Disney World and the unions representing its workers have reached a tentative agreement to boost the resort’s minimum wage from $15 to $18 an hour by the end of the year.
The deal will make Disney the highest-paying tourism employer in Orlando after Universal raised its starting wages to $17 an hour in February and a local go-karting franchise, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, boosted its hourly pay to $17.50 this month.
The six unions in the Service Trades Council Union coalition announced Thursday they supported a proposed contract with Disney that would increase hourly pay for full-time workers by at least $5.50 over the next five years. Some workers will receive an $8.60 an hour raise during the proposed contract’s run through October 2026, according to the coalition.
Disney and the unions had been negotiating a new contract since Aug. 24, with wage increases forming a major sticking point. The unions represent about 45,000 of Disney World’s staff.
Workers had been pushing Disney for an immediate $18 minimum wage under the contract, which a union study found is the least tourism workers need to get by in Orlando as costs rise. Union members overwhelmingly voted to reject a contract offer in February they said would have given most workers a raise of $1 an hour year-over-year.
Unite Here Local 362 President Eric Clinton said the deal gives Disney’s full-time employees a $2 hourly raise upon ratification, $1 of which is retroactive to October. Workers will reach $18 an hour with another $1 pay bump in December under the agreement.
The deal is expected to be ratified next week, Clinton said. Workers will vote Wednesday.
“This is a historic contract settlement. Both sides should feel proud of the hard work that went into it, and for our members, this will be an increase in their quality of life,” Clinton told the Orlando Sentinel.
STCU President Matt Hollis called the $18 minimum wage a “fantastic accomplishment.” Workers making the minimum rate will get a 36% wage increase over the proposed contract’s term, he said.
“It’s a tribute to the workers that are standing behind me, and to the representatives that stayed at the bargaining table and continued to make our message known publicly,” he said during a press conference. “We could not be more proud.”
In a statement, Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said Disney World was pleased to reach the tentative agreement with its employees.
“Disney is proud to offer an industry-leading employment package that includes comprehensive benefits and affordable medical coverage, in addition to 100 percent paid tuition for higher education for hourly employees through the Disney Aspire program,” he said. “With the support of the unions, we anticipate cast members will approve this new agreement.”
Though Disney’s base pay rate will increase to $18 this year, workers in higher-paid roles will earn more. For example, housekeepers and prep cooks will get $20 this year and reach $24 an hour in October 2026, and chef assistants will earn $24.60 this year and reach $28.60 in October 2026.
The agreement also includes eight weeks of paid child bonding leave for eligible employees, according to the union coalition.
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Mel Paradiso, a third-shift custodial employee at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, helped bargain the contract. She said her coworkers are celebrating the anticipated pay raises under the new agreement, though some wish the amounts could have been higher.
For Paradiso, the deal will make it “a little more comfortable” for her family to pay rent and buy necessities without having to live paycheck-to-paycheck as they did before.
“I have a 6-month-old son, so buying diapers, wipes, all that stuff for him is going to be a little less strenuous,” she said.
Even making a $1 an hour premium working overnight, Paradiso said she and her husband had to strategize which bills they could pay month-to-month.
It’ll be “kind of nice to not have to do that as much” going forward, she said.
“I actually started [bargaining] while I was still pregnant with my son, so it’s like he was here for the whole thing,” she said, laughing.
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