Sunday, May 28, 2017

The BIG Strike

Professor Tom Sito informs us of an anniversary date:

May 28, 1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on, and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt, the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. Studio security officers escorted him off the lot.

That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made the motion to strike, and it was unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden". Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.

Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. Walt was packed off to South America in part so Roy and the negotiators could arrive at a settlement.

In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized completely, but the hard feelings remained for their rest of their lives. ...

Joe Grant (a longtime Disney veteran and an employee during the Hyperion days) said this about Walt's grumbling over the commies on his payroll: "Well, Walt hired them. ..."

My father was an artist at Disney during the '41 strike. He was not well paid but he stayed in during the job action, crossing the line every day to get to his job. (This was not ... ahm ... popular with the picketers). He had his reasons. He felt the company had been good to him, advancing him money when he had to go back east to visit his desperately ill father.

Bad feelings between artists went on long after the strike was settled. The folks who grew up in the thirties and forties got cuffed around by events pretty hard; a major depression was followed by a major war and emotions were high. Not being in the shoes of those who lived through those times, I can't sit here and say one side was wrong and another side was right. Everyone did what they believed they had to do. Let's leave it at that.

1 comment:

  1. We all stand on the shoulders of those brave women and men who fought for what we now have. I thank all of them.