Sweatshops and Disney



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.”
(252).


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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