Any help with this discussion question would be very appreciated. Thank you.
An Open Letter to Walt Disney
May 29, 1996
Michael Eisner, CEO
Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91522
Dear Mr. Eisner:
The National Labor Committee fully supports Walt Disney’s decision to source production in Haiti. The Haitian people desperately need investment and jobs, but they need jobs with dignity, under conditions which respect their basic human rights, and which pay wages that allow them and their families to survive.
The National Labor Committee would like to open a serious dialogue with Walt Disney representatives regarding working conditions and wages in Haitian factories where Disney children’s clothing is currently being produced. The issues raised in this letter and the proposals which follow are the result of ongoing discussions with the workers in Haiti, as well as with concerned consumers and human rights activists across the United States and Canada. If Haiti’s new democracy is to survive, it must be based on social and economic justice.
Neither the National Labor Committee nor the Haitian workers we are in contact with want this attempt at dialogue, or the documentation of conditions under which Disney garments are produced, to result in Disney’s pulling out of Haiti. Leaving Haiti would be a terrible mistake. Rather, in all good faith, the National Labor Committee and the coalition of religious, labor, student, human rights and grassroots organizations we work with, want to join the Walt Disney Company in an attempt to improve conditions in these Haitian factories.
Currently, the Walt Disney Company has licensing agreements with two U.S. apparel manufacturers, L.V. Myles and H.H. Cutler, which in turn contract production to four assembly factories in Haiti: L.V. Myles, N.S. Mart, Classic and Gilanex. Children’s clothing carrying the images of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Mickey Mouse and the Lion King is sewn in these factories and then exported to the U.S. for sale in Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, KMart and other retailers.
Living on the Edge of Misery:
On a recent trip to Haiti in late April, I had the opportunity to visit the home of a Disney worker who lived in the Delmars neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. She worked at N.S. Mart (Plant Number 32) in the Sonapi Industrial Park where she sewed Pocahontas and Mickey Mouse shirts. Her home was typical of those of other Disney employees.
She was a single mother with four young children. They lived in a one-room windowless shack, 8 by 11 feet wide, lit by one bare light bulb and with a tin roof that leaked. The room contained: one table, three straight-backed chairs and two small beds. That is all the room would fit. I counted four drinking glasses and three plastic plates. There was no fan, no TV, no radio, no toys, no refrigerator, no stove, no running water. She had to buy water by the bucket and carry it home. The toilet was a hole in the ground, shared with ten other families.
The children were 3 1/2, 8, 11 and 14 years old. They were very small for their age. The mother told us that when she had left for work that morning, she was only able to leave them six gourdes (30 cents U.S.). The four children had to feed themselves for the day on 30 cents–7 1/2 cents per child. Her children had been sent home from school two and a half weeks before because she had been unable to pay their tuition. Tuition for the three older children totalled $2.63 a week, but this was more than the mother earned in a full day sewing Disney shirts.
One child had malaria, another a painful dysentery, but their mother was unable to afford the medicines, so they had to go without and simply bear it.
A Jesuit priest with whom we spoke in Haiti, who had had a similar stomach infection, told us it cost over $30 to purchase the necessary antibiotics. But this woman’s salary making Pocahontas shirts was only $10.77 a week! Antibiotics for her daughter would have cost nearly three weeks’ wages, which was impossible to afford.
Before leaving, I asked the family what they would eat that night. “Nothing,” they responded. There was no food. For this family, there were many days when they could not afford to eat. Instead of eating, they would just go to bed. The mother slept in one small bed, the daughters in the other, while the two boys slept on the ground under the table. No one in this home had ever seen a Disney movie.
1. What theory of moral reasoning would you use to persuade the CEO to change? What, if anything, would you have advised Disney to do differently?