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Disney sweatshops alleged
Anti-sweatshop advocacy group charges that workers make books under oppressive conditions.
August 18, 2005: 2:54 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN) - The National Labor Committee, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group that once exposed labor abuses in apparel produced for Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line, made new charges Thursday against The Walt Disney Company, releasing a videotape alleging that two Chinese factories making books for Disney operate under unsafe conditions.

At a press conference, Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC, released an 11-minute videotape in which workers -- their faces hidden -- in the Hung Hing and Nord Race factories say they have been injured by unsafe equipment and show their bandaged fingers and cut hands.

"There's blood on this book," Kernaghan said as he held up a copy of a child's book made in China and published by Disney (Research).

On the video, some workers describe the oppressive conditions under which they are forced to work, including heat, long hours and unpaid, forced overtime. Still pictures show the machines, which workers describe as lacking basic safeguards.

One woman holds up a Mickey Mouse book, "Haunted Halloween," and describes the dangers of the machines that press and glue the binding together.

Plant workers also describe how visiting businessmen are given show tours at Hung Hing where everything is cast as rosy.

Kernaghan called for Disney to release the names of all of its factories in China and to make their monitoring system more open to review.

When contacted for comment, Disney spokesman Greg Foster said he had not seen the tape, but Disney "takes claims such as those raised today by the NLC very seriously."

And in a written statement, Disney said, "We have a strong International Labor Standards Code of Conduct for Manufacturers and conduct regular social compliance audits of the independently run factories that produce Disney

branded merchandise."

The statement went on to say, "The Walt Disney Company has contacted Verité, a non-profit social auditing and training firm, to conduct an investigation of the claims regarding the Hung Hing and Nord Race factories."

Disney, which does not own the factories, but subcontracts to them, said in the statement that its officials "have conducted approximately 20 ILS audits at these factories since 1998."

According to the statement, "These audits reflect instances of noncompliance followed by remediation. However, these audits at no time revealed the severity of the violations reported by the NLC today. ...

"Disney and its licensees will work closely with Verité to ensure a thorough investigation of these claims and take the appropriate actions to remediate violations found. Disney will also work with local civil society organizations in China with which we maintain an existing relationship to determine whether a role in the investigation or any subsequent remediation efforts would be appropriate," the statement added.

Foster said Disney does audits both announced and unannounced.

The videotape was made by a Hong Kong-based group called Students and Academics against Corporate Misbehavior, and passed along to the NLC.

Both Kernaghan and the Chinese workers say these factories never take action until prodded by international pressure.  Top of page

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