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End Disney's Sweatshop Exploitation

by no friend of disney Friday, Dec. 06, 2002 at 12:18 PM

This letter to the CEO of Disney demands an increase of wages in the factories that sew Winnie the Pooh garments.

Tell Disney NOT to cut & run! Edit this letter for your needs-- it can also be
found on our website (www.nlcnet.org), and it is best if it goes on your own
organizational or personal stationary. Please send a copy to the National
Labor Committee at 275 7th Avenue, NY, NY 10001, fax 212-242-3821 or email

This way we can send it to the workers in Bangladesh, so they will know they
are not alone.


Mr. Michael Eisner
Chief Executive Officer
Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Dear Mr. Eisner:

We appeal to you and the Walt Disney Company to do the right thing-do not cut
and run from the Shah Makhdum factory in Bangladesh, but rather stay and work
with your contractor to clean up the factory and to finally guarantee that
human and worker rights will be respected. The women in Bangladesh need these
jobs, and the worst thing you could do is to pull out, dumping the workers on
the street, penniless, facing hunger and misery. By cutting and running, the
real message the Walt Disney Company sends is that if any women, anywhere, dare
to stand up to ask for their rights they will be fired and left with nothing.
We must urge you to act immediately, since time is running out for these women
and their children.

For the last seven to eight years, Disney's Winnie the Pooh garments were sewn
at the Shah Makhdum factory in Bangladesh. Disney production, always the
majority of work in the factory, often accounted for 85 percent of the total.
For all these long years, the rights of the mostly young women sewing your
garments were systematically and seriously violated. Women reported being hit
and slapped, and denied maternity leave and benefits. The women were forced to
work 14 to 15 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., seven days a
week, often going for more than ten weeks without a single day off. Workers
were paid just five cents for every $17.99 Winnie the Pooh shirt they sewed for
Disney. These were starvation wages, trapping the women in abject misery. It
was typical for four women to be forced to share one tiny room, often without
bedding-sleeping directly on the floor, lacking running water or toilets, and
unable to purchase even the most basic food necessities. As shipping dates for
the Disney orders approached, it was common for the women to be forced to work
19-hour all night shifts, from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 3:00 a.m. the next
day, after which they would sleep curled up in a ball under their sewing
machines, only to get up a few hours later to start their next shift again at
8:00 a.m. For the last seven to eight years, the women sewing your Disney
garments worked in a climate of repression, intimidation and fear, in which
their most fundamental rights were violated on a daily basis.

In October 2001, these women could not take any more, and stood up to publicly
denounce the abuses. The Disney Company's response was to cut and run, pulling
your production from the factory. This was the worst thing you could do.
Disney owes these women justice, not punishment. This is why we urge you to
immediately return Disney's work to the Shah Makhdum factory, while working
with your contractor to clean up the factory and finally guarantee that the
human and worker rights of these women will be respected. This would be the
right thing to do. These women definitely need their jobs, but they want to be
treated as human beings, not animals.

The women's demands are so very modest:

1. That they receive one day off a week. They are exhausted and sick, their
families are collapsing, their children left alone;

2. An end to the beatings;

3. That overtime work be voluntary not forced, and that the grueling 19-hour
all-night shifts be ended;

4. That maternity leave an d benefits be respected according to Bangladesh's
labor laws; and,

5. That their wages be paid correctly, especially the overtime (on which they
are routinely cheated of three to four hours a day).

In the future, the workers would love to discuss with Disney and its contractor
payment of a subsistence-level wage of 37 cents an hour, which the women say
would allow them to climb out of misery and into poverty.

Currently, the workers are being paid 12 to 19 cents an hour, which is a
starvation wage, trapping the workers and their families in utter misery.

We calculate that if Disney insisted that the women be paid 37 cents an hour,
then the direct labor to sew the $17.99 Disney garment would still be just 12
cents-less than seven-tenths of one percent of the shirt's retail value. This
is nothing! The American people would gladly pay the extra seven cents per
garment to guarantee that these women's rights were respected and that they
could live with decency.

Mr. Eisner, please do not allow the Disney Company to walk away from this
opportunity to do the right thing. At stake is a chance to improve the lives
and return dignity to countless women workers and their families. We urge you
to act immediately. We want you to know that we will work tirelessly to
support the struggle of the Disney workers in Bangladesh to gain their rights.

We are anxious to hear your response so that we can share it with our
colleagues across the country. Thank you.


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