Disney World Employee Wage War Attracts National Spotlight

Disney World is often touted as the Most Magical Place on Earth — but the unions representing Cast Members responsible for making that magic say that’s no longer the case.

Disney Cast Members

Cast Member unions and Disney have been battling over contracts since October 2022, when the most recent agreements expired. After multiple bouts of negotiations ended with the unions voting to reject Disney’s offers, what happens next remains unclear. But, that doesn’t mean the war on wages is over — in fact, it may just be getting started.

In early 2023, members of six unions representing full-time Disney World employees voted no on a contract offered by Disney. According to Disney, the rejected contract offered the following:

  • $20 per hour wage for full-time, non-tipped STCU roles during the contract’s term
  • Wages for full-time, non-tipped cast members will remain at least $5 above Florida’s minimum wage each year
  • 8 weeks paid child bonding for eligible full-time cast
  • Nearly 10% average pay increase during the first year
  • Immediate minimum $20 per hour wage for select roles, including housekeeping, bus drivers and culinary staff

©Orlando Sentinel

But, the unions (which represent around 30,000 full-time Disney World Cast Members) have said that Disney’s offer, which proposed raises of “only $1 a year for most workers,” was not enough to rectify the immediate concerns regarding the city of Orlando and the surrounding area’s increased cost of living.

Unions have been pushing for Disney to immediately increase the minimum wage from $15 to $18 per hour, and increase the pay of those who make closer to that by $3 to keep up with inflation.

We love Disney Cast Members!

According to Florida Atlantic University, rental rates have skyrocketed across the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the national average having increased by 6.9% year-over-year.

But in Orlando, that number is even higher — average rents have increased by 7.4% year-over-year. Cast Members say they are struggling now, and Disney’s offer wouldn’t provide immediate relief.

Disney World Cast Members make the magic!

After this contract offer was rejected, Disney and the unions met again to see if they could come to an agreement. Ultimately, that did not happen.

In mid-February, negotiations came to an end after nine hours, with Unite Here! Local 362, a Cast Member union, shared that “[d]espite the overwhelming message sent by Cast Members, Disney refused to add even one cent to its wage proposal.” They noted that instead, Disney’s most updated proposal “reduced retroactive pay for thousands of workers,” making the offer “even worse than the offer already rejected.”

Disney responded that they had “provided the union with options that would set all non-tipped cast members on a path to $20 an hour and provide opportunities for immediate increases, and we look forward to continuing discussions.”

The six unions that form the Services Trades Council have since shared that they will soon announce “public actions” that will “bring light to the plight of Cast Members struggling to survive the devastating increase in the cost of living.”

Cinderella Castle

But in the meantime, the battle between Disney and the unions is gaining more attention. On Super Bowl Sunday, while Eagles and Chiefs fans were holding their breaths, a new Disney commercial premiered. CEO Bob Iger shared in a tweet that Disney is “enormously grateful to our storytellers, our Cast Members, and our fans.”

And while many were impressed with the passionate orchestral swells that seemingly evoked a nostalgic feeling of “Disney magic,” some on social media pointed out the dissonance between the company’s words and actions.

When The New York Times reported on the rejected contract offer, they noted that some of the same trade unions actually did win an $18 per hour minimum wage increase for workers at the Orange County Convention Center. According to CNN, the average rent for an apartment in Orlando is around $1,800 per month, which is the “second-fastest pace of increase of any US market.”

TRON Cast Member in NEW Costume

Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), shared his support for the unions on Twitter, stating, “If Disney can afford to give a $20 million golden parachute last year to a CEO who did a lousy job, it can afford to pay Disney World Cast Members…a living wage.”

Sanders is likely referring to former Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s severance package after being fired, which was worth over $20 million.

According to Daniel Kline with The Street, if Disney and the unions do not come to an agreement on a contract and the current short-term extension comes to an end, the door is wide open for an employee strike. And with Universal Orlando recently announcing a minimum wage increase to $17 an hour, which could further fuel Disney World Cast Members’ fire.

Cast Members at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Cast Members’ requests for an $18 per hour minimum wage would mean a 40-hour per week employee would bring in $3,120 per month, and $37,440 per year. Alternatively, Disney’s offer of a $16 starting minimum wage equates to $2,773 per month or $33,280 per year.

In either case, the new wage would still not bring Cast Members up to the average cost of living in Orlando.


As for what happens next, we’ll have to wait and see. The unions have indicated that they’re working on announcing public actions, so stay tuned to DFB for more updates.

See Who Won’t Be Affected by Job Cuts Announced by Disney

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What do you think of the negotiations? Let us know in the comments.

The post Disney World Employee Wage War Attracts National Spotlight first appeared on the disney food blog.

source https://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2023/02/22/disney-world-employee-wage-war-attracts-national-spotlight/

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