Union Workers at Walt Disney World Reject Contract Offer

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Union members who work at Walt Disney World voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday and Wednesday to reject a new contract deal that would have raised their wages by 6-10% over the next two years. Nearly 10,000 of the 38,000 Disney workers represented by the Service Trade Council Union (STCU) cast a vote, with 93% rejecting the contract, according to Orlando Weekly. STCU is a coalition of six unions who represent Disney workers, including Unite Here Locals 362 and 737.

Photo courtesy Unite Here Central Florida; used with permission.

Disney’s contract offer would have given full-time and part-time cast members (except those who receive tips) a raise of 3% or $.50 an hour, whichever was higher, retroactive to September 24, 2017. Cast members would receive another identical raise in September 2018. The offer also included a one-time $200 bonus for full-time cast members and those who receive tips, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Most new Disney workers start at $10 an hour (Florida’s minimum wage is $8.10/hour), and the union is seeking to increase that to $15 an hour. Roughly 23,000 of the cast members represented by the union make less than $12 an hour.

Disney’s offer would have increased the starting wage to $11 an hour over two years. The company estimates that its average hourly wage is $13.34 including overtime and premium pay. In statements to the Orlando Sentinel and to Orlando’s ABC affiliate, Disney agreed that cast members deserve a raise and was disappointed that its “fair and reasonable” offer was rejected.

Earlier this year, Disney also began offering or increased signing bonuses for certain positions, including culinary employees, housekeepers, and bus drivers, the Sentinel had reported at the time. November data from the U.S. Department of Labor puts the Orlando unemployment rate at only 3.2%, below the national average of 4.1%.

With the contract rejected, both parties will return to the bargaining table in February. They’ve been at odds on contract negotiations since the summer, and Disney had already requested a federal mediator to assist.

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About the author

Jill Diffendal

Jill has been visiting Walt Disney World since she was two years old. She credits her ongoing Disney love to her family, especially her grandmother, brother, and nieces. You can reach her at [email protected]

14 Comments

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  • Since the corporate tax rate is going to be reduced from 35% to 21%, Disney should be able to meet these requests and increase the wages for hourly employees. Other large companies including Wachovia and AT &T have already stated that they will do this for their employees based on the new tax cuts. Disney, being the behemoth that it is, should be a leader and an example to corporate America as to how their employees should be valued. Washington just gave them the funds to make this happen. It’s a win win for both parties.

  • While your comments regarding the vote are technically accurate, they are misleading because Florida is a right to work state. The only people entitled to vote on the contract are the union members (dues payers) and I suspect that the 10,000 figure you cite encompasses almost all of them. While I certainly think that they employees deserve a raise, the union’s bargaining power is limited so I wouldn’t expect Disney to sweeten the pot too much.

    • The Services Trade Council Union represents 38,000 Disney workers (those figures are also stated in the Orlando Weekly and WFTV-9 articles cited above, as well as on the union’s site: http://www.uniteherelocal362.org/wdw-ft/). The 10,000 who voted represent only 26.3% of all union members. For reference, Disney states that it employs around 70,000 cast members (http://wdwnews.com/fact-sheets/2015/11/01/walt-disney-world-overview-world-in-brief/), which would indicate that union members make up over half of Disney employees.

      • That math includes cast members employed through the state. So your math is still bad.

        They are representing 38,000 but it is unknown how many are actual union members .

        It would also be important to know what the cost of living increase is been over that time .

      • Jill- First, by law the union “represents” everyone in the class of employee that is covered by their representation agreement with Disney, whether or not they pay union dues. Otherwise, you would have a situation where Disney could choose to pay CMs who are not union members a different wage, which is problematic for a whole host of reasons. Second, if you think about the math I think you will realize I am correct. Of the 70,000 CMs, about 12,000 are on the college program and not subject to union membership (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/tourism/os-disney-college-program-20150130-story.html). Of the remaining 58,000, there are a number of skilled trades not represented, say 7,000. Of the 51,000 left, a significant number of the positions that do not directly interact with guests or do so only over the telephone are not covered. Finally, management is, of course, not covered by the union. Therefore, the 38,000 figure would be all that are left. Third, and most importantly regardless of the numbers, getting members to vote to reject a contract without a strike vote or other deadline is easy for the union. Everyone wants a bigger raise, so if I tell you to vote no and we will get you something better, how will you vote?
        I suspect that the result of all this will be that the company will make a slightly different offer with pluses and minuses, the union members will vote to accept, the union will claim victory, and the Kingdom will be happy (more or less) for another few years.

  • Maybe if they all stayed home for a few days Disney would come around. I don’t think people are going to knock the doors down trying yo get a job that pays an average of $10 hr most of which are probably the minimum wage the article spoke of. I bet ticket prices have risen at a greater rate than the wages have.

    • Harm when you are starving & the state or gov’t not paying your bills you take what you can. Glad you can LOOK DOWN on $$$.

  • This isn’t correct. The stcu only represents a portion of cast members. Skilled trades are not in that council

  • It was a $0.50 raise over two years. Meaning $0.25 this year, and another $0.25 next year. Also, this was only for the cast members that have been with the company for 3 or more years, with the newer employees receiving smaller raises in the same time. Disney tries to make it seem like such a nice offer for its employees, but brag about the record setting profits they are raking in. The head of the company made over $40 million for himself last year. There is no need for all the people that are making the magic to live on poverty wages.

  • This is a tough one for me…as a Cast Member of almost 18 years I see both sides in this argument. I’m blessed that I worked my tail off all these years and anytime a promotion or an opportunity came up for me to grow I seized the opportunity. I know so many Cast members that have been in the same role for 10, 15, 20 years and have had opportunities to grow and expand beyond what they do but they are content with the same job and as a result have been stuck making little to no money. I always was looking for new roles and applying for new positions and after 18 years with Disney I own my home, just bought a new car, take 2-3 vacations every year and have a pretty good life all thanks to Disney. I’m not saying Disney can’t or shouldn’t pay more but this notion that all the cast members are poor and in poverty just isn’t true. I started on the floor making $5.25 so I have been there but sometimes a little initiative goes a long way. It is easy to blame the company but so many opportunities exist to move up and to grow your pay with promotions and additional work and it is too bad more cast members don’t take the initiative to grow and better themselves.

  • Maybe they should quit and get paid less at other hotels and service establishments. Starting at $12 or higher is a joke. Unless you have a degree, you need to work your way up like everyone else in life. Hotels in the area start out at $9.50 an hour. Don’t complain, when there’s hundreds of thousands in the US making much less than you. It’s a slap in the face to them. A Medical Assistant with a 2 year degree ($20,000+ in debt) starts out at $15-16 an hour. By your standards they should start out at $20-22.

  • Hey just a small correction, Disney’s current proposal keeps the starting wages the same, only current Cast Members would get the raise.

  • The Union is NOT looking to get the starting wages to $15/hr. They are trying to get a progression to some dollar amount near there based on years of service. The starting wage would stay the same. The scale for each position is different with different top out rates. Disney’s current offer is the greater of 3% or 50¢ the first year and then the same the second year. Disney has made very little movement during these negotiations where the Union has made significant changes to their proposal to try and meet a common ground. Disney is not taking this seriously and the cast members are seriously considering a strike if Disney doesn’t start negotiating with them seriously.

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