Back in February, unionized workers at Disney World were worried the company would withhold their “tax reform” bonuses to get the upper hand in contract talks. But after months of tense negotiations, the workers have secured those $1,000 checks and a whole lot more.
Under a tentative agreement reached this weekend, workers at the entertainment park and its sister properties will receive what both Disney and union leaders are touting as precedent-setting raises. The current starting wage of $10 per hour will rise to $15 by 2021 ― a 50 percent pay increase over three years.
Workers already earning above the company’s minimum will receive pay bumps amounting to at least $4.75 over the same period, with most of the raise front-loaded. A 50-cent pay increase for all workers will come retroactively to last September, putting an extra $1,000 or so in many employees’ pockets.
That’s on top of the $1,000 bonuses Disney said it was giving in response to the tax overhaul passed by Congress in 2017. Those payments will come through if the deal is ratified by union members, who will vote on the contract Sept. 5 and 6. The workers include cast members, costume artists, housekeepers, servers and parking attendants, among others.
Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362, one of the six local unions involved in the negotiations, believes the raises are significant enough to affect the broader economy in Orlando. He said they’ll give lower-income workers more money to spend and force non-union employers to pay higher wages to attract talent.
“We feel like we won for everyone,” said Clinton, a former cast member at Disney’s Hollywood Studios property. “We won for our members at Disney, because they’re going to win big raises, and we won for people who don’t yet have a union in our industry. Universal, SeaWorld ― all these other employers, they do have to compete for workers here. We set a new standard.”
A big motivating factor was Disney screwing with the workers, saying they wouldn’t deliver the bonuses until the contract was done as a ploy to pressure the union to settle for Dumbo peanuts. It backfired and motivated workers to stand together.
As always, organize your workplaces, join a union, and fight to make that union work for you.