HIGHTOWER: Mickey in Haiti
Let's all sing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song: "M-I-C (See, we're everywhere) K-E-Y (Why? Because we make money)...H-A-I-T-I, Mickey Haiti...Mickey Haiti ..."Mickey Mouse in Haiti? Yes, but the Disney empire is not there to amuse the locals -- it's there to abuse them. In this poverty-stricken nation, Disney Inc. is working through a subcontractor to get cute little children's clothes made featuring Pochahontas, Mickey and other Disney characters. You can buy a delightful Pochahontas t-shirt for your tyke for about twelve bucks. Less delightful, though, is the fact that the Haitians who sew that shirt for Disney get about 4 cents for it. Indeed, they earn less than eleven dollars a week, which is a sub-poverty wage even in this nation of poverty.Pochahontas in a sweatshop? Yes, and that's why an investment group called Progressive Asset Management has filed a shareholder resolution to stop Disney's management from continuing the exploitation. The P.A.M. resolution calls on Disney to assure shareholders and us customers that employees who work for Disney suppliers "are guaranteed basic rights, ...healthful working conditions, a sustainable community wage and a work environment free of child labor and abuse."Who could be against that? Michael Eisner, the big cheese at Disney Inc., first tried to keep P.A.M. from being allowed to raise this "delicate" issue at the annual stockholders meeting. That did not seem sporting to Mickey Mouse fans, though, and bad publicity forced Eisner to call off his legal beagles. So, the vote on the resolution is now scheduled at that meeting tomorrow.To find out how you can help, and to learn more about P.A.M.'s shareholder activism, call 1-800-786-2998.Sources:"Setting the record straight/The Real Disney" by National Labor Committee. Jan. 17, 1997. "Disney investors see shareholder resolution as key to addressing sweatshop allegations at Disney contract suppliers" by Progressive Asset Management, Inc. Feb. 7, 1997.