The Disney Strike, 1941
The Mouse Factory proved to be the biggest challenge. Disney artists considered themselves the patricians of the industry, under Walt’s benevolent rule.
But anger over the long-promised profit sharing from Snow White, alienation over blunt maneuvers by Disney lawyer Gunther Lessing, and other conditions made the workers sympathetic to the call to unite.
Walt felt personally betrayed when Art Babbitt, his highest-paid animator, resigned as president of the Disney company union to join the Guild. Three days after Disney brazenly fired Babbitt, the Disney strike began on May 29, 1941.
The strike lasted for five weeks, forever tearing the social fabric of the studio.
FDR sent a Federal mediator, who found in the Guild’s favor on every issue. Walt left on a Latin American tour to ease tensions.
Fearing the loss of government contracts and the recall of bank loans, Disney signed and has been a union shop ever since.