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22 June 2005

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Disney Workers Get Clean Underwear

Los Angeles (CA USA) Times -- Associated Press Writer -- 7 June 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After almost two months at the negotiating table, the workers who play characters such as Mickey Mouse and Cinderella at Walt Disney World have won an important concession: clean undergarments. Under a tentative contract between Disney and the Teamsters union, the workers will be assigned individual undergarments, which they can take home each night to clean themselves instead of relying on Disney launderers.

Some workers had complained about getting pubic lice and scabies.

"Things have been passed around," said Gary Steverson, a stilt walker at Animal Kingdom. "I know I don't want to share my tights and I don't want to share my underwear."

Many of the characters have to wear Disney-issued jock straps, tights or bike shorts underneath their costumes because regular underwear bunches up and is noticeable. Each night, they turn in the undergarments with the rest of their costume before going home. They then pick up a different set the next day.

Disney officials had told the workers that they use hot water to clean the undergarments, but they apparently weren't doing so, said Steverson, a shop steward with the Teamsters, which represents workers who portray such figures as Goofy, Pluto, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck.

Some workers complained about receiving undergarments that were stained or smelly. Steverson said there have been three cases of costumed workers at the Magic Kingdom getting pubic lice or scabies during the past two years. Disney spokeswoman Rena Callahan refused to comment on the new contract provisions because "we don't conduct our negotiations with the media, only at the negotiating table."

But Callahan said workers are expected to wear underpants underneath their tights and bike shorts, and the garments are immediately laundered after they've been worn.

"If cast members aren't happy with the condition of an item, they can turn them back in and they will be issued another costume," she said. "We want our cast members to be happy with their costumes."

Other concessions the costumed characters won include more time to put on their costumes and a weather clause that includes air pollution as a factor in determining how long costumed characters have to be outside. Recently, smoke from a nearby brush fire has irritated singers' vocal cords and made it difficult for stilt walkers to breathe, employees said.

"People are feeling nauseous, they have itchy eyes, are dizzy and have headaches," said Calon Webb, a union shop steward at Animal Kingdom.

The costumed characters and Disney workers from five other unions vote next week on the new contract, which covers about 25,000 of Disney World's 55,000 workers.

- 30 -

Disney Briefing. No Sweat. February 04

Disney sub-contractors, Haiti (1996):

* we met with a large group of N.S. Mart workers, all of whom sewed Disney garments. They told us that the majority of workers at N.S. Mart - almost everyone - earns just 28 cents an hour, which is $2.22 for a full eight-hour day. And, they reported, at times they are short-changed on their hours and pay.

* The workers also told us the plant is hot, dusty and poorly lit. Some complained about having trouble with their eyesight and respiratory problems.

* According to the workers, the production quotas and piece rates the company sets are impossible to reach. Supervisors put enormous, constant pressure on the workers to go faster. Supervisors yell, scream, threaten and curse the workers. If you are young and pretty and a supervisor wants you as his mistress, you either give in to him or you are fired. Sexual harassment is common.

* The toilets are filthy. Rats are everywhere. The holding tank for drinking water is covered only with a light piece of metal, which the rats have no trouble getting under.


Blogger Joana said...


Blogger Bob Merkin said...

This is just a PREJUDICE, but I guess you know that for long before the Iraq Misunderstanding, Americans believe that French people are very rude and inhospitable and nasty to visiting Americans (and maybe to visiting Everybody).

So, besides Rilke's Panther and the Rive Gauche Labyrinth and the Chartres Labyrinth ...

I have REALLY wanted to go visit Euro-Disney. Because I want to meet the rude, nasty Big Duck and the rude, hostile Big Mice, and the rude, unpleasant Goofy and Pluto.

You're being eloquent again! I had to settle for these Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck stories, but I was really looking for a story from around 1995, Front Page New York Times ... the first worker rebellion about unsanitary unhealthy even dangerous working conditions of people inside the Happy Disney Animal Costumes in Disney World in Florida.

All the costumes had Cooties (the scientific term, if you are a 10-year-old scientist). Temperatures inside the costumes were commonly 43 - 46 C (110 - 115F) on a summer day. No labor unions at the time, all the Happy Animals would only speak to the Times reporter if he promised not to use their names, or they'd be fired.

The story was simultaneously very sad and very funny -- you could FEEL the reporter desperately trying not to laugh as he reported on something every bit as serious and hazardous as working conditions in a bad coal mine -- but he was interviewing Goofy and Pluto and Minnie and Donald and Mickey. And they were Not Smiling.

Disney hates bad publicity, and eventually after that story the Happy Animal suits got air-conditioning inside them. And I guess anti-Cootie spray.

"Nothing is more doomed than a scheme for mirth." -- Samuel Johnson

Note the title of the second website: "No Sweat." It's an organization that tries to end "Sweat-Shops" -- horrible unsafe unclean factories that employ desperate poor people and pay them almost nothing (and fire the women who will not give the boss sex).

Just south of the US-Mexican border there's a whole belt of some of the worst sweat shops in the world called los Maquiladores. I don't know who this website is, but they have a good intro to los Maquiladores:

More and more, USA big business is looking around the world trying to find work forces and friendly (easily bribable) governments that do not believe in labor unions. Malaysia, Indonesia, Peoples Republic of China (which uses prisoners to make cheap export crap to sell to the USA).

DON'T get me started! Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

Blogger Joana said...

I visited Euro Disney 10 years ago, with my then 8-year old. I bought him this awfully cute puppet gorilla; on our way home on the plane he discovered it had been made
in Indonesia. BIIIg crisis. Indonesia products were being boycotted in Portugal at the time because of East Timor, so he gave the moneky to his cousin who was 3 at the time and not yet aware of this boycott thing.

Blogger Joana said...

And YES the Froggies are prejudiced,

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

One variant of the above American prejudice is that it is only Parisienes who are rude and hostile to Americans (or to Everybody) ... that when you get into the countryside, into Normandy, places like that far from Paris, the French are quite friendly and hospitable. I suppose I will be the Test Rat for this.

I think angry French drivers scream "CHAMEAUX!" ("Camel!") at other drivers. I'll have to hire a car and find out.


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