Disney: Just Another Corporation Screwing Over Hourly Workers
I worked at Disneyland for five years. During that time, my job was to leverage current resources (people) while minimizing costs. I made sure we had the right people working at all times. It was amazing work. But, there was always an undercurrent of ethical dilemma “working for the Mouse.”
I was keenly aware that folks weren’t being paid well – including myself. And, I knew that the company was rewarding the higher-ups (and undeserving superstars like Miley Cyrus) handsomely while squeezing the life blood out of the hourly employees. So, having experienced that firsthand, I can’t honestly say I am surprised that workers at Walt Disney World are rallying for decent wages and a little respect.
I remember being told to avoid the union leaders whenever they appeared on campus. I remember hearing the stories from the predominantly white salaried staff about how diabolical these unionized folks were. Often, the lessons came with horror stories detailing how greedy and selfish these folks were. And, me, being naive and immature, I bought it for a little while. But, after a few marginalizing experiences of my own, I came to see the company for what it truly was: an unadulterated money machine.
The worst part about it was that they had effectively brainwashed people at the company, causing them to work against their own self-interests. They had convinced these hourly folks that they were lucky to “work for the Mouse.” Somehow, losing out on a decent living wage, lacking good health benefits, and pushing their bodies to the brink everyday was an honor because they were doing it for Disney. I was in conversations with folks who knew more about Walt Disney himself and his favorite toy train than they knew about America’s government. I couldn’t believe it.
There are all of these wide-eyed visions of Disney. Folks believe that a company which produces films and characters for little children must have some moral compass or soul. You know, since corporations are people and whatnot. Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Kids are an industry there. If they truly cared about families, they would have facilities for working mothers to pump and store milk – which they don’t. Or, maybe they would make special accommodations for pregnant women backstage – which they don’t. In all honesty, being pregnant at Disneyland was a liability for me. And, I was a salaried “cast member.”
Aside from the treatment for working mothers, hourly workers have it especially hard. We were trained to work against their interests.We had to learn each and every union contract so we could leverage that knowledge in scheduling.
There is nothing ethical about memorizing union handbooks with the sole desire to use loopholes where possible. There is nothing ethical about scheduling folks strategically so that they will never qualify for full-time status. There is certainly nothing ethical about giving hourly employees a hard time for wanting to work overtime so they can feed their families. Meanwhile, folks at the company were mocking their ethnic backgrounds, questioning their motives for wanting better pay or more hours, and generally treating them like greedy, lazy second-class citizens.
Let’s not forget to mention that ticket prices go up annually as do parking and season passes. For years, I watched the money coming into the Park increase while my pay stayed relatively flat. I just couldn’t reconcile that in my mind. When the Recession happened, we laid off just like everyone else. But, the executives were relatively unscathed – excluding the ones who decided to retire since they weren’t doing much anyway.
I sincerely hope that the workers at Walt Disney World get the pay they deserve. Knowing firsthand the kind of work they are expected to perform, the kind of hours they are expected to work, and the amount of time they spend bettering Disney’s status and appeal with its target market, it’s the least the company can do.
But, in my experience, nothing will come of it. Their courage will be met with the same recycled arguments every corporation in America uses when asked to be socially responsible. “Just work harder so you can grow in the Company” or “The Company is making strides to improve conditions for workers” will be the token phrases given in response.
Like the McDonald’s and WalMarts of the world, Disney has no reason to acquiesce to their own hourly workers. Heck, even our beloved Google has done some questionable things financially. Consumers won’t rally against the Company. Children won’t boycott the channel. Disney’s sheer ubiquitous-ness will further its status as a formidable opponent to workers rather than as a benevolent ally.
These companies not only produce the underclass in this country; they foster it. The status quo works well for corporations completely disinterested in being fair. We have got a long way to go before we make even a tiny dent in the hegemony that is today’s Disney.
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