Buck up, Mickey: Disney World fights sick days

The Florida theme park pressured state lawmakers to vote against allowing local governments to set their own wage, benefits and sick-time laws.

By Jason Notte Apr 29, 2013 4:27PM

File photo of visitors walking on Main Street at Walt Disney World on June 5, 2012, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (© John Raoux/AP)Perhaps "The Most Magical Place on Earth" is hoping a wave of Tinkerbell's wand can cure employee illnesses.


The folks at Walt Disney World (DIS) are so opposed to recent efforts in Florida aimed at allowing communities and municipalities to enact their own wage and benefits laws -- and to guarantee employee sick days -- that it has leaned on Florida lawmakers to table the issue. Well, when you wish upon a hacking, wheezing star, your dreams come true.


According to The Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Senate voted to prevent local government from enforcing such policies until a statewide study could be conducted. More than 50,000 voters in Walt Disney World's Orange County home (part of the park is also in Osceola County) tried to place the earned sick-time measure on the Nov. 6 ballot last year, but the County Commission voted to keep it off. A three-judge panel ordered the board to put it on the 2014 ballot, but the Senate's decision effectively makes that vote about as binding as a mayoral election on the Magic Kingdom's Main Street U.S.A.


Mickey doesn't deserve all the credit for ensuring his sniffling mascots' right to work through just about any non-debilitating illness. Darden Restaurants (DRI), which owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden and was complaining about Obamacare before it became the thing to do, joined Walt Disney World and the Florida Chamber of Commerce in drafting the Senate's roadblock legislation.


Darden and Disney first partnered against minimum-wage legislation when Orange County voters pushed for a referendum last year. Disney World, for its part, could really use a win after Reuters aired workers' complaints in 2010 that the theme park doesn't provide a living wage. That same year, Occupational Health and Safety pointed out that U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found Walt Disney World was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and forced it to pay $433,819 in back wages to 69 employees.


The latest sick-day bill now heads back to the Florida House of Representatives, which will have until May 3 to agree with changes or send the bill back. If Disney World or its strip-mall restaurant sidekicks think this has weakened their opponents' resolve, maybe they should read the post-vote statement from Stephanie Porta, with the Florida Coalition for Local Control, before skipping back to Fantasyland.

"Today, Republicans in the Florida Senate stood up for corporations like Disney and Darden and against the interests of families who believe their own communities know what is best for them."

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Apr 29, 2013 10:55PM
What is wrong with most of you? Disney charges a fortune for families to go and sweat in Florida. Stock holders get the money and the employees get the shaft. I work for a small business that has a vacation schedule, 401 plan, sick days, overtime pay, healthcare with vision and dental, three months maternity paid leave and Christmas bonus for all with lowest paid getting the highest bonus. Average employee is over seventeen years on the job. Give me a break with the whining about Obamacare. It's always profit, profit and profit. The business was started in the 1930's and is into third generation with fourth almost ready to take the reins.
Apr 29, 2013 8:16PM
Un-huh. I'm sure Disney is hurting for money so badly that they can't give their employees a living wage or a couple sick days. I mean they just bought Lucas Films (star wars) for around 4 billion dollars! Obviously their not doing well...
Wow...a giant company that makes billions in revenue wants to screw employees out of medical benefits.  Nothing magical about that...plain old straight up greed.
Apr 30, 2013 1:14AM
Nothing like being served food by a wheezing coughing waiter to make your day.  Disney would rather have sick employees who should be in quarantine greeting your children and passing on their germs rather than let a sick employee stay home.  Disney, land of fantasy when it comes to treating their workers fairly. 
Apr 29, 2013 6:21PM
walt d. would turning over in his grave.
Apr 29, 2013 11:39PM
guess we know know why disney has billions to spend on getting things like marvel and lucas films. from not paying liveable wages and providing sick days to their workers plus making sure the state does not try to put any law for that stuff on their books.
Apr 29, 2013 6:45PM
When is the GOVERNMENT types going to learn to stay out of this kind of private business. Tell the mouse and Darden to go ahead and do as they wish. (as long as they stay within the law and don't put anyone in danger), the free market system will DEAL with them. Anyone who has gone to Disney parks in the last 10 years can clearly see a steep decline in service quality. Quality of service is driven by quality of employees. Good employees don't stick around lousy deals very long.
Apr 29, 2013 7:15PM
Typical Government crooks using other peoples money to get votes. Screw all Politicians
Apr 30, 2013 1:18AM
money talks and the poor walk. i lived in orlando in 1986 and it was $24.50 to get in and now it's about $80 so i think disney can afford it.
Apr 30, 2013 2:16AM
I am DONE DONE DONE with Darden, Disney and anyone else who would rather squeeze out an extra few pennies per share for their greedy rich stockholders than provide a decent wage and benefit scale for their employees!!
Apr 30, 2013 1:28AM
I can only say that Walt would be appalled and ashamed if he knew his Board was more interested in Revenue, than in children.  Shame on them for being greedy mongrels.  That was NOT his dream, when he created Disney.
Apr 30, 2013 1:19AM
How gross is it to eat at restaurant that have this anti-sick leave policy. Yuck!! I know where I won't be eating during cold and flu season
Apr 29, 2013 6:27PM
Disney and Darden, greedyrich is goood. I won't be coming anytime!
Apr 30, 2013 1:37AM

Disney's CEO Bob Iger's compensation was over 53 million......

Apr 30, 2013 1:55AM

Walt Disney is a complete eyesore and should have many big news agencies exposing these pathetic exploiters of children and poverty stricken nations.  Had I known these pathetic losers were exploiting workers and children in not just this nation but especially in third world countries for pure profit, I would never have set foot inside their pathetic world or even considered paying 30-50$ for the clothes items they sell here after paying just pennies an hour for children and workers to make under duress in third world countries. I was not aware of their practices only until after hearing they had their workers locked into a building that was on fire while ordering them to continue working and caused more than a hundred workers deaths in that fire alone.

They are a horrible and unamerican company in every respect. Search Disney in Bangladesh. That is just one of the countries these bastards exploit workers in so it is no surprise to see them running with the extremists in this country in an attempt to bring that kind of worker slavery here in america.

Apr 30, 2013 1:40AM
The only thing the free market system does is by making the Rich, (Job Producers) richer. By not offering Health care to its workers is a disservice to the workers.  Bottom line is More Profit.  Disney just has to raise the prices the public pays for getting health care.  Example:  you are the maker of Flour, you use to sell in 5# bags, to make more profit, you now sell it in 4# bags at higher price.  Same with sugar, cereal, coffee, tea, you name it, it cost more for less.  Coffee is a good example, use to sell in 39 oz containers, now it is sold in 29 oz containers, but higher price.  Corp profits are up, workers salary is down.  I wonder why???  No full time jobs, no benefits, no health care,  Corps are making tons of money. Government is there to regulate for safe food, air, water, protect the environment from chemical pollution, just like down in Texas,  EPA funds cut by the republicans, free market system didn't work there, had over 3500% more chemicals on site then allowed.  Total lack of regulations by the State of Texas. Gov. Perry in charge!!!   14 dead!!!  Free enterprise system at work in Texas.  
Apr 30, 2013 1:39AM
I have no plans of going to high priced Disney "Sweatshop" World in this lifetime, thank you very much.
Apr 30, 2013 1:29AM
Disney makes fortunes but is a cheapskate on wages and sick days.  I guess this was what old Walt was about since he started it all.  Money buying off politicians sad but true.  Would like to know how many free tickets all those elected get from disney in Florida??
Apr 29, 2013 5:18PM
this is a real family oriented organization
Apr 30, 2013 1:30AM
Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave as he watches "his" beloved company become the 2nd coming of the NRA as they employ pressure and thuggery to stop laws designed to protect employees in FL.  But this is not new.  Disney is not the company many think it is.  All you have to do is listen to the countless numbers of those who worked there about the brain-washing and anti-employee methods they use to intimidate and fide roughshod over Disney employees.  Nothing magic about this kingdom anymore; and not for a long time.  
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