Disney workers unions seek wage hike as 'path out of poverty'


Disney labor unions representing 36,000 full-time and part-time Disney workers announced Wednesday that they will seek wage increases as a "path out of poverty" for its members.

"Our wages here in Central Florida are some of the lowest in the country," says Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362. "A majority of people who work in this town make less than $30,000 a year. … When you couple that with increasing rents, increasing housing costs, child care costs, this is something that we find unacceptable."

The consortium of Disney unions, known as the Service Trades Council Union (STCU), says 23,000 cast members in the union make less than $12 an hour, and out of those, 8,000 earn $10 an hour.

At a press conference, union leaders said they will begin bargaining with Disney on Aug. 28 for a historic change to the standard of living for hospitality workers in Central Florida. The union's proposal has three components: an "accelerated" progression toward a living wage, raises for veteran employees who have been there since the 1970s, and simplified pay scales. Jeremy Cruz-Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737, says under the current contract with Disney, a worker making $10 per hour wouldn't reach a living wage of $15 per hour until 2028. During the last negotiations with Disney in 2014, the union got the company to agree to raise wages for new workers from $8.03 to $10.

"We do know that Orlando workers and their families cannot wait until 2028 to earn a living wage," Cruz-Haicken says.

In a statement to WFTV 9, Disney World Resort Vice President Jacquee Wahler says the company is planning an employment package that is "fair and equitable for the cast and the company." Wage negotiations with the unions will begin in August and expire on Oct. 24.