Editor’s Note: The Walt Disney Company has laid off American workers in its technology operations in Orlando, Florida, and replaced them with foreign tech workers brought into the United States from India on special work permits. The American workers even trained their foreign replacements. While the story made The New York Times there is another aspect of the drama that was hush-hush. It’s printed here in full glory of the First Amendment.
By A. Paradee
The lovely black-haired Snow White cooled her high-heels outside his office for an hour before the head of Disney films invited her in.
“Sir, you asked to see me?” she says, shyly, allowing him to take her delicate hand in his for a light greeting.
“Yes, it’s about your future with Disney, Snow White,” says Mr. Ignore. “Please sit down.” His sweeping, manicured hand offers a plush red leather chair, and she sits, properly adjusting her light blue dress, tugging it well below her knees.
She cannot contain her excitement. “Oh, I thought you would never call, sir,” gushes Snow White, an American born in 1937 who still looks eighteen. “I heard you’re casting a new Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I can’t wait to get going on the project.” Her teeth gleam in the bright light, her smile as warm as the sun over Florida’s Disney World.
“That’s why I called you in.” His voice slightly tightens, and Mr. Ignore folds his hands in front of him on the huge cherry wood desk. In its sheen he sees the reflection of Snow White’s lovely, enthusiastic face.
Now she breathlessly continues like a schoolgirl. “. . . When do we begin production? Who is cast as Prince Charming? Zac Efron would be great. He’s so cute!”
“We’re still months away from filming,” Mr. Ignore says, dryly, clearing his throat of a catch as big as a piece of filet mignon. “But we have cast Snow White.”
She blushes a meek giggle, and says gleefully, “Well . . . of course, I know, Mr. Ignore, I’m Snow White. It’s the job I live for.” The words are barely out of her petal-shaped lips when his eyes lock sternly on hers. Seeing them Snow White’s voice tails off uneasily.
He watches two wholesome wrinkles on her forehead turn a puzzled grayish as her sparkling eyes stare back into his frowning managerial face. His hands unfold on the desk as if his fingers want to run away. “Snow White, have you ever heard of an H-1B work visa?” His words are dispassionate, corporate-like.
“Sounds governmental or something,” says Snow White, still carefree, but her nerves are latching up a tick. She shifts in the chair and her hands moisten with perspiration. H-1B, she thinks, H-1B. Did she read about that in Fairytale News? She can’t remember.
“It’s a special permit wherein American companies hire highly skilled foreign workers and bring them to the United States for jobs.” Mr. Ignore’s eyes brighten at his words. He appears fond of the ramifications of them.
She hasn’t worked since the last Snow White movie, and the thought of her mortgage and other monthly bills have been overwhelming her in this economy. She spends a lot of money on floor cleaners alone. Finally she speaks. “You mean this special permit lets you replace American workers like me?”
“No, they don’t replace them, exactly that is,” says the corporate executive. “However, there are certain H-1B loopholes and . . . .”
Uncharacteristically the overly polite Snow White interrupts him. “Mr. Ignore, you mean you called me to your office today to inform me about this visa program that benefits foreign workers?”
Mr. Ignore clears his throat again. “In a way, yes. We’re applying the H-1B visa to bring in a new Snow White from India for the movie.” There, it’s out, he thinks.
Her eyes widen, and she grimaces a hopeful smile. “You mean, she is to be my stunt double in the movie?”
“No, I mean she’s replacing you as Snow White, altogether.”
Her stomach lurches up and into her throat.
Mr. Ignore quickly continues with the rational. “She’ll work for a third of the Guild scale we’d have to pay you, and our shareholders expect me to watch expenses.”
“OMG! An East Indian Snow White?” Her voice stutters, with emotion.
He responds, “She’ll have to spend hours in make-up before shooting, of course.”
“But, Mr. Ignore, I am Snow White,” she pleads. “I’m an American. This is un-American, sir. You’re importing a foreigner, paying her way to the United States of America to take my job here, the job my family relies on so desperately.”
“You’ll go on unemployment benefits,” he says. Now an arrogant air settles around the executive. “Get used to it,” he snaps, wagging his finger at her. “It’s the future of American business, and collaterally, American jobs.”
Her entire being is embraced by unimaginable hurt. Tears trickle down her rosy cheeks, and Snow White manages: “Mr. Ignore, I knew Walt. Walt was a friend of mine, and you’re no Walt!” It is as vicious as virtuous Snow White can get.
“Certainly we expect you to stay on the job until you train her in the nuances of being Snow White,” he says, glibly. “A couple of weeks at most, and then you’re gone.”
She’s sobbing now, her face held by her trembling hands in her lap. “Mr. Ignore, I don’t think even my Evil Stepmother is that cruel.” Anguished tears fall onto her cotton dress.
“It’s free trade, honey,” Mr. Ignore intones to himself.
Her chest begins to tighten, and sniffing back tears, Snow White asks, “Is Prince Charming one of those H-1-Whatevers, too?”
“The whole cast is H-1B’s from India. For continuity’s sake.” Standing, Mr. Ignore turns his back on Snow White and gazes up at a massive portrait of Walt Disney, looking down at him in what he thinks is admiration.
“Even my beloved dwarves?” Her breath is short and the words come out in a faint, halting mutter. In disbelief she watches the back of Mr. Ignore’s head nod, affirmatively, and she begins to hyperventilate. With one hand on her chest, her other arm tingles with numbness. Her mouth dries and her head drains of nourishment, and she feels dizzy and faint.
Looking up at the iconic portrait, as if toasting it, Mr. Ignore proudly proclaims:
“Yes, all are H-1B’s from India. Obviously, we’ve renamed the Seven Dwarfs.” Behind him he cannot see Snow White gasping for air, as he ticks off the new Dwarf names one by one. “Doc is now Deepak; Grumpy will be called Ganesh; Sleepy is Sanjay; Bashful will be just as lovable as Bishwa; Happy becomes Harsha; Sneezy is Sonu; and Dopey is more stupid than ever as Debesh.”
Grinning, he turns around to her. Snow White is motionless, slumped in the chair, her eyes are closed, and she appears lost in eternal sleep.
R.D. Byron-Smith’s books are available at all online booksellers.