More than 20 students held up signs that read “Stop Disney sweat shops” and shouted “Workers only get paid five cents in Bangladesh” yesterday at a protest against the Walt Disney World Corporation, which was recruiting in the Michigan Union.
Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality gathered to protest the corporation’s use of sweatshop labor in producing clothing and other paraphernalia.
SOLE members, including one dressed as Minnie Mouse, handed out literature that urged students to “Please help! Ask Disney to do the Right Thing.”
Handouts given out by the protesters described the poor working environment in the Shah Makhdum Factory in Bangladesh, where the flyers stated that young women were paid just five cents for each Winnie the Pooh shirt they made that retails for $17.99. They also work mandatory 14 to 15 hour shifts, according to the flyers.
“When the women publicly denounced the conditions … Disney’s response was to pull its work from the factory, firing the women and dumping them in the street with nothing, not even a cent, facing huger and misery,” a pamphlet read.
Police were called as soon as the recruiters became aware of the protest, and remained in the Union throughout the presentation.
Students in attendance were visibly restless as the protest delayed the presentation for 30 minutes. Some responded to the shouting of the protesters, telling them to “shut up.”
The protest shocked many who attended the presentation.
“I didn’t expect anything like this today,” said Music senior Kevin Field, a campus representative for Disney. “Everybody has something to say and we have to respect that.”
Field added that he participated in another Disney presentation a few years ago and felt that the atmosphere had been much more excited and happy.
Traveling to nearly 300 colleges across the country, the Walt Disney World College Program is designed to recruit student employees to work in jobs ranging from waiting tables to being Cinderella.
Tiffany Celler, a college recruiter for Disney who conducted the presentation, tried to keep things on track as protesters held up signs and shouted out during the presentation.
Though Cellers had no comment on the protest itself, she said she felt that it would not dissuade students from applying to the program.
Many first-time attendees said the demonstration was very unexpected.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” LSA freshman Tiffani Comander said.
Some expressed mixed feelings about the protests effectiveness, saying that it felt more disturbing than informative.
“I just don’t think this was the time or the place,” LSA freshman Katie O’Brien said.