Even as Disney Company execs are trying to convince the media that the Mouse has really reformed its ways, that Disney is no longer going to nickel-and-dime all of its new films & attractions, that the "Walt Disney" will soon be associated with quality once more ... Word comes out of Orlando that the corner cutting continues.

Take a look at this e-mail that I just received from someone who's on the inside at the Disney's Animal Kingdom contract talks:

For the past few weeks, the execs at Walt Disney World and the Service Trades Console have been in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.  Our current agreement expired April 30 and was extended for 30 days.

For these bargaining sessions, representatives of the Walt Disney Company showed up late and canceled several sessions.  We were proposing many items to better compensate, and protect the cast members at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Recently, Disney negotiated with the workers of Attractions, Custodial, and Vacation Planners.  But - when it comes to the cast members at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney appears to have "no interest" in anything we have had to say.  (The reason that I put that "no interest" in quotes is because that's all that Disney's reps have had to say in regard to any of these proposals.)

Mind you, we're not the only group of cast members who have been having difficulties with Walt Disney World management when it comes to on-going negotiations. Take - for example - the Custodial staff at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The word "Custodial" doesn't really describe what these folks do. Many of these people do roadwork, full landscaping, drive heavy machinery, chainsaws, forklifts, major industrial garbage removal, and much more that I can't remember at this time.  But WDW management reps recently refused to recognize these extra duties that the Fort Wilderness Custodial staff regularly does as part of their day-to-day duties at this resort. Or - more importantly - to provide appropriate compensation for all these additional duties that clearly fall outside of traditional Custodial duties.

Meanwhile, several DAK Attractions cast members put together presentations that effectively argued that there were 13 attractions at that theme park that were deserving of a higher wage because these attractions are unique and different.  Similarly, workers from Epcot's "Innoventions" & "Living with the Land" boat ride, the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise, Steam Train, & Riverboat rides as well as Disney/MGM's "The Great Movie Ride" and Backlot Tour attraction all gave great presentations.  Each of them arguing that WDW employees deserved better compensation for the work they do.

Across the board, Disney's attitude was that the company was "not interested" in offering any additional compensation to WDW cast members. The reasons for this position that were given included:

  • We admit your jobs can be rough. But everyone has a rough job at Disney World. No one's job is easy.
  • You have said nothing to convince us that you deserve more.
  • Everyone else who works at these attractions seems to like their job. We hear no complaints from them.  More importantly, we have no trouble hiring new people to fill these positions at the current wages.  (Translation: There's the door. Leave if you want.)

WDW Vacation Planners were told that labor upgrades were unlikely because "their job is still the same and/or potentially much easier since last contract."  This reaction - understandably -- met with great anger and hurt feelings from the cast members who had been pushing for additional compensation.

Perhaps the most insulting moment came when a new E.R. person ( A gentleman that Disney had just was hired away from General Mills in Minnesota, a man who had never worked as a frontline cast member a single day in his life) gave a speech about how lucky we were that our pension wasn't frozen and/or that we still had health care. This guy actually tried to sell us on the idea that "Wages aren't everything." All the while trying to keep the portion that the Walt Disney Company pays out to its employees down to an absolute minimum.

To this argument, we responded by talking about WDW salaries as they were all just slices of one giant pizza pie.  Since all cast members get health care and pensions, we wanted to talk about how this "wages" pie could be more fairly divided between the execs of the Walt Disney Company and the corporation's hourly cast members.

After all, once all the costs and investments involved with keeping the Walt Disney World resort up & running are accounted for, that leaves the money that can then be applied to the wages. And - if we, the hourly cast members are not getting our rightful share ... Then it only stands to reason that the money is flowing in the wrong directions. Which would be right into the already-well-lined pockets of Walt Disney Company executives.

This issue actually came up in a weird way at the recent negotiations. One member on the bargaining committee challenged Disney's execs to reveal how much they earned per year. What a surprise.  They "weren't interested" in revealing that either.

To all you non-Disney cast members out there who are reading this e-mail ... I want to remind you that the Walt Disney Company continues to increase admission prices at the theme parks while - at the same time -- they continue to ask the hourly cast members to work with less and less.  Does that seem fair to you?

What are your thoughts, folks? Does this WDW employee have a valid point? Does the Walt Disney Company actually have an obligation to share a more equitable share what they take in at their Orlando resort with the cast members who work at this resort? Or is the Mouse well within its right to take the money & run?