Unionized workers at Disney World have rejected a contract proposal from the company that would have given them at least a $1 an hour raise each year over the five-year life of the rejected offer.
The 32,000 Disney employees, members of six different unions, had been urged by their unions’ leadership to vote no. More than 14,000 votes were cast and 96% voted no.
“I think the workers at Disney World have sent a loud message that $1 is not enough. The company need to provide a meaningful wage increase that addresses the economic issues that workers are facing,” said Matt Hollis, president of the Service Trades Council Union, the collection of unions that are negotiating with Disney management.
Union negotiators are demanding an immediate $3 an hour raise, which would be about a 20% pay hike for the 75% of workers now earning $15 an hour. The union and rank-and-file members say workers wouldn’t be able to afford to live in central Florida under the company’s offer.
The company, which had described its rejected contract proposal as a “very strong offer,” said that 46% of cast members would have gotten more than a $1-an-hour raise in the contract’s first year, and that the majority of employees would have received raises totaling 33% to 46% during the life of the contract. Retroactive pay increases back the October 1 expiration of the previous contract would have resulted in lump sum payments of about $700 per employee.
“We are disappointed that those increases are now delayed,” said Andrea Finger, a spokesperson for Disney.
Hollis said that management has agreed to return to the negotiation table, though no date for talks has been set. Unions have represented workers at Disney World since soon after the park’s 1971 opening, but employees have never gone on strike, and the unions have yet to set a strike deadline or schedule a strike vote.
Those working under this contract, all of them full-time employees, represent more than 40% of all workers at Disney World. Currently, the park has 75,000 cast members, as the company refers to its employees, including full-time and part-time, hourly and salaried staff. It is comparable to Disney World’s pre-pandemic employment levels.
Negotiations on a new union contract had been ongoing since August.
The unions said those workers who would have gotten more than a $1 an hour pay increase under the offer are in jobs where Disney is having trouble filling openings and retaining workers. And they say with rising rents and other costs in the Orlando area, a $1 an hour increase isn’t sufficient.
Rent for a typical apartment in the Orlando area costs about $1,800 per month according to Realtor.com, the second-fastest pace of increase of any US market.
Disney reported that its parks, experiences and products unit, which includes Disney World and other park locations worldwide, had revenue of $7.4 billion and operating income of $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2022, which ran through October 1. The first six months of that fiscal year were affected by surging Covid cases.
Revenue was up 36% and profits more than doubled from the previous fiscal year. And both revenue and operating profits are above what the company posted in fiscal year 2019, before the pandemic, with a 12% rise in revenue and a 10% gain in earnings.
Disney is due to report financial results for the final three months of 2022 on Wednesday, with analysts surveyed by Refinitiv forecasting that revenue will be up 7% from a year earlier, but earnings will be down 27%.