In January, Misplaced In The Midwest published the first "Evil Corporations" expose shining a light on the Monsanto Corporation. That series of articles did not go unnoticed by the corporate giant, as it turned out that a significant amount of my web traffic that month could be traced back to an IP address belonging to - you guessed it - Monsanto's legal department.
Misplaced ain't afraid of Big Business and to continue in that tradition, this month I'm poking the bear known as Disney with a pointy stick.
The Magic Kingdom Is Born
Back in the 60's when Disney began buying up 24,000 acres of land quietly, legislators who were in on the plan gave Disney whatever he wanted. The plan was to turn 43 square miles of orange groves and homes into a money making machine for the state - so of course it was a good deal. He'd make the state piles of money and they'd give him anything he needed to pull it off. What he asked for was total autonomy; the right to have his own private government to run his park with. No outside interference. And this is exactly what he got.
The Disneyland Park and the two towns of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake Communities. The two "towns" have a permanent population of about 65 people - mostly all Disney executives and family. The towns, and Disneyland, are under the government of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Reedy Creek's board are elected land owners; people who own land in one of the two 'towns'. Who are mostly all Disney executives and/or their families.
See how nicely this works?
Disney denies any connection to Reedy Creek. The reason they fib is because Florida Law requires municipal governments to conduct business in public. Just like any town or city. Disney doesn't want to have to conduct it's business out in public with the Great Unwashed. (YOU)
So to solve this little problem, Disney got permission long ago to make itself it's own government. Even though it's a private corporation. Disney runs all utilities in the Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake Communities, does all the planning and zoning, makes it's own building codes, has it's own building inspectors. They build their own schools, levy their own taxes. They even have permission to build their own nuclear power plant if they want, or their own international airport, or cemeteries! Reedy Creek "contracts" with Disney for an 880 member security force that patrols EPCOT, Magic Kingdom - all the shops, restaurants, roads. They wear blue uniforms and wear badges just like real cops, only they're not. They have no legal authority whatsoever in the Real Outside World. All they really are is a type of "mall" cop or security guard. Any and all crimes are supposed to be reported and handled at once to the Actual Florida Law Officers. They don't of course, because Disney has a fanatical obsession with privacy and preserving their safe, clean image.
And covering their butts.
The way Disney has it all set up, they are the 'law' there. If something happens on Disney grounds, those Security minions are the first and possibly all you're going to see. If you get seriously hurt, it's the Disney emergency people who will come to your aid first and they will decide if any outside help will be called. And the kicker is when something goes wrong - and it does - Disney will refuse to cooperate or turn over witnesses, information or records because guess what?
They're a private government, and they don't have to turn over private records. Welcome to the Magic Kingdom.
Disney - The Kingdom of Child Labor Violations
If you own anything "Disney", you own something made in a Disney sweatshop.
Yes, sweatshop. Even now, this is how Disney does business.
Included in the Happy Meals sold at McDonalds are small toys based on characters from Disney films. According to McDonald's senior vice-president Brad Ball, the Happy Meals characters from the "101 Dalmatians" movie were the most successful in McDonald's history. Ball said, "As we embark on our new global alliance, we anticipate ten great years of unbeatable family fun as customers enjoy 'the magic of Disney' only at McDonald's"
Seventeen year old women are forced to work up to 19 hours a day, seven days a week, earning as little as six cents an hour in the Keyhinge factory in Da Nang City, Vietnam making popular giveaway promotional toys - many of which are Disney characters for McDonald's Happy Meals. Overtime is mandatory. And no, six cents an hour isn't a fortune there - it's well below subsistence levels. The most basic meal in Vietnam - rice, vegetables, and tofu - costs 70 cents. Three meals would cost $2.10. Wages do not even cover 20 per cent of the daily food and travel costs for a single worker, let alone her family. We're not doing them any favors, nor even helping then in a basic human way by trading hard work for a better quality of life.
Acute or prolonged exposure to acetone, a chemical solvent used to make and paint plastic toys, can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, damage to the liver and kidneys and chronic eye, nose, throat and skin irritation. After working a 70 hour week, some of the teenage women take home a salary of only $4.20. Many are made ill by constant chemical exposure. All appeals from local human and labor rights groups continue to be rejected by Keyhinge management which refuses to improve the ventilation system in the factory or remedy other unsafe working conditions. Along with demanding forced overtime, Keyhinge management has not made legally required payments for health insurance coverage for its employees, who now receive no compensation for injury or sickness.
For years, Disney was one of the most active members in UNICEF, an organization dedicated to the protection of children's rights including protection from sexual exploitation and child labor, specifically. Disney is well aware of all the violations and conditions of all their factories. The organizations listed in this article have made them aware. Yet they continue to use them to make their stuff.
In 1995 Federal Agents raided 2 sweat shops in Los Angeles which manufactured Disney stuff. Yes, L.A. We're not talking Viet Nam, thousands of miles away anymore... we're talking Los Angeles!
One was the Nathan J. Co. who was using kids as young as 12 to make Disney Apparel. The other was the "Too Cute' Disney Label which, on top of using kids for workers, owed a lot of money in back wages. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most of the folks working in the "Too Cute" factory were Thai Nationals working off debts to professional smugglers who got them into the country. Only it was a debt that never got paid because it turned into a slavery kind of situation.
The truth of the matter is that Disney licensees have been caught using Child labor on three continents and the National Labor Committee in New York, whose job it is to track the labor force hiring of U.S. Corporations, considers Disney one of 'the worst offenders". And this has gone on for years and years. And you'd think Disney would be extra extra careful about it, wouldn't you? I guess it's easier to just blow it off, cover it up and continue using kids to make your shit for you.
Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee said: "People who are making Disney shirts are living in utter misery". Those are made in Burma, by the way, where 80% of our heroin also comes from, according to the U.S. State Department. That's basically what the line of thought is: the profits not going to the workers making the Disney stuff is going to the drug lords. Seriously. In Haiti they make all the "Hunchback of Notre Dame", "Pohahontas", Mickey Mouse" and "Lion King" garments. The "Mickey for Kids" and "Classic Apparel", too. Children in Hong Kong and Vietnam make the Happy Meal toys. Chinese child labor make the "Little Mermaid", "Toy Story" and "Minnie Mouse" items. Recently, three workers died there after inhaling fumes from solvents.
Joe Allen went undercover for NBC News to investigate the sweat shops that make Disney items and said: "In some cases kids have hands eaten away by solvents". In Indonesia he found kids as young as 12 sewing Disney stuffed/plush toys. The owner proudly told him he prefers to use kids as his work force because they're "easier to control".
Remember this next time you take a cruise through McDonald's and just have to have that new Disney Happy Meal action figure.
Yet Another Warm Fuzzy Tale
Everyone knows lemmings commit suicide by throwing themselves off of cliffs, right? We have the expression "lead astray like lemmings to the sea".."followed like lemmings", "like lemmings off a cliff"..used to describe stupid acts by several people. Thing is, Lemmings don't behave that way - Walt Disney made the whole thing up. All of it. You'd be surprized how many people believe this as fact; go ask a few. Maybe you do, too, till right now.
It all started when the nature documentary 'White Wilderness' was filmed in 1958 in the arctic wilds of Alberta, Canada. It was a massive undertaking that took 3 years. No one has yet to figure out why - and Disney never explained - why they got it in their heads to film a "real lemming migration" complete with rare, never-before-seen footage of the critters drowning themselves in the sea. This was never-before-seen because lemmings don't do this. Population explosions sometimes happen and lemmings do migrate and maybe a few will accidentally fall off a cliff or tumble down some rocks and fall in a stream or something and drown. Sucks to be them, then, but it's not a habit they all get into as some wise form of population control. You could just as easily say ants migrate and commit suicide by throwing themselves off curbs and drowning themselves in puddles. Apparently The Disney Documentary Braintrust neglected, in researching their Wildlife documentary, to find any actual desire to document the wildlife accurately. Not to fear! The head photographer and crew decided to take the liberty of bullshitting. They paid Inuit kids 25 cents for every lemming they brought in and they got a few dozen.
They put the critters on a huge, snow-covered "Lazy Susan" turntable and spun it, then filmed from various angles as the critters ran, fell and slid into each other. This pretty much made it look like a "migration" sequence showing a bunch of spinning, running, sliding lemmings with snow flying all over. Voila! Lemming migration! Afterwards, instead of just letting the things go with a few dollars and some Mickey Mouse ears, then they were all taken to where there was a cliff overlooking a river and herded over the edge, down into the water, where they drowned. For real. For no reason except to be filmed. Cut and Wrap! Disney got his footage and the myth of the Lemming Hurling Off Cliffs To Commit Suicide was born.
This is how much people trusted Uncle Walt and the stuff that came out of Disney Studios back then. A Disney documentary was as good as God's Honest Wholesome Truth. People to this day will still believe this story is Nature Wilderness fact when in fact it's made up Disney bull and proof of how much trust people put into the clean, honest "image" of Disney.
Death And The Magic Kingdom
There is a guideline at Disney called the Operation Hourly Ride Capacity (OHRC) which dictates how many people should get on each ride per hour. Disney used to close the park when attendance hit 50,000. This was the number they found made things safe and enjoyable and was the maximum number of Guests the park employees and security guards could safely handle. But as more and more people came to the gates only to be turned away, Greed overruled Care. The OHRC was invented as a way to combat the long lines by creating an assembly-line quota to get those numbers, dollars and bodies through the park. Because of the pressure on the employees to meet the quota, accidents are on the rise. But the rule is: if there's an accident you call "Guest Services".
Spencer Craig worked for Disney for 10 years before becoming the Duty Manager of Magic Kingdom, which he said includes "knowing everything that happens in the park, every location, with every employee and every guest". He said Disney makes more money continuing to operate a ride they know is dangerous than shutting it down to fix the problem. The lengths and means that are gone to to keep Disney safety records from getting out is legendary. They are known to be continually way over industry standards for allowable accidents.
Since Disney has been downsizing and automating to save even more money, there are less people per given ride to assist with getting on or off it, navigating the walks, or even helping anyone having a problem. Spencer explains it this way - "If you had 8 people managing a ride and then you have 2, and something comes up, then you have one. Then things happen".
Some of the accidents that led to death or maiming were caused by the stupidity of the "guest" harmed; they didn't use safety equipment on the rides or did something asinine to endanger themselves, for instance. Some of the deaths and accidents were the fault of Disney, who according to OSHA, has violations heaped upon it at every OSHA inspection. However, the fines incurred are pocket change for Disney, who also find it cheaper to risk a possible injury or death down the line than lose money by shutting down a ride and spending the money to correct the violations.
Pat Shenck and her 8 year old son went on 'water sprite' jet skis on one of the park lagoons. One of their jet skis got stuck on the water when the shift wouldn't move out of neutral. A 23-year old inexperienced "captain' of the ferryboat "Kingdom Queen" hit them. Going against all park and safety regulations, he put the ferry into reverse, sucking Mrs. Shenck under the blades and boat, killing her. Before Disney called the "real" police and ambulance, they had divers in the water collecting evidence, looking for her body and pulling the bits of clothing and body from under the ferry. When they finally did find the body they tethered it to a buoy and left it in the lagoon for hours, refusing to let it be moved or let anyone to go out and attend to it until after nightfall when the visitors wouldn't see it and the ride wouldn't have to be shut down.
A piece of metal tore away from a dock as a Tall Ship was being tied to it, hitting visitors Luan Dawson and his wife Lieu Vuong. Luan died two days later in the hospital of a brain hemorrhage and skull fracture. His wife was in critical condition with facial disfigurements. Also injured was employee Christine Carpenter who underwent surgery on a badly lacerated foot and other leg injuries. Witnesses said the ship was going too fast and pulled the metal out of the dock as it was being tied, ricocheting it around and hitting the people. Which would be "neglect", except that Disney staff cleaned up all the blood and evidence fast as can be and the real police didn't even come out for three hours. Investigators in several cities with major amusement parks said the Anaheim police violated basic standards of police work when they didn't bother to go out to Disneyland immediately and look at the scene, long after park employees had cleaned things up and carted away the evidence. "You need to have an independent investigation that would be uninfluenced by Disney," said Santa Clara Sgt. Anton Morec Morec. "Maybe the worker was under the influence, maybe the maintenance records indicate this cleat was due for maintenance two weeks earlier. You treat it as a crime scene until you know otherwise."
Anaheim Police Chief Randall W. Gaston supported the actions of his detectives saying it is "usually counterproductive to rush directly to the scene."
Marcelo Torres, 22, was killed on Sept. 5, 2003 while riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Ten other people were injured. The accident was caused when the locomotive derailed and disconnected from the rest of the train, which contains the passenger cars. Exactly what happened to Mr. Torres is unknown; he was hit in the chest with a blunt object that fractured his ribs, leading to the laceration of his lungs which caused "severe blood loss," according to an Orange County coroner's statement. He died at the scene.
Two boys running to be the first on Space Mountain found the escalator ablaze with fire. There was no Disney "Host" around and one of the boys, having the brains to know what to do, ran to find one while the other guarded the escalator to make sure no one went on it.
A girl lost a finger at It's A Small World when it got caught between the boat and the railing. Disney Claims people were there trying to get her mother to sign papers releasing them of responsibility before she was allowed to go to the ambulance.
In 1992, employee Dorian Weiss' hand was crushed by four hundred pounds of pressure when a gate closed on her.
When she became vocal about the serious safety problems at the park, Disney said it was just "union carping".
On Aug. 31, 1994, Disney security guards spotted two teens goofing around on a walkway of the Contemporary Resort. When spotted, they ran and were seen leaving in a pick up. A Disney guard pursued the truck at speeds of up to 80 mph even though they LEFT the park and were outside of Disney property and jurisdiction. The truck crashed, killing 18 year old Robb Sipkema. In Florida, highway deaths are investigated by the Highway Patrol. Disney refused to allow them to interview the woman "security hostess" who drove the van chasing the teens.
Disney also would not release the transcripts of the radio conversation taking place between this guard and the dispatcher during the chase. The parents of Robb Sipkema sued. Even though the 'security hostess' was not a law enforcement officer, Orange County Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. said Disney had a 'private security arrangement' - in essence a contract with itself - and the Highway Patrol would not be allowed access to "internal company documents". Appeals led to the State Attorney General who said that although Disney Security perform only 'basic night watchman duties', which would NOT include high speed chases off Disney property, the Sipkemas ended up dropping the lawsuit due to a lack of cooperation by Disney. Because of the suit, Disney Security Guard vans changed their Mars lights from red (like police) to amber; and they were no longer permitted to use "regular law enforcement" lingo and codes when talking to dispatchers. In other words, stop pretending they were actual police.
A man who got claustrophobic at Space ship Earth and could find no one to stop the ride jumped off and was literally torn to pieces in a motor. Before Disney called an ambulance, they blocked the view and sent Disney 'hosts' into the crowd to question witnesses to find out just how much they did see, taking names and personal information of those who might later turn up in any lawsuit testimony.
Think about that the next time you receive one of those "Disney Vacation" DVD's in the mail.
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See you tomorrow... Unless Disney decides otherwise.