Members of Congress Urge Disney's Eisner not to Cut and Run from Factory

March, 27 2008 Share

The following letter in support of the workers of Shah Makhdum was circulated and signed by members of Congress and presented during the Disney Corporate Shareholders' Meeting on March 19, 2003


Mr. Michael Eisner 
Chief Executive Officer 
Walt Disney Company 
500 South Buena Vista Street 
Burbank, CA 91521

Dear Mr. Eisner:

I am pleased to write you of a very significant and positive development with regard to one of your contractors in Bangladesh, the Shah Makhdum factory in Dhaka. I also want to ask for your intervention so that Disney's work is immediately returned to this much-improved factory.

Shah Makhdum has recently completed many significant improvements in response to complaints about poor working conditions. The factory is now well on the way to becoming a model operation. Significantly, the workers at the plant themselves now describe the Shah Makhdum factory as "far better than average."

Factory floor space has been nearly doubled so the plant is now spacious and well-ventilated. New fans and lights have been installed, and the factory has been cleaned and painted. A water purification system has been added so that the drinking water is now safe. New basins have been installed so the workers have a place to wash. A room has been set aside and remodeled for a daycare center. A small medical clinic is being set up. A covered dining area has been built on the roof so the workers are no longer exposed to the sun and rain. The workers now receive a day off each week, along with all government and religious holidays. This was unheard in the past. They are now paid on time and correctly. The treatment of the workers is also much improved and the supervisors have been instructed to treat the workers with respect.

To lock in these changes, management has even agreed to open the Shah Makhdum factory to independent inspection by a very well respected local women's rights organization, the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, to guarantee compliance with all legal human and workers rights standards. Such improvements are unprecedented in Bangladesh and could set a new standard for all 3,600 clothing export factories in the country, potentially improving the lives of 1.8 million garment workers.

As you are aware, Disney garments have been produced at the Shah Makhdum factory - always accounting for the majority of production - for the last eight years. However, following a dispute over labor rights violations, Disney's work was suddenly withdrawn from the Shah Makhdum factory early in 2002.

We support the decision of Disney to withdraw from factories where workers are mistreated, as I have in similar cases around the world. In light of all the positive changes at Shah Makhdum, however, we urge the Disney Corporation to reconsider and immediately return your work to the factory. Failure to do so would not only ignore the good-faith efforts by management to improve conditions at Shah Makhdum, but would likely lead to the closure of the plant and the catastrophic loss of employments for its 350 employees. Returning Disney contracts to an improved factory is a win-win situation for everyone - for Disney, for the workers in Bangladesh, for the Shah Makhdum factory and for the people in the U.S. who will see that positive change is possible, and that the Disney Corporation has played a key role in improving the working conditions in Bangladesh.

We need such positive examples.

Indeed, in 2001, many of us joined labor, student, and human rights groups in protesting exploitative working conditions at a garment factory in Puebla, Mexico, which almost exclusively produced sportswear for Nike. In no small part because of the corporate responsibility demonstrated by Nike, which withdrew its orders from the Puebla plant until conditions improved, major reforms were instituted resulting in many of the same kinds of improvements as have occurred at Shah Makhdum. After the institution of the improvements, with our support, Nike resumed contracting with the factory, which has become a highly visible example of sound labor management in Mexico.

Disney can play a similarly responsible leadership role in the case of the Shah Makhdum factory. We urge you to complete your own review of the conditions at the Bangladesh factory and if they do conform to the improvements we have noted, request that you direct additional Disney orders there to reward those who have implemented the changes, and importantly, to save the jobs of 300 workers.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to hearing from you.