Disney’s Obamacare “inspiration” not as great as it sounds.

An article praising Disney World went viral on Facebook on Thursday. Brimming with excitement, the article reported that unlike companies that have cut part-time employees’ hours to avoid providing them with health insurance, Disney was “inspired”: Taking a “different approach,” Disney had offered 427 part-timers full-time employment. This laudable move made them eligible for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

The article, published by Addicting Info, explains:

“The offer was made to staffers who put in more than 1,500 hours in the past year, the threshold at which employers will be required to offer coverage, said Ed Chambers, president of the Service Trades Council, which represents 37,000 at Disney parks in Orlando… “Disney wants to be proactive. Disney is way out in front on this.””

This is the way all businesses should treat their employees. Disney World is already “the happiest place on Earth” for families. Now it’s proving to be one of the happiest places on Earth for people to go to work as well. And Obamacare is the reason why.

Finally, a positive story about a company doing the right thing! And what a better company to take the lead on this than Disney, which is known for making dreams come true? What a great thing, I thought–Disney is such a well-known and respected company that others might follow their lead.

And in fact, the public’s reactions have been incredibly positive, with outpourings of praise, support, and admiration for the company. For example, one commenter wrote:

My family will be skipping Seaworld vacations from now on and going out of our way to support Disney. These are human beings we are talking about…not dollar bills.

Another posted:

Thank you Disney, for leading the way to a better,healthier America . With all the shameful acts of some politicians ,its good to know that honer is still alive in this country.

Another commenter stated:

Good job Disney. It’s great to know there are still a few American corporations that still believe in America. I’ve never been to Disney World but maybe now is the time. Walt would be so proud!

And another:

Go out and support Disney!! Good for them! 🙂

Unfortunately, we have all been mislead by the reporting on Disney’s “inspiration” regarding the Affordable Care Act. It’s just not as good as it sounds. This article overstated the case in an irresponsible way, falling for the PR spin. It’s actually a case of corporate goodwashing. And because the article has gone viral, misleading information about Disney’s position is being spread–information that, to judge from the comments I’ve read, people are using to decide whether or not to vacation at Disney World.

So, here are the facts.

About 63,000 people work at Walt Disney World; roughly 24,000 of those are part-timers. So that number, 427, sounds impressive to the article’s readers, but it is a very small percentage of Disney’s part-time employees–fewer than 2%.

Furthermore, one Disney insider reports that while Disney being praised for offering these 427 part-time employees full-time status, behind the scenes, the picture isn’t so rosy. Most part-timers’ work is indeed being cut back–just like at Papa Johns, SeaWorld, UPS, and other companies who have made headlines for trying to avoid providing health care for their employees.

“The company has been phasing out its part-timers,” my source explains, “turning us into what used to be considered seasonal employment–only about 150 hours annually. We used to be able to work almost full-time hours if our department needed it, but that went away in the past year. Now we are being held to strict guidelines so we don’t approach the 32 hours of the ‘full-timers’.

“That article mentions a particular union that had the 427 people offered full-time,” my source continues; “but of course, there are more unions at WDW. So, in my opinion, the article is misrepresenting what is really going on at Disney.”

For a fuller picture of how Disney has been handling its employees’ hours in relation to health care, check out this article in the Orlando Sentinel.

Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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