File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_1996/96-11-03.013, message 26

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 12:11:57 -0700
Subject: Re: Eat Disney

John Young wrote:
>    The New York Times, September 7, 1996, p. 23.
>    Taking a Stand Against Disney And Its World
>    By David Gonzalez
>    Disney's blitz marches on, its beachheads surging into
>    shopping strips, playgrounds and schools filled with kiddie
>    troops wearing the uniforms of Pocahontas and Quasimodo.
>    Some days you have to wonder if we'll all wind up taking
>    orders from the Mouse.
>    Facing this onslaught, Jim Geist took his counteroffensive
>    to Times Square recently, actually giving away copies of a
>    just-finished Disney video. It wasn't a plot to flood the
>    market with bootleg cartoons. His tape was live action, of
>    interviews with the Haitian workers who sew the happy-faced
>    T-shirts and pajamas and other items that contribute to the
>    estimated $1 billion the company earns licensing its
>    characters.
>    The Haitian workers, he said, earn 30 cents an hour. They
>    live on credit. Their children go hungry. They make about
>    $11 a week, less than the retail price of a Pocahontas
>    shirt.
>    First the Gap. Then Kathie Lee Gifford. Et tu, Pluto?
>    The Disney Company is the latest target of a coalition of
>    religious and labor groups that seeks to highlight the
>    working conditions at the overseas factories that churn out
>    lucrative clothing lines. Disney was chosen on purpose,
>    they said, because of its high profile and jealously
>    guarded corporate image of wholesome family entertainment.
>    The coalition wants Disney to increase its hourly wage to
>    58 cents and allow monitoring of its overseas factories.
>    "Every group I've spoken to, their jaws hit the floor,"
>    said Mr. Geist, an assistant at an evangelical Christian
>    church in Elmhurst, Queens. "They say, 'Please don't tell
>    me Walt Disney is doing this.' "
>    The company's response is contained in a one-page statement
>    that says it requires all its overseas licensees to abide
>    by its code of conduct, which stipulates that factories
>    comply with local wage and workplace laws. It does not say
>    how much the Haitian workers earn. A Disney spokeswoman
>    said she would look into the matter. She did not call back.
>    The Rev. David Dyson isn't surprised by that. Fifteen years
>    ago, he founded the National Labor Committee, the group
>    that took on the Gap and Kathie Lee Gifford and produced
>    the Haiti videotape. Now the pastor of Lafayette Avenue
>    Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, he belongs to People of
>    Faith, a nationwide network whose members rally
>    congregations into speaking out on social and economic
>    issues.
>    "Companies don't like to get attention from churches," he
>    said. "If it were just unions banging at them, they are
>    somewhat impervious. But they don't like it when rabbis and
>    priests unite and ask ethical and moral questions about
>    their practices."
>    Mr. Dyson's congregation in Fort Greene is no stranger to
>    this. In the 1850's, it was a center of Abolitionist ardor
>    whose pulpit was graced by Frederick Douglass and Henry
>    Ward Beecher. A large wooden table, rebuilt years ago,
>    commands the center of the pastor's office. The
>    Emancipation Proclamation was drafted on it.
>    Disney's minimal reaction, he said, echoed that of the Gap,
>    which first tried to play down the criticism by holding up
>    its corporate code of conduct like a shield before agreeing
>    to modify its business practices. The problem, Mr. Dyson
>    said, was that overseas manufacturers flout those codes.
>    And while the companies say they abide by local laws, he
>    said the minimum wage in the third world is often too low
>    to allow workers to buy food and medicine. The question of
>    a living wage becomes a moral issue that is a cornerstone
>    of their public appeal.
>    "Instead of talking about the global economy and the
>    shattered social contract, let's go after the Gap when we
>    hear they're making clothes in El Salvador," he said. "It's
>    impossible to talk about capital flight without talking
>    about what's going on in Haiti."
>    Or without talking about what Disney is doing in New York,
>    where it plans to stage a musical on the life of King
>    David.
>    "He was a biblical figure of justice of enormous purpose,"
>    Mr. Dyson said. "For Disney to be making more money off the
>    character of King David at a time when the working poor in
>    Haiti are starving is a perversion of history and
>    theology."
>    The Disneyfication of a classic Bible tale has emboldened
>    Mr. Geist, who plans to continue his protests outside
>    Disney's stores. He admits it is daunting, but he offers a
>    parable for those who doubt they can change part of the
>    global economy.
>    "The majority of people say it's so huge, what can you do
>    about it? " he said. " I say, "How do you eat an elephant?
>    One bite at a time."
>    Dumbo, you're on notice.
>    [End]

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