Walt Disney World must rehire three performers who were fired when they refused to wear soiled spandex unitards as part of their costumes for the “Festival of the Lion King” show, an arbitrator ruled Monday.
The workers said their clean unitards became wet and soiled while hanging from a rack where sweaty costumes that had been rained on were pushed up against them. Disney managers said that the two sets of costumes on the racks never touched and that the performers were given other options.
The arbitrator ruled that the performers were dismissed without just cause and that Disney violated language in a collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing that all costumes be clean.
The agreement “states unconditionally that all wardrobe shall be clean and dry, without reference to the existence, or not, of actual danger,” Arbitrator Robert Moberly wrote.
Disney said the workers carried out an unauthorized work stoppage when they refused to put on the wet unitards last June, forcing the cancellation of an evening show.
Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said Tuesday that the company will comply with the ruling.
The clean-costume provision was added to the agreement more than a decade ago after incidents of rashes, scabies and other infections.
Union official Donna-Lynne Dalton said Tuesday that she pushed for the provision after she got ringworm years ago from tights she wore as a member of the harem in the “Aladdin’s Royal Caravan” parade.
“Overall, in theory, the company had a mentality that costumes were cleaned for performers, but, randomly, it wasn’t happening,” said Dalton, who is now the secretary-treasurer of the Service Trades Council Union. “There were various incidents of workers coming to work and saying, ‘This costume isn’t clean.'”
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