Unions clash with Disney over classification and pay of parade workers

Posted Thursday, September 8, 2016 9:01 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The Teamsters Local 385 says it wants the women who accompany characters in the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom to get "mover pay" – 50 cents an hour extra – that's typically given to parade dancers. A union representative says, "They are doing intricate footwork."

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016 12:46 PM

From the video, if the cha cha bingo girls are who I think they are then I say absolutely. They strut, they twirl, they kick. And if that ain't dancing then I don't know what is. Let one of those girls stop their routine and just plod along for a block or two and see who gets fired.

A test for this would be the audition process. Are they required to exhibit movement skills to land the job or does Disney just look and say "ok, toots, you got two legs. Go find yourself a costume". I suspect it's the former. Looks and talent get you in.

I'm constantly amazed by what cheapskates Disney can be. Parades are a big draw and those young men and women who perform in them deserve at least movers pay. They just aren't decorating floats, they're moving to assigned, choreographed steps.

Aw, Disney,... C'MON!!!!

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Saturday, September 10, 2016 8:05 PM

Oh my God it's 50 cents an hour just GIVE IT TO THEM. I've been stuck in a similar problem for numerous years but the pay difference is much larger so I totally feel for them.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 1:05 AM

See? Disney loves poor people. As long as they work for them.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 12:09 PM

You know, if Disney gives these people 50 cents an hour, then suddenly *everyone* working for them is going to start asking for increases. Where does it stop?

Won't someone think of the shareholders?

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 12:16 PM

50 cents an hour is $20 per week. $20 per week is $1040 per year.

Disney World employs more than 60,000 people.

>60,000 x $1040 is more than $62.4 million dollars per year.

I have no opinion to share. Just cold, hard numbers.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 1:15 PM

Disney reported that its parks division reported earnings of $981m in the 1st QUARTER of the fiscal year, an increase of $175m or 22% from last year. $62m per year ($15.5m per quarter) is barely rounding error.

I do have an opinion to share: Disney could afford a 20% increase in wages for ALL employees--not just the parade workers. Again, cold hard numbers.

Last edited by Captain Hawkeye, Sunday, September 11, 2016 1:19 PM
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Sunday, September 11, 2016 1:30 PM

What's was their profit? Earnings mean dick.

Honestly, our opinions mean dick too. There's likely a reason none of us make financial decisions for billion dollar companies.

Curious as to what chunk of that $981 million is actual profit.

Also, just because $62.4 million seems small in comparison to other P&L lines, dont discount that it's sixty-friggin-million dollars. No good business person gives away $60 million that they don't have to. Warm fuzzies or not.

(now I'm sharing opinion, I guess)

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 3:14 PM

This isn't anywhere close to a "They got a raise, so I should too" issue, so that kind of argument is a little silly here. This is more like the ever-present background squabble over positions like Jungle Cruise skippers and GMR "tour guides" that Equity have pushed to have them classified as entertainment and thus come under their entertainers union group because they "act" in their position (along with the matching pay scales, of course). I'm sure this isn't the first time the issue has come up, and it likely won't be the last.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 3:46 PM

That's my take too. This isn't an issue of vast numbers of employees potentially being given raises. It is a fairly narrow issue, involving a handful of parade CMs. If you actually watch the video linked above, that will become clear.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 4:45 PM

Yeah, I think everyone understands that. This is more a story about job classification than anything.

I was just taking a snarky sidetrack with the discussion based on Gator's "wink wink" post.

Give us a little more credit here. :)

And frankly, the hypothetical moral/business discussion is vastly more interesting.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Sunday, September 11, 2016 4:50 PM
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Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:05 PM

There's a strange disconnect that implies that relatively unskilled work that favors supply over demand is entitled to more money if the underlying business enjoys high margins. There isn't a single person that would advocate this in their personal life. If I can put away a third of my earnings, does that mean I should make less? Spend more?

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:42 PM

Gonch, the Disney Quarterly Report lists "Segment Operating Income" for the Parks & Resorts segment as $981m vs $805m and lists it as a 22% increase.

It lists Revenue for the Parks & Resorts segment as $4.281b vs $3.910b, and lists that as a 9% increase.

So, Operating Income is approx 22% of revenues.

Jeff, it depends. If you want to retire young spend less. If you want a higher quality of life, you might spend more. If you want more free time, work less, which might translate to earn less.

Costco spends more on their workforce. They would tell you lower turnover leads to better profits. If lower turnover costs for Disney exceed .50 per hour. . .

BTW, the supply of available workers is decreasing.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:17 PM

Jeff said:

There's a strange disconnect that implies that relatively unskilled work that favors supply over demand is entitled to more money if the underlying business enjoys high margins.

Clearly there are plenty of people who want to work at Disney World and will accept the employment terms being offered, so there is no need to increase the demand for the job with higher wages. It really is no different from any other commodity, like oil. The price goes up when supply is low.

But as we are all aware, in the past decade, the conversation has shifted. People want to do business with employers who are socially responsible, because for most of us, we also work for "the man". Many can sympathize with workers who are (allegedly) mistreated and undervalued.

I don't think Disney has nearly as bad of a negative image as WalMart did 10 years ago (for example), but that certainly is the risk. And when public opinion reaches that level, it does begin to impact your supply of workers. I don't think for one moment that WalMart pivoted just because they felt it was the "right" thing to do. They knew that eventually their future growth would be hindered by the negative PR, and began to address wages, benefits, and culture.

Last edited by Fun, Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:20 PM
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Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:56 PM

The supply for workers at Disney sure as hell isn't decreasing. There are always people lined up around the block willing to snort pixie dust at a "meh" wage just so they can work for the mouse.

Disney's cash flow is certainly not hurting, but the total cap ex that they're spending right now is still pretty insane. They're essentially replacing half or more of Hollywood Studios, just wrapped a reboot of Disney Springs (complete with two paring garages and a direct exit from the freeway into one of them), and there are other infrastructure improvements happening all over the property, scheduled out over the next few years (which, as a local, can't come soon enough, especially the Floridian Way extension). Seems like they're replacing a significant portion of their bus fleet, too.

Regardless, it's a well run business. The unions may want to squeak out another 50 cents per hour for a small group of people, but I don't think morality has anything to do with it. It's unskilled, likely short-term labor. A ton of the front-of-house work at Disney is the kind of stuff I would imagine college kids do for a year or two. It's really not career work.

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Monday, September 12, 2016 7:27 AM

Lord Gonchar said:

And frankly, the hypothetical moral/business discussion is vastly more interesting.

Well, you must be right, because we keep having it over and over. And over. And over.

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Monday, September 12, 2016 12:43 PM

Heh. Indeed.

Maybe "contentious" would be a better description than interesting.

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Monday, September 12, 2016 1:58 PM

I'm somewhat fascinated by the concept of "working poor," because it's most certainly a thing. The worst part is that it affects people who have no way to change it, specifically children. I used to just chalk it up to adults making poor decisions, and that's still certainly a part of it, but there is a lot of evidence that it isn't that simple, and that it's highly cyclical. A lot of it revolves around the inability to exercise elastic spending, which includes the ability to save money for future consumption, or use credit to defer the cost of consumption.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016 11:04 AM

maXairMike said:

This isn't anywhere close to a "They got a raise, so I should too" issue, so that kind of argument is a little silly here. This is more like the ever-present background squabble over positions like Jungle Cruise skippers and GMR "tour guides" that Equity have pushed to have them classified as entertainment and thus come under their entertainers union group because they "act" in their position (along with the matching pay scales, of course). I'm sure this isn't the first time the issue has come up, and it likely won't be the last.

I worked the Jungle Cruise and I didn't consider myself "entertainment". Yes, I had to learn a long spiel and my "performance" (such that it was) could make or break a trip around the Jungle for a boatload of people. But, I was just thrilled to have a more interesting job than walking miles on a treadmill every day checking lap bars, working in a food stand, or any of the other far more boring jobs. To me it was never a question of being compensated more because I was doing a spiel.

Now, I will say that I do think there are some differences when it comes to parade performers. If someone is dancing their way all the way down Main Street then they are certainly doing considerably more than the guy holding a banner.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016 12:07 PM

I feel the same way about my time as a Kilimanjaro Safari driver. We got spiel pay, which was deserved because we spieled and actively drove the vehicles. But we weren't entertainment and didn't do an entertainment role. We were attractions who had a way cooler job than most and were lucky to enjoy it.

Last edited by BrettV, Wednesday, September 14, 2016 12:07 PM
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