中国法律博客
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Disney Latest MNC to Come Under Scrutiny for PRC Labor Practices
媒体来源: 中国法律博客

I'm a political lefty from way back, so I'm nothing if not sympathetic to labor. On the other hand, I'm starting to feel sorry for these multinationals who are being hit over the head in the press for their China labor practices. Recently it was Wal-mart, now it's Disney.

Shanghaiist has the story:

After all the excitement surrounding Disney's future theme park in Shanghai, it seems that the Disney corporation has come under domestic fire for their seedy manufacturing conditions. A group of students from Nanchang university interviewed more than 100 workers at at five Disney factories in Guangzhou, and compiled their findings in a report titled "Mickey Mouse is no longer cute." Top on the list of complaints were frequent accidents, poor safety standards, and reduced wages for workers. Thinking about underprivileged, limbless workers really does take the cuteness out of those plush Disney toys, right?

First, I don't know what kind of press this report is getting. A student project involving merely 100 workers should not really be taken seriously. However, this is exactly the kind of thing picked up by media (here and abroad) and discussed without regard to the methodology of the study.

Second, it's quite fashionable to bash MNCs for the conditions of their factories, and in a general sense, I suppose that's OK. I have no problem with transparency. What bothers me though is that while Disney is being taken to task, its competitors (foreign and domestic), many of which employ the same or worse labor practices, are not being scrutinized the same way.

Fairness dictates that entire industries are looked at, not just famous companies that are easy targets. Unfortunately it's easy to criticize a foreign company here, as opposed to a strong domestic company or government enforcement of existing labor laws.

Third, and this is a very general criticism of these kinds of reports, one wonders what the options are for these workers. If Disney was not their employer, where else would they be working? Would the working conditions be better or worse in these other factories? Why do we assume that "other" employers necessarily have higher standards than Disney?

All this being said, I do admit that it is useful to put pressure on multinationals, which are industry leaders. If some big MNCs change their practices, others may follow. But I hate free riders, and to the extent that Disney or Wal-mart loses market share to competitors who are doing the exact same thing, that's unfair.

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