Teamsters at Disney World violated labor law: panel

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A labor relations panel has upheld most of a judge’s ruling that a Teamsters union local representing Disney World workers committed an unfair labor practice when it ignored members’ requests to resign from the union. | AP file photo

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Teamsters union representing bus drivers and costumed characters at Disney World committed an unfair labor practice when it ignored members’ requests to resign from the union, a labor relations panel ruled this week, upholding almost all of a judge’s earlier decision.

The three-person National Labor Relations Board panel ordered officials at Teamsters Local 385 in Orlando to reimburse some of the former members for dues deducted after they had made their resignation requests, pay interest on deducted dues to other members, and honor requests to resign.

The panel also ordered union officials to post notices at its union hall and in Disney World break-rooms informing union members that Local 385 had violated federal labor law. The notice will inform workers they have the right to join a union and bargain collectively, but they also have the right to refrain from union activity, according to instructions in the decision.

“We will not fail and refuse to honor your requests to resign your union membership,” the notice will read, according to the instructions. “We will not in any like or related manner restrain or coerce you in the exercise of the rights listed above.”

At World Disney World, Local 385 represents bus drivers and the costumed characters who play Mickey Mouse and Goofy. A lawyer for the union, Tom Pilacek, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on Friday.

The National Labor Relations Board panel’s decision comes as Teamsters Local 385 is facing an internal rebellion against its leadership and as investigators with an independent Teamsters board are investigating its leaders for allegations of embezzlement, creating false records, and obstruction.

Earlier this year, hundreds of workers in Disney World’s costumed character department signed a petition asking that they be allowed to leave the Teamsters and join another union in the Service Trades Council, a coalition of six unions that represents about half of the 70,000 workers at Walt Disney World. Leaders of the Service Trades Council haven’t taken any action allowing that to happen. The petition also asks for the reinstatement of a business agent who they say was wrongfully fired by Local 385 leaders.

“The activities currently being investigated regarding the action of the president, vice president and treasurer of our Local 385 have made us lose trust in our Union and the people running it,” the petition said.

Clay Jeffries, Local 385’s president, didn’t respond to voicemail or email messages on Friday.

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