Disney unions urge ‘no’ vote on proposed contract, seeking better pay – Orlando Sentinel

The unions that represent Disney employees are urging workers to vote to reject Disney’s most recent wage offer in ongoing contract negotiations, saying the proposal does not raise employee pay by enough.

Workers will vote on the contract proposal next week, with the results expected late on Feb. 3. The unions and Disney will return to the bargaining table if workers reject the proposal, as the union expects will occur.

Members of the Service Trades Council Union, which represent about 45,000 workers at Walt Disney World, have been negotiating a new contract with Disney since Aug. 24. The previous deal expired Oct. 1.

Disney presented the unions with this proposal on Jan. 9, said Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union.

Union leaders have emphasized the need for raises, saying Disney’s current starting wage of $15 an hour is not enough for workers to live on in Orlando as the cost of living increases. A November union report found a single worker without children would need to earn at least $18 an hour to afford basic needs, though it noted “most workers need to make much more than that to cover their necessities.”

In negotiations with the unions, Disney World leaders have proposed to gradually increase starting pay to $20 an hour over the next five years. Certain roles, like housekeepers, bus drivers and culinary positions, would start at $20 under the proposal.

“This very strong offer provides our Cast Members with a nearly 10% average increase immediately and guaranteed raises for the next four years with every single non-tipped Cast Member promised at least a $20 starting wage during the contract, and the majority seeing a 33% to 46% increase during that time,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said in a statement.

Disney said its offer would raise the wages of around 13,800 full-time, non-tipped employees by more than $1 in the contract’s first year. The proposal is retroactive to October 2022, meaning Disney’s wages would continue to outpace Florida’s minimum wage by at least $5 each year, according to the company.

Other benefits in the proposed contract include eight weeks of paid child-bonding time for full-time employees with at least a year of service and an additional 401(k) option.

Hollis said Disney’s wages have been higher than Florida’s minimum wage for years because employees perform a variety of tasks and are held to famously high standards. Comparing the two is “absurd,” he said.

Disney’s pay was above the area’s living wage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hollis said, but the rising cost of living has erased the gains workers won in 2018.

“And while it is true that some workers would receive an initial increase of more than $1, the fact is that under Disney’s current offer, an overwhelming majority of the STCU workers — over 30,000 of the 45,000 — would receive only the initial increase of $1,” he said during a press conference Friday.

“And the job classifications that are slated to receive more than the initial $1 increase are those which the company currently has difficulty hiring or retaining employees, for various reasons,” he continued.

Earlier this week, Sodexo food service and concessions workers at the Orange County Convention Center voted to approve a contract that will increase all non-tipped workers’ wages to $18 an hour by August, making them the first hospitality workers in Orlando to reach that pay rate.

Bargaining committee leader Angie McKinnon said the negotiations set “a new standard for hospitality workers in Central Florida.”

Disney workers held a November rally in Kissimmee for better pay, holding signs with slogans such as “Full-time can’t buy diapers” and “Magic doesn’t pay the bills.”

There, Disney workers like recreation employee Amethyst Bennett and merchandise staff member Nicky Wilkins said they struggle to make ends meet earning $16.50 and $15 an hour.

At the time, 28-year-old Bennett said she and her husband, a Universal employee, could not afford formula and diapers for their 9-month-old daughter without the assistance of their parents, despite both working full-time.

Wilkins, 39, said she similarly depended on financial assistance from family members and knows of fellow Disney employees who have taken two to three jobs to make ends meet.

She shared her three-hour, one-way commute to Disney as part of the Orlando Sentinel’s 2019 series “Laborland,” which documented the struggles of Orlando’s low-wage hospitality workers.

“We’re paying over $2,000 in rent. You want to give us a dollar more? The cost of living is expensive,” she said in November.

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