the factory caught on fire and became the biggest industrial fire in human history. The big companies like Disney and Mattel didn't listen to me when I asked about the factory beforehand. However some pals at the Gannett News Service and CBS did but it was too late. You can see part of the Kader Factory Fire in the video above.

In two years it will be the 20th anniversary of that fire. Not to forget the sweatshops owned in S. America by U.S. corporations that use horrid conditions as well.

If the same is true in China, it's not a matter of if a disaster is going to occur, it's a matter of when and we all need to act now before it's too late.
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