Dolan: Think Mickey Mouse is innocent? Think again

Mike Furno

Anyone who doesn’t want to be cast into a pit of despair please stop reading, since I am about to taint all sorts of childhood memories and cloud them with guilt. Every single Mickey and Minnie Mouse doll, every single Pluto hat or Goofy pajamas you have ever owned as a little kid was made in a sweatshop. All of your favorite Disney characters have enslaved 17-19 year old girls to grueling work in horrid conditions.

Let us take, for example, the Magic Kingdom’s outpost in Bangladesh known as the Shah Makdhum factory which forced young women to work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. They made cute little t-shirts with that lovable mouse on them for the toddlers of our privileged Disney-loving society. While making such fun items they were often beaten and forced to work “mandatory” overtime. Disney happily compensated the women with 15 cents a t-shirt and turned around to sell the merchandise to our parents at $17.99 a pop!

If you are thinking that Disney is ripping us off, you are right, but don’t say that too loudly. When a young woman in the Shah Makdhum factory started talking about this, she was beaten. If they treat their workers this way, you would have to think twice about complaining about the food in Disney World. Of course, if too many of us speak up about the poor conditions of Disney theme parks, they may just close down the parks and move somewhere else like they did to the factory in Bangladesh.

The more sensible approach of course would be for Disney to clean up its act and start behaving like an ethical company of rational human beings. Even the toddlers that wear the Mickey t-shirts know that it’s not nice to hit other people. Disney should have figured this out by now.

The real answer to its factory problems is not closing up shop where workers demand to be treated like human beings. The solution is ending the abuse and exploitation. It’s time to honor human rights and dignity and stop hiding behind cute animated films about talking animals.

All our Goofys, Donalds and Poohs need to ‘fess up and make amends. They’ve tarnished our childhood, and hurt thousands of young women all over the world. These Disney characters need to recognize the need for people in all countries to have their basic human rights respected, to make a decent wage, to have a safe and sanitary working environment and to have the right to raise complaints or organize. They need to drop the Uncle Scrooge mentality and start living up to their wholesome child-friendly, not child labor, image.