Tilting at corporate windmills
Disney clothing, McDonald's meals, Nescafé and Kit Kats are among the world's most lucrative brands, but are their profits built on exploitation? Stephen Naysmith speaks to the little guys who are taking on the multinationals.
WHEN MULTINATIONAL BURGER chain McDonald’s sued for libel over a bundle of photocopied leaflets which claimed their food had little nutritional value, it may have expected the small environmental group responsible to back down.
Instead, the action sparked the longest civil case in British history, at enormous cost, as campaigners Dave Morris and Helen Steel defended their claims against all the odds.
Still, the result of the 'lvchibel' case, expected within a few months, Will not be crucial, according to campaigners. Whether or not Morris and Steel are found goilty, they claim McDonald's has already lost.
Since proceedings began, an additional two million copies of their leaflet What’s Wrong With McDonald’s have been distributed, and the David and Goliath tale has captured the attention of the world's media more effectively than a couple of unemployed anarchists could ever have hoped.
While McDonald's takes its battle to the courts, the Disney corporation has come under fire for profiting from sweatshop labour. A boycott of Disney high street stores was launched this week by the General & Municipal Boilermakers union, which claims they could do more to ensure their clothing comes from acceptable sources.
The GMB is highlighting the case of sweatshirts tying in with the movie 107 Dalmations. It claims the garments, being sold for £12 each, are produced by poverty-stricken employees in Haiti who are paid the equivalent of four pence per sweatshirt.
Disney opted for a different tactic from that which so miserably failed for McDonald's. The company confessed. A spokesman for Disney admitted the
101 Dalmatians: are Disney's clothes less ethical than Cruella’s
GMB allegations were true, but claimed all their workers received the Haitian minimum wage of 20 pence an hour. 'In Haiti an inspection has demonstrated that we are adhering to all applicable laws and policies,’ a spokeswoman claimed. ’Workers who make Disney licensed goods do so in decent conditions and are being paid above the minimum wage.’
However, campaigners such as the American-based National Labour Committee and the Haiti Support Group dispute this. They argue companies producing garments on behalf of Disney are exploning the local workforce.
’There is a quota System, and workers have to produce so many items to qualify that it is almost impossible to do it,’ said Charles Arthur of the London-based Haiti Support Group. ’Workers who attempt to set up trade unions to negotiate pay and conditions are sacked.’
He believes boycotts such as that being suggested by the GMB would be COLinterproductive. 'The Haitian
people don’t want Disney to leave the region, they want them to have more responsibility than that, and negotiate for fairer conditions,‘ he said.
Christian Aid is currently putting pressure on supermarkets over poor pay and conditions endured by those Supplying fruit and vegetables to the international market. It agrees boycotts are unhelpful.
CA spokesman Martin Cottingham said asparagus was a case in point: 'It is produced in a desperately poor desert area of Peru which would be in a very bad Situation if the supermarkets Withdrewf
Concerns over Nestle, the company which produces Kit Kat and Nescafe coffee, are an example of the failure of boycotts in any case. The Anglican church urged peOple to av0id Nestle products after concerns over its promotion of powdered baby milk in the third world. 'Nestle managed to get the church to Withdraw its ban,’ Cottingham said. 'But our research suggests companies, including Nestle, are still Violating international agreements on baby milk.'
Instead of boycotts, CA is calling on shoppers to send back their till receipts to supermarkets, with notes demanding they implement a code of conduct by the year 2000. 'The message is: "This is how much my custom is worth to you, and I might be prepared
I to spend it elsewhere if you don't look at the issue”, '
Cottingham added. ’There is a question of whether the companies can afford to do this. We want it to be a question of whether they can afford not to.’
However, such action is not enough for the McLibel campaigners, who visit Scotland this week. 'Multinational companies try to make as much profit as possible by exploiting people, animals and the enVironment. We would prefer to see society organised in a different way,’ said spokesman Dan Mills.
He argues the libel case has shown multinationals can be brought to book. ’Whatever the result, the motive for bringing the case was to stop criticism reaching a wider audience That has clearly backfired for McDonald‘s. It is an example to people of what can be achieved if you stand up to a bully,’ he claimed.
According to the GMB, however, boycott campaigns can work. A spokesman indicated that the aim for those concerned about exploited labour was the same. ’We need to get meaningful commitments from the big brands, the major players in the world markets. We need them to commit themselves to minimum standards on child labour and sweatshop labour,‘ he concluded.
McLibel defendant Dave Morris speaks at St Stephen's Church Centre. Renfield Street, Glasgow, Thurs 20 Feb.
And finally . . . hitches on the road to getting hitched
MARRIAGE, IT IS SAID. is an institution. Others retort in a
Another keen follower of family
Still it can’t be all bleak on the
mightily witty fashion that you know what kind of people end up in an institution. Wise words. And some which the stars have been heralding recently with the Gallaghers, Liam and Noel, putting their big days off.
Hardly any wonder when you consider what it does to the likes of regular guys such as that friend of the Irish, the homeless and the Tory party, Mr Phil Collins. According to The People, the diamond geezer earned a reprimand from his dear old mum when she got wind of an expletive-friendly fax Phil sent to ex-missus Jill. June, elderly, insisted that her kids had been brought up proper - 'I taught them right from wrong and they had a good father.’ Seems that shiny halo may be slipping from his shiny head.
values is Michael 'Wacko' Jackson, a recent addition to the ranks of dads. He is now threatening to move to Scotland with his newborn who, the Daily Star reported, is 'white with dark hair and Afro features.’ A Highland palace is high on Jackson's list as is getting shot of Mikey Junior's ma, nurse Debbie Rowe. As if that wasn't bad enough, Liz Taylor, 64, is pencilled in as the Godmother.
Someone who may be considering his future marital status is tennis hunk Andre Agassi. The Sunday Mail claims that his fiancee Brooke Shields is hooked to a TV psychic hotline. So much so that she refuses to turn off unless given a sign from one of the seers. In true The Comedians style, Agassi blames the mother-in-law - 'it seems Brooke is addicted to witches.’ Nice volley.
wedlock front with Scots' dancing queen Mary Kiani getting hitched. Eschewing the standard manifestations of happiness such as smiling, laughing and looking dead chuffed with herself, Mary rubbed an ice lolly into her leg.
Perhaps the solution is for the human race to die now and come back, maybe in a couple of days, as penguins. The Scotsman reported odd goings-on at Edinburgh 200 where the webbed ones have been at it hammer and tongs due to the abundant presence of pebbles which, to the amorous waddler, act in much the same way as a red rose to the amorous humanoid. However, moments of loving intimacy and/or frenzied rutting are frequently interrupted by the attentions of the keeper. David Field. 'It's difficult to tell the gender
Mary Kiani: staying cool on her wedding day
of penguins, so the minute they start copulating you get keepers rushing up and taking note of which Is which.’ Sick bastards. (Brian Donaldson)
21 Feb—6 Mar 1997 TREUS'I'S