from threadless to disney

in my recent [renewed] interest in purchasing products that are ethically responsible, i decided to consider t-shirts, as they have very cool t-shirt designs. i read this post on their blog, update on threadless brand, and found that it did serve to do a little poking around.

according to threadless:

We were assured that everything about this facility is 100% legit by American standards. One way to know he’s being honest is that he produces a HUGE amount of product for Disney. By industry standards, Disney has the most stringent standards of any company in the world. Their reputation depends on it. Can you imagine if Disney used a facility that treated their workers unfairly to make Mickey Mouse tees for kids?!

reading through the comments, mr domino posted some articles by the Associated Press and the National Labor Committee from 2005 and 2006 reporting the abusive treatments endured by these very workers.

Conditions for workers at Niagra Textiles Ltd. in Bangladesh are extremely harsh. Laborers work 14 hour days, seven days a week. They are routinely abused for not working fast enough and sometimes imprisoned for asking to be paid ontime. Other abuses and violations include:

* 19-hour all night shifts that are mandatory for workers once a weel
* Workers are paid just 5 cents for every Disney garment they sew
* Speaking while working is prohibited on pain of lost wages
* Workers to do not receive any health insurance or sick days
* Corporate monitoring is a farce; workers know they will be fired if they speak the truth about their working conditions

These are just a few of the abuses that workers who sew Disney garments in Bangaldesh face. Such shameful violations don’t seem to mesh with the wholesome public image Disney tries to present.

— National Labor Committee, 02/01/2004

between these posts concerning questionable working conditions were comments such as:

Well, I’m a little happier that the tags are sateen. They’re easier to cut out without still having a scratchy bit.

this is a pdf of the article on disney-imposed working conditions by the the national labor committee detailing the horrible working conditions in bangladesh associated with disney. they’re pretty bad.

However, it is important to be aware that the Diney Company has a long history of punishing workers in the developing world who dare ask for their basic rights. … The real message Disney leaves behind — we believe intentionally — for workers across these developing countries is that if you also dare raise your voice to claim any of your legal rights, you too will be fired, and put out onto the streets with nothing, penniless.

it goes on to say that if disney agrees to go back to a factory that it previously abandoned for these very issues, a factory that has since improved due to outside pressures to reform, then this factory will commit to opening itself to open and independent inspections.

This has never happened before and could set a new human rights
precedent for the entire garment industry in Bangladesh. It is a win-win situation waiting to happen, which could improve the lives of tens of thousands of workers.

Yet Disney refuses to do the right thing.


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