The BLOGFlume—All Smiles at Disney
The impossible, the predictable, and the inexplicable all headline this weekend's BLOGFlume.
Written by Russell Meyer
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LA Times 12/5/04
Is it over? Could it be? What appeared to be a never-ending battle between Roy E. Disney/Stanley Gold and the Walt Disney board of directors/Michael Eisner may finally have some resolution. Disney and Gold had vowed to put up an alternate slate of directors at the upcoming annual meeting next spring. On Friday, however, Disney and Gold withdrew their threat in the wake of recent developments within the Disney board. Eisner, who is set to relinquish his throne in September of 2006, has stated that he would step aside once a successor has been installed as chairman. In addition, the board has taken steps to have a new chairman chosen by June of 2005. Therefore, any threats brought by Disney and Gold would be counterproductive to a group who is actively searching for new leadership. This group hopes to have a new chairman tabbed by June of next year, paving the way for Eisner’s retirement far sooner than his announced September 2006 date, which would be likely to please the SaveDisney folks.
These recent events bring a greater amount of stability into the Disney boardroom, and with Estee Lauder CEO Fred Langhammer on board as an independent director, the Walt Disney Company may be on their way back to becoming a well managed, profitable company. Who knew that after all of the bitter infighting between the Disney/Gold camp and the Eisner camp that there could possibly be an amicable solution. Maybe we all can get along!
A report from the Orlando Sentinel shows that Disney is steadily increasing the number of part-time workers employed at the Florida parks and resorts. According to the report, the number of part-timers has increased 10% over the past 10 years, which would not normally be considered a significant increase, except in the world of year-round theme parks. A part-time employee is defined as anyone who does not work more than 35 hours per week, and is not typically eligible for benefits privy to full-timers. This saves a large corporation a lot of money, especially with the out-of-control increases in health care costs. However, the use of part-time workers increases the amount of workforce turnover, need for retraining, and a decline in the quality of customer service (sound familiar?). The new labor contract allows for 35% of all hours worked in union jobs to be covered by part-time employees, so this increase may not be ending any time soon.
The use of part-time employees is nothing new in the business world. However, Disney’s move to employ a larger part-time labor force shows their increased attention to the bottom line, and willingness to let the quality of their product suffer. Full time employees tend to make Disney their life, and become not only the faces of the park, but also sell the park to their friends and family. Hopefully for Disney, their visitors will not experience a huge decline in customer service quality as they increase their staff of part-time, less-dedicated employees.
Six Flags Faces Lawsuit
In a lawsuit filed October 16, 2004, Six Flags is being blamed for misrepresenting the terms of an employee’s departure from the company’s Great Adventure theme park in Jackson, NJ. Robert Fine, a Jackson, NJ resident, is claiming Six Flags told a local newspaper that his employment was terminated when he states that he has resigned in June 2002. Fine feels that his departure from the company has been misrepresented and his name defamed, making earning a living difficult. Fine believes that the misrepresentation occurred because he was vocal to the press regarding the park’s treatment of international employees. A story in the Asbury Park Press claimed that Six Flags lied to international employees, telling them that they would make sufficient income to sustain them through the year in the United States if they worked at Six Flags. Many international employees came to the US, only to find the amount of hours they could work, especially early and late in the season, insufficient to sustain them in the United States. Fine was sited by the newspaper as a source in the story, but was contradicted by statements made by park's human-resources director John Rimakis, the park's human-resources director, and Charlotte Miller, an agent for Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Resort Employees Union. Fine’s complaint states that Miller’s and Rimakis’ statements in the story were defamatory and made it difficult for him to acquire employment after leaving Sic Flags in 2002.
This looks to be a very complicated story of “he said/she said.” While I would not be surprised that Six Flags may be misleading international employees to come to the United States to work for them at lower wages than the average New Jersey high-schooler demands, Fine’s complaint seems rather frivolous. This is especially true since he is currently employed as a manager of a furniture store. If there were real harm done in this case, a lawsuit would have been filed soon after the story was published, not nearly 2 years after the fact. However, this lawsuit may bring attention to the original story about the treatment of international employees, and ensure that those from abroad coming to work in American theme parks are treated the same as domestic employees.
Treasure Still Gold
Disney’s National Treasure continues to rake in the case by topping the box office for a third straight week. The weekend haul of $17.1 (estimated) launches the adventure film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer over the $100 million mark. Holiday fare started to flex its muscle as Christmas with the Kranks and Polar Express jumped over a slowly fading Incredibles. Polar Express looked to be approaching bomb status, but has been steady of the past few weeks with nearly $100 million over the past 4 weeks. The approaching holiday has clearly brought more people to watch the whimsical tale of a journey to the North Pole, and those creepy eyes have not dulled its popularity noticeably. Disney’s run may be over soon, with Ocean’s 12 and Blade Trinity opening next week, but National Treasure and The Incredibles have put some sparkle into what was turning into a lackluster year at the movies for the family film giant.
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