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Dickering With Disney

Walt Disney World and unions representing 21,000 of its employees have been trying for months to negotiate a new labor contract. The current contract expired April 28. Members of Teamsters Local 385 have, so far, objected to negotiated terms  for a new three-year deal. Disney management and the Service Trades Council, an umbrella group representing the six unions at Disney World, have twice agreed to short-term  extensions  of the old contract, but Disney World has until only June 30 to convince Goofy, Minnie, Donald, and assorted other costumed characters, bus drivers, food workers, and ride operators not to walk off the job at the start of the family vacation season. Gorsh!

Walt Disney’s original Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif., which opened in 1955, has also weathered labor strife. The park barely avoided a walkout during a labor dispute last year. How could such a thing happen at the “happiest place on earth?”

The sad truth is that labor unrest is nothing new for Uncle Walt. Disney Studios endured its first strike in 1941 when 300 animators formed a picket line that marched the entire summer. But despite wartime sacrifice, the times were more accommodating to working men and women, as evidenced by the 1943 Disney Studios employee manual (see below and the following eight pages) posted by Jerry on Benefits included paid holidays, vacations, and sick leave. Women employees—seen, perhaps, as more delicate than their burlier colleagues—were entitled to 10 paid sick days per year, while male co-workers were allowed five (Page 3). The ladies were not, however, welcome at the “Penthouse Club,” which was—”Sorry Gals”—limited to “Men only!” (Page 8). A major sticking item in the current Orlando contract, health insurance, was available in two categories, “group” and “hospitalization and surgical” at “minimum cost.”

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