A behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Disney’s character performers and their struggles for union democracy
“Mickey and the Teamsters is not just a story about a union. It’s a history of Disney, the Teamsters, the Mafia, feminism—in short, a story as rich and wacky as Florida itself. It’s also a worthy addition to the pantheon of untold stories of flawed but heroic figures in the labor movement, for which Schneider should be proud.”—Hamilton Nolan, labor writer for In These Times
“Schneider has crafted a thorough and engaging narrative about a little-known situation involving America’s favorite theme park and union representation.”—Aaron H. Goldberg, author of Buying Disney's World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World
“Read this fascinating tale of Disney characters caught between an unresponsive labor union and an autocratic employer—while working jobs they loved.”—Richard E. Foglesong, author of Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando
Behind the costumes, life isn’t always magic and fairy dust for the people who play the iconic characters of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Cinderella at Walt Disney World. In a surprising tale of corruption alongside activism, Mickey and the Teamsters reveals the little-known story of Teamsters Local 385, the union that represents these performers. It spotlights Donna-Lynne Dalton, a former cast member who stood up for other Disney performers against deep-rooted problems in the union that was supposed to protect them.
Journalist Mike Schneider, who covered the story as it unfolded, includes exclusive interviews with labor leaders and workers at the park, detailing how the union prevented its members from leaving, severely mismanaged union business, and promoted a culture of hostile leadership. Members of the Teamsters local felt that they no longer had a voice, fearing devastating consequences if they spoke up. But Dalton brought the issues to investigators in an act of whistleblowing that threatened her livelihood. In return, the local union fired Dalton and began harassing her and other union members who opposed its leaders. The story escalates as Schneider describes protests by the Disney performers and the interventions of James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Mickey and the Teamsters offers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the hidden struggles that surround Disney World, which employs the largest single-site workforce in the United States. Through the efforts of Dalton and others to reform their union and improve the lives of employees at the workplace they loved, Schneider shows the importance of individual and collective action to hold unions accountable and preserve their potential to do good.
Mike Schneider is a journalist for the Associated Press. He has lived in Orlando, Florida, since 1997, reporting on Walt Disney World and the tourism industry.
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