Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Indeed
By Jim Hightower
“Disney Makes Dreams” goes an old advertising pitch for the maker of Cinderella, Snow White, and Fantasia, along with Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, and all those other loveable Disney characters. But for the young workers in Vietnam, Disney is a nightmare, a company far more abusive than the wicked old step-sisters who kept Cinderella in bondage.
In Vietnamese sweatshops, hundreds of young women who are only 17, 18, 19 years old, spend their youth making little giveaway toys that are based on cute characters from Disney movies. These little toys are part of the “Happy Meals” that McDonald’s fast-food restaurants sell.
A McDonald’s spokesman is thrilled with the success of these children’s meals, recently gushing that, “Our new global alliance [provides] unbeatable family fun as customers enjoy ‘the magic of Disney’ only at McDonald’s.”
He should check the magic of the toy factory in Da Nang City, where the women toil 10 hours a day, seven days a week, plus mandatory overtime. They are paid six cents an hour. Lest you think that’s real money in Vietnam, it costs 70-cents there just to buy, not a “Happy Meal,” but the most basic meal of rice, vegetables and tofu. A breakfast, lunch and dinner would cost the workers $2.10 a day … yet they are paid only 60-cents a day.
No one sings “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to Work We Go” on that starvation pay. Plus, it’s a dangerous place to work, with poisonous fumes filling the sweatshop. In February, 200 women fell ill, and three were hospitalized by over-exposure to acetane, a chemical solvent. Despite such incidents, the Disney/McDonald’s factory refuses all appeals to have the simple decency to improve the ventilation system.
To help stop this abuse by Disney and McDonald’s, contact the National Labor Committee at 212-242-3002.
Web exclusive to the May 22-28, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent
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