Labor talks have ended with six unions representing Disney World workers close to winning a $15 starting wage — with “no major concessions.”
The six unions represent 38,000 employees, covering everything from costuming to housekeeping to monorail workers. They announced a contract settlement had been reached in a press release sent just before 1 a.m. Saturday.
If approved by the union membership, the contract would ramp up the minimum wage to $11 in December 2018, $12 in March 2019, $13 in September 2019, $14 in October 2020 and then $15 in October 2021, in time for the park’s 50th anniversary.
“These Union raises will be life-changing for the women and men who welcome millions of tourists to Walt Disney World,” Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union, the union coalition. “Now money tourists spend here in Central Florida will stay here, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into local small businesses.”
The contract is a major shift from Disney compared to where negotiations began. Its first offer to unions in August 2017 was a 2.5 percent raise for current employees while freezing the starting wage for new workers at $10 per hour. The Mouse later increased this to a 6 to 10 percent raise over two years, which union members rejected in December.
Then came the $1,000 bonuses Disney announced after the Republican tax cut law slashed corporate tax rates. The 38,000 employees covered by the Services Trade Council Union organizations, however, did not receive those bonuses because of the ongoing wage negotiations with Disney. When the unions complained to the National Labor Relations Board about the bonuses being withheld, the board ruled in Disney’s favor.
While Disney workers talked of a strike, University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith told Orlando Rising in June that a walkout was unlikely.
“I assume most of them are lower-paid employees and like many people, are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s a big hardship,” Snaith said.
In May, Disney offered a $15 minimum wage but asked for considerable concessions in return, including reduced overtime and double-time pay. The unions say no major concessions are included in the new deal and workers will receive the $1,000 bonuses. Additionally, workers will receive a retroactive pay bump of 50 cents an hour or 3 percent, whichever is greater, for hours worked dating back to Sept. 24, 2017.
In its statement, the unions touted the benefits of raises to the local economy, estimating the four-year contract will bring an “$1 billion influx of additional wages.”
“These Union raises at Disney will benefit everyone in Central Florida,” said Jeremy Haicken, Secretary Treasurer of the Service Trades Council Union. “Disney did the right thing by raising wages. Living wages mean cast members will spend more locally on school supplies and clothes for their kids, drive more dependable cars and go out to eat in local restaurants.”
According to Disney’s press release, union members will vote on ratifying the contract on September 5 and 6, with the unions recommending a yes vote.
“We are thrilled our cast members will have the chance to vote on what is one of the highest entry-level service wages in the country,” said Robbin Almand, vice president of labor relations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “This represents a 50 percent bump in pay bringing starting wages to $15 an hour by 2021.”