Friday, November 09, 2007

The Christmas shopping season is once more upon us (cough,cough,cough-that's Molly with one of her hairballs), and as you browse through the aisles in the usual irritated frenzy you'll notice that many (most ??) of the toys have the 'Made in China' label on the back. Over the past year there have been several scares about consumer products exported from China and their safety record. From poisoned pet food to tainted toothpaste and, yes, toxic toys, it has all hit the fan in less than twelve months. Not that China has been the only offender, especially in regards to the toy market, but the safety of children's products coming from the People's Republic has been especially called into question. China's record on product safety is intimately tied into its failures in regards to labour standards. China is one of the worst countries in the world in regards to labour rights and workers' conditions. For years now the Hong Kong based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has campaigned against the sweatshop conditions typical of Chinese companies manufacturing for the export market. One of their particular targets has been the Walt Disney Corporation. The Multinational Mouse contracts to have many of its consumer items made in China, and its own 'Code of Conduct' has been repeatedly violated at the manufacturing plants in China. Disney's response so far has been insufficient.

Since September 10, 2007 over 300 workers from the Haowei Toys Factory in Shenzhen Province have been demonstrating day and night in front of the Shenzhen Labour Bureau demanding that their rights under both Chinese law and Disney's Code of Conduct be respected. The workers are often forced to work 28 days a month, up to 15 hours a day, despite the fact that Chinese law states that a work day cannot exceed 8 hours and a work week 5 days. Their wages are also only 2/3rds of what is the legal minimum wage in Shenzhen. The average wage is 2.5 Yuan per hour (about 20 cents in Canadian terms). The factory's working and living (many live in company dormitories) conditions are unsafe and unsanitary. The management has made some trivial improvements under pressure, but has actually gone backwards in some respects such as more than doubling the check off for dormitory rooms. They have also threatened to move the factory to another Chinese province.

A coalition of groups including United Students Against Sweatshops, the Writers' Guild of America, the National Labour Committee, Sweatshop Watch, the Clean Clothes Campaign and Peuples Solidaires has joined SACOM to put pressure on the Disney Corporation to live up to its own code of conduct in regards to its Chinese suppliers. Managements such as those at Haowei would find that fleeing from one province to another would do them little good if their main customers demanded decent working conditions no matter where they were located. SACOM has an online petition addressed to the Disney Corp available at their website. The site also contains the results of several investigations that SACOM has done in regards to the conditions at this factory.

In addition the French group Peuples-Solidaires has called for regular mail letters to be sent to the Director of Disney's International Labor Standards Division. They suggest the following wording which may, of course, be supplemented with your own words. Molly would suggest saying that it is questionable if you will buy Disney toys if these matters are not addressed.



Mr Mark Spears

Director, International Labor Standards

The Walt Disney Company

500 South Buena Vista Street

Burbank, CA 91521


Dear Mr. Speers,

I have been informed by Peuples Solidaires of the report published by SACOM in September 2007 concerning sweatshop conditions at Haowei Toys, a Disney suppliers' plant in Shenzhen. I am extremely concerned about the worker's situation at Haowei and urge you to:

*Compensate workers who have revoked their contracts, in accordance with Shenzhen labor regulations.

*Immediately pay the workers their basic and overtime wages in arrears plus a financial compensation of 25% of the outstanding amount.

*Provide pension and social insurance that are owed to the workers.

*Employ the affected workers who choose to move to Dongguan and take into account their length of service in their contracts.

Sincerely yours,

The people at Peuples-Solidaires also request that you mail them a copy of the letter that you have sent to the Disney Corp.. Their address is

Peuples Solidaires


10 quai de Richemont

35000 Rennes


Consider this as your good deed for the year so that Santa doesn't bring you a lump of Chinese made coal.

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