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Jentasmic!: Disney’s Influence on Florida 2012 Elections

5 Oct

In this week’s Jentasmic!, I muse about Disney’s involvement in Florida’s electoral politics. A snippet:

Based on recent political contributions by Walt Disney World, we should probably be singing “It’s a Republican world after all” as we glide along through a classic indoor boatride. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Walt Disney World has spent nearly $2.5 million on political candidates and causes in Florida so far this election cycle” (as of September 27, 2012), with approximately 90% of that money going to Republican candidates or Republican-leaning interest groups.

And I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface; Disney has a long and complex relationship with politics in Florida (and nationwide — let’s not forget Sonny Bono’s Mickey Mouse Protection Act). Vance at StudiosCentral points out that Disney’s also recently been involved with preventing a paid sick-leave question from appearing on the Florida ballot. From HuffPo:

Thanks largely to the pressure brought by the business lobby in Orange County, Fla., it appears the most magical place on earth won’t include mandated sick leave for workers anytime soon.

Last month, Orange’s Board of County Commissioners voted to put off a ballot vote on a hotly contested measure that would require employers to provide workers with one hour of sick leave for every 37 hours worked, capped at 56 per year. By delaying the vote until after the printing deadline for the Nov. 6 ballot, the board’s move at least temporarily scuttled an initiative that 50,000 voters had petitioned to put to a public vote.

I took a quick look at the current union contract for full-time WDW Cast Members, and full-time Cast Members can earn up to 48 hours of sick leave per year (assuming one works 8-hour days, that’s 6 days worth). That’s below the average for full-time workers in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And I’m well-aware that many Cast Members are neither full-time nor covered by the union. Any Cast Members have stories they’d like to tell? Plenty of room here in the comment section below.

Current Contract Offer for WDW Union Cast Members

16 Feb

News broke late last week that Disney had reached a tentative agreement with the unions. And at first blush, it doesn’t look so bad, right? According to WKMG:

The latest agreement gives more then 20,000 Disney workers guaranteed annual pay raises for 3 years. They’ve been offered $650 bonuses with an additional $100 to workers who make $8.50 per hour or less. Disney agreed to continue to pay more than 70 percent of the cost of comprehensive health care coverage.

But, as that same news source reports, it’s only the “majority” of the unions who are in support of the contract. And the members still need to vote to ratify it, on February 25. The Local 362 blog is running pictures and stories of members who plan to vote No.

Joseph Guiteau is voting No

I couldn’t find details of the actual contract anywhere online, so I dropped a note to Local 362 (one of the dissenting unions), and received the following information in response:

All Full-Time employees on the day of the vote receive an additional $100 if vote passes

Bonus Summary

If vote passes:

You receive $750 if you make less than $8.50 per hour (non-tipped) and were working before 10/2/10

You receive $650 if you make more than $8.51 per hour (non-tipped) and were working before 10/2/10

You receive $100 if you were hired since 10/2/10

Wage increases
Workers hired before 12/12/1998 – “Topped-out”
4/3/2011                4/1/2012                3/31/2013
2% wage increase        2.25% wage increase     2.5% wage increase
Workers hired after 12/12/1998 – “In-range”
4/3/2011                4/1/2012                3/31/2013
3% wage increase        3% wage increase        3% wage increase
Minimum wage increase of $0.25 for “in-Range”
wage scale

This reflects additional money from the Company on the Bonus amounts. The wage increases are the same as previously proposed.

Unfortunately nothing changed on the cost of health care. The increases will result in workers making less at the end of the contract. The family plan is slated to go up 96 cents per hour over the life of the contract (If you get 40 hours – which many employees don’t).

A  [sic] Attractions, Custodial or Merchandise employee working at Disney at least 13 years is slated to receive 88 cents per hour in wage increase during the contract. If they have a family and that cost increases 96 cents in the same time period, they would be making 8 cents less per hour.

Not surprisingly, a Disney spokesperson talking with WKMG sees things differently:

“The fact is that the overwhelming majority of cast members will end up with more money at the end of the contract,” said Andrea Finger, a Disney spokesperson.

I’d need a whole lot more information to crunch the numbers and figure out if she’s right (how many have 13 years seniority? how many have families?). But I do know that following a year of record stock prices and a huge raise for Iger, I’d like to see Disney Cast Members paid a little better too.

Celebrating Lisa's birthday with Cast Member Jack

Celebrating Lisa's birthday with Cast Member Jack

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A big part of the appeal of a Disney vacation is the outstanding Guest Services that the Cast Members bring. Almost every time I’ve traveled to a Disney Park, I’ve met at least one Cast Member who’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to fix a problem, or help me celebrate a special occasion. It’s just good business sense to pay Cast Members well enough to allow them to make a career of it, and not just make Disney a stopping-off-point on their way to better-paying jobs elsewhere.

Disney First Quarter Profit Up 54%

8 Feb

Disney stock jumped again today after first-quarter results showed a 54% increase in profit. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The company’s profit for the quarter surged 54% to $1.3 billion from $844 million a year earlier. The earnings were equivalent to 68 cents a share, up from 44 cents a share. Revenue rose 10% to $10.7 billion.

In after-hours trading, Disney shares rose 3.6% to $42.67.

I trust that at tomorrow night’s Rally for a Fair Contract, there will be plenty of picket signs arguing for sharing the wealth with the workers who created it. As the LA Times points out, these profits come at least in part from cost-cutting, not entirely new revenue generation:

Aggressive cost-cutting produced dividends for Walt Disney Co.‘s movie studio, as its operating income jumped more than 50% on moderate revenue growth for the quarter ended Jan. 1.

I’m glad the company’s healthy. I hope it shares the wealth with its workers, not only its shareholders.

Not like I’m bitter about the state of the economy, or anything. (And remember folks, I’m an honest-to-God business school student, so I’m not unfamiliar with how our system works or unsympathetic to the need to show profits even in lean times.)

 

Sunday Morning Pixar and Union Musings

6 Feb

Looks like The Onion decided to celebrate 25 years of Pixar with this spot-on, foul-mouthed, hilarious fake op-ed piece by John Lasseter: I’ve Got You Dumb Motherfuckers Eating Right Out Of My Hand.

Yes, after the success of our first few movies we had a hunch you’d continue to enjoy the wonderfully designed animation and our smart, lyrical writing, but I didn’t think we’d create a horde of drooling morons ready to drop everything just to watch a fucking rat cook dinner. Time and time again, though, there you chumps are, lined up around the block with your stupid little kids, eager to have your stupid little hearts filled with whimsy.

You probably aren’t surprised to hear that I’m rooting for Toy Story 3 for Best Animated Picture. I can’t say it’s a shoe-in though; last night I saw The Illusionist, and I must say it’s a masterpiece, with the sort of bittersweetness and depth that the Academy often seems to reward. I haven’t seen How to Train Your Dragon, and reviews have been good, but not good enough to make me think we’ve got an upset in the works, especially since the Academy saw fit to also nominate Toy Story 3 for Best Picture.

And about that . . . UNITE Here Local 362 doesn’t want Toy Story 3 winning Best Picture, as they explain on their blog:

Toy Story 3 is currently nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. We will tell the public that the workers need to be rewarded and not Disney’s hypocrisy. Toy Story 3 encourages us to value what we have, but Disney doesn’t follow its own advice

Hmm. Not sure I follow their logic here exactly, and I’m not sure that valuing what we have is a central theme of Toy Story 3. I’d be surprised to see Toy Story 3 win Best Picture, but it does seem that if any animation house has a shot at taking that award home in my lifetime, it’s probably Pixar. To quote Fake John Lasseter, in that Onion piece:

Admit it: You numb-nuts are addicted to our genuine, three-dimensional characters. And you just can’t get enough of our ability to make an idiot robot that can barely even talk feel relatable. It’s okay to say you love it.

I don’t think I could bring myself to carry one of the Local 362 anti-Toy Story 3 signs. But were I going to be in the area, I’d still be at their protest this week:

Rally for a fair contract!

Wednesday, February 9

5pm to 7pm
Cross Roads
At the intersection of SR 535 & Hotel Plaza Blvd.
Any of my friends gonna be there? I’d love to hear first-hand reports, or receive pictures. Drop me a note if you’ll be in attendance.

Jentasmic: Rants and Ramblings about Disney Stock

14 Jan

Am I bitter about the economy? Yes, and for good reason. In the midst of the US’s “jobless recovery,” the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer. Per usual. If you need the charts and stats, check out this Business Insider article.

Case in point: The juxtaposition of the 10-year-high price for Disney stock, and the financial hardships faced by many Cast Members, ultimate point of my rant this week on StudiosCentral.

And what does Disney’s stock price mean for Cast Members? Well, if they’re earning enough money to support participation in the Employee stock purchase program mentioned on the WDW web site, then they can benefit just like any other investor. And I’m guessing that some of the higher-level Cast Members may have significant stock holdings. Disney has continued to pay dividends regularly, and will do so again next week. The current economy does seem to favor stocks that pay dividends, as many investors are strapped for cash, and might also be nervous about whether any stock will reliably retain value, after some of the market drops we’ve seen in recent years.

But after having done some research lately on what Cast Members are paid, and watching the ongoing union negotiations at Walt Disney World, I’m guessing most can’t afford to invest in stock. Listening to first-hand accounts from some Cast Members on the Mousetrapped video series produced by one of the Cast Member unions, I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

If all goes as planned, this month I’ll be fortunate enough to set foot in Disney Parks on both coasts, due to a SoCal business trip next week, and my BFF’s WDW wedding the week after. I will enjoy the hell out of this double-dose Disney fix. But I can’t say it won’t bug me to think of the inequities of the situation, and I promise I’ll tip whomever I can, whenever I can.

Another Contract Extension for WDW Cast Members

8 Jan

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

A second round of mediation between Walt Disney World and its largest labor group ended Friday with little movement on either side.

But Disney management and the Service Trades Council did trade some new offers and agreed to once again for bargaining on Feb. 10.

(Hat tip: The Disney Blog.)

So . . . since there’s more than a month before the next round of bargaining, let me reiterate my suggestion: If you think Disney should provide better compensation to their Cast Members, let them know. I’ve provided a link to Guest Services and the text of my own email to Disney in yesterday’s post.

Do I think that a flood of emails to Disney will result in immediate improvements of Cast Member wages? Sadly, no. And I don’t think I’m gonna be able to trigger that kind of flood, anyway. But at a minimum, at least I know I spoke my mind, and (perhaps better yet) some Cast Member in charge of reading through Guest comments might be glad to know some Guests care.

If you haven’t already watched Mousetrapped 2010, you might want to check it out now. I’m sad that so many of the people making the magic for me are under such financial duress. I also try to keep it in mind when I’m in the parks (or calling Guest Services), and try to be a little extra kind to those who are making the Parks so magical for me with such little compensation.

And if you’re moved to contact Guest Services yourself, why not also spread the word to a friend? We’re all in this massively connected online Disney Digerati these days, so tweet it out, Facebook it, whatever. Will Disney change its ways? Probably not. But maybe we can make a Cast Member smile, somewhere.

Ever Wonder What Disney Cast Members Make?

7 Jan

Today, Disney went back into negotiations with its largest union, as The Disney Blog reported.

Walt Disney World and its largest union group, the services trade council, heads back to the negotiating table with a federal mediator today. While no one is optimistic that the differences can be resolved today, no one is worried about an impending strike either.

I find the wages of Disney’s Cast Members to be startling low, especially given the excellent level of Guest Service provided overall, and the amazing beyond-the-call-of-duty actions I’ve seen many of them take. The contract that’s currently being re-negotiated is here, on the Unite Here! 362 web site. For wages, scroll down to page 53, and page through the Appendices.

Despite the general economic picture in the US, Disney stock is at an all-time high. C’mon Disney, let’s see more money and health care benefits for the front-line Cast Members who make the magic happen.

And hey, why not drop Walt Disney World Guest Services a note, to let them know how you feel? Here’s what I just sent them:

Walt Disney World isn’t just about the attractions to me — it’s also about the amazing Guest Services delivered by your Cast Members. And hey, there’s also a lot of Cast Members working behind-the-scenes to make all those attractions work! So it’s important to me that Disney treat its Cast Members well. I’ve looked at the current union contract, and the wages currently paid to Cast Members (even with significant seniority) make me very sad.

I’m paying attention to the ongoing labor negotiations, and ask that Disney provide better wages and health care benefits to its Cast Members. Please support your Cast Members, who are working so hard to make the magic happen for us Guests!!

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