Disney Toys: Made For Children, By Children

by Amanda Kloer November 15, 2010 10:30 AM (PT) Topics: Child Labor, Slave

.For Western kids, the Disney brand represents a magical fantasy world of singing animals, goofy antics, and increasingly empowered princesses. For Chinese kids, however, Disney means working 14 hour days, handling dangerous chemicals, and being forced to meet high production quotas. Yes, some of the adorable Disney toys that line American shelves are made by child laborers in China. It’s time Disney extended their fantasy to all children, including those in China.

According to a report by China Labor Watch, children under 16 were recently found in two factories making products for Disney. One group of children was making Winnie the Pooh and Piglet baby toys, and the other Disney dolls and stamps. The underage workers were forced to work arduous overtime hours, sometimes up to 150 hours a month beyond their already demanding schedule. Workers in the Disney supplier factories also had to handle dangerous chemicals — that they used to produce children’s toys — without protective gear. The tiniest infractions, including failure to wear a hat on the work floor or keep a tidy dorm room, earned workers heavy fines and strict penalties, up to and including termination. The reality for Chinese youth in these Disney factories was a far cry from the fantasy they were helping create for other children.

This latest infraction isn’t the first time Disney products have been made under abusive labor conditions. In 2007, Disney was criticized for sweatshop conditions in their Chinese factories. The following year, concerns re-surfaced after a series of accidents plagued Disney factories, which in some cases resulted in loss of limb for workers. And in 2009, a 17-year-old was crushed to death in a machine while making Disney stationary after he had been operating it day and night without a break.

In 1996, partially in response to growing public criticism, Disney established their Code of Conduct for Manufacturers, which bans child labor. Then in 2002, Project Kaleidoscope was initiated by Disney, McDonald’s, and several other organizations, in part to address allegations of labor abuses in the production of Disney toys for McDonald’s. These efforts have improved condiditons in Disney factories overall, but serious violations remain. And ironically, one of the most violated areas along with overtime and working conditions is the use of child labor. Not a great problem for a company that exists to make children happy.

Disney has responded to customer demands for better labor practices in the past, and they will again. Ask Disney to stop using child labor to make children’s toys by making its supply chain fully transparent, allowing independent organizations to participate in monitoring, and giving shareholders access to all information regarding labor practices and suppliers. Disney should be magical for all children, not just those lucky enough to escape a life of child labor in one of their factories

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