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Disney Investigates Labor Abuses in Chinese Factory

Disney Investigates Labor Abuses in Chinese Factory

Demonstrators recently assembled outside of Disney's Hong Kong theme park to protest unfair labor practices.

November 12, 2007 —

In the wake of a series of allegations from the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, Disney has deployed auditors to China's Guangdong Province to investigate the working conditions at one of its toy factories. Last month, SSACM recorded the complaints of workers at the factory in question, and found that laborers had been subjected to 16-hour work days with only two days off per month, and overtime compensation that was less than half the wage mandated by Chinese law. It was also alleged that the factory denied workers their paychecks for up to 45 days after they were due.

The Guangdong Province is one of China's most important manufacturing centers, attracting migrant workers from all over southern China. Many poor rural Chinese are eager to work and unaware of their rights when they first reach Guangdong, which contributes to the ease with which factories are sometimes able to exploit them.

As for Disney, we'll have to wait for their investigation to conclude before we find out if any serious labor protections will be implemented. By that time, these allegations might be a distant memory, and very little will be made of whatever they have to say about the matter. When companies like Disney don't own their own factories or even have anyone on their payroll present to monitor the quality of goods and conditions under which they're made, it makes it easy to defer responsibility when a scandal emerges.

Jeffrey Cronthall of the China Labor Bulletin, isn't optimistic that Disney will do much of anything to protect its workers:

We don't expect to see immediate improvement but we welcome the investigations in China taken by international organizations. The main focus is on ensuring that workers have the ability to protect their own rights.

Given Disney's track record in this area, he's probably right.


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