LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Walt Disney World employees will soon be making almost double Florida's minimum wage under a new agreement reached between Disney and the six unions representing over half of the resort's staff.
The Service Trades Council Union and Disney announced their "tentative" agreement Saturday.
The change will raise non-tipped employees' starting pay from $10 an hour to $15 an hour by 2021. The settlement, which Disney officials called the "largest proposal ever offered by Walt Disney World Resort," will also include retroactive pay of $.50 an hour or 3 percent, depending on which is greater, for all employees' hours worked back to Sept. 24, 2017.
The agreement will now move to a contract ratification vote by the employees on Sept. 5 and 6. According to a news release, union representatives will unanimously recommend a "yes" vote.
“We are thrilled our Cast Members will have the chance to vote on what is one of the highest entry-level service wages in the country,” Vice President of Labor Relations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Robbin Almand said.
Union officials said the pay increase will bring an estimated $1 billion worth of new income to the Central Florida economy.
“These Union raises will be life-changing for the women and men who welcome millions of tourists to Walt Disney World,” STCU President Matt Hollis said in a statement. “Now money tourists spend here in Central Florida will stay here, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into local small businesses.”
The contract will increase pay periodically, beginning with a raise to an $11 an hour minimum wage in December.
The rest of the hourly increases are scheduled as follows:
- $12 in March 2019
- $13 in September 2019
- $14 in October 2020
- $15 in October 2021
The new agreement will end on Oct. 1, 2022.
Union representatives held a press conference Saturday at a Kissimmee hotel to celebrate the announcement of the higher wages. More than a hundred Disney workers attended.
"You make sure you keep your employees happy like they are now, and all those guests are going to be happy," said Kissimmee mayor Jose Alvarez.
Susie Easton was also at the press conference. She works in parking at Magic Kingdom and told News 6 she makes $10 per hour.
"A lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck," Easton said. "No it’s not enough for anyone. So that’s why this is going to help so much."
Maria Carrillo has been a housekeeper for the past 22 years at a Disney resort. She said she raised her two kids as a single mother and the tentative raise is life-changing for her family.
"People with the lower wages we struggle to pay bills, and especially when you have kids, your kids want vacation," said Carillo. "I started making $6.50."
STCU is comprised of six individual unions, all of which represent a total of 38,000 Disney employees from all parts of the theme park, which employs over 70,000 people.
The journey to higher wages between Walt Disney World and the local unions has been ongoing for years.
Unions and Disney agreed to raise hourly wages from $8 to $10 in 2014. Other non-union employers, like Universal, followed suit, raising minimum pay shortly after. Union representatives hope the new increase will "create a ripple effect," prompting more employers to increase pay once more.
The new push for $15 an hour did not immediately see support from Disney decision-makers.
In August of 2017, when the STCU proposed $15 an hour, Disney countered back by offering $10.25.
Then, in March, some Disney employees took to the streets in front of their workplaces to protest against the company's "holding" of promised bonuses because of union negotiations.
Union officials said nine months of talks led to a May proposal by the company offering "significant pay increases" in exchange for changes in work rules. Union representatives said the groups agreed to no major concessions.
Disney also recently announced a new program in which it will pay for the tuition of both full- and part-time employees. That program is scheduled to begin Sept. 4.