New Chapter in Disney Saga: Balks at Paid Sick Leave

Published on June 19th, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
June 19, 2015

Disney’s public relations team may be working overtime to get the company back on track after several gaffs that have tarnished its image.

First, the New York Times recently exposed Disney for firing about 300 of its American technology workers, and displacing them with foreign-born H-1B visa holders. To secure their severance, the fired Americans had to train their overseas substitutes. A Facebook post on the Disney scandal generated 15 million views with a majority of readers registering angry comments. The outrage reached such proportions that Disney cancelled plans to fire more American ITs and also fill their jobs with H-1Bs. The ire didn’t, however, stop Disney from blacklisting their former employees to make it nearly impossible for them to get a new job over the short term.

The Disney conflict dates back to at least September 2013 when many of Florida’s biggest employers including American Airlines, UPS, Honeywell and Disney signed a joint letter to House Speaker John Boehner falsely claiming a shortage of skilled and unskilled workers. From the letter: “many of our companies continue to have difficulty finding sufficient American workers.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio was one of the Gang of Eight who authored a bill that would admit nearly triple the total of foreign-born workers during the next three decades as well as give work permits to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, voted for the Gang of Eight bill. Florida’s senators Nelson and Rubio showed bipartisan support for American job destruction even though the labor participation rate for native Floridians of working age (16-65) is at near historic levels. The number of working age American not in the Florida labor market has also increased dramatically since 2000 from 1.9 million to 2.3 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Then, Politico revealed that Disney lobbyists have been active behind the scenes to kill a bill mandating that all except Florida’s smallest businesses pay their workers sick leave. As the details of this unsavory episode unfolded, Disney critics were quick to point out that Florida already has some of the lowest paid workers in the nation, especially in tourism, and that to deny its employees paid sick leave is inconsistent with the company’s squeaky clean appearance it likes to project.

Moreover, for Disney to hold out on sick pay is indefensible purely from a profit and loss perspective. Last month, Disney announced its record second quarter $12.5 billion earnings which were so strong they stunned Wall Street. The star performers were Disney’s parks and resorts as well as its consumer products which increased 24 percent and 32 percent respectively. 

Clearly, Disney’s economic profile is not one that reflects the need to lay off Americans in favor of cheaper overseas labor or chisel its hourly workers out of paid sick leave, a benefit most businesses offer as a matter of course. Yet Disney and other major and no-so-major companies consistently get away with importing H-1B visa holders and squeezing the last penny out of their non-management employees.

Singling out Disney as the only employer that shuns Americans would be wrong—it’s just one of the biggest and most high profile abusers. With a record 92 million Americans out of the labor force, corporations don’t need to seek out H-1B visa holders to fill increasingly scarce jobs that citizens should get the first crack at.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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