Deputies break up rally of Disney union workers demanding living wages


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Orange County Sheriff's deputies broke up a rally of more than 1,200 Disney union workers Thursday demanding living wages from the Orlando theme park.

Laborers with one of six local unions that make the Service Trades Council Union protested for two hours at the intersection in front the Crossroads entrance to Disney at State Road 535 and Hotel Plaza Boulevard, and at one point, they marched in a large circle that blocked traffic. The STCU, which represents 38,000 Disney cast members, is negotiating a wage increase with Disney for $15 per hour. After initial bargaining negotiations in August, Disney has offered a 2.5 percent salary increase for its employees while keeping the minimum wage at $10 an hour for new workers.

The unions say out of the 38,000 Disney workers they represent, 23,000 cast members make less than $12 an hour, and out of those, 8,000 earn $10 an hour. Disney estimates the average hourly wage for one of its workers is about $13.34 including overtime and premium pay, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

At Thursday's rally, Disney workers argued their current pay is not enough to support their families and keeps them in poverty. The group chanted, "We work! We sweat! Put a raise on our check!"

Evens Vital, 40, is a third-shift overnight custodian at Magic Kingdom. After four years with the theme park, he earns $10.90 per hour after starting off at $8.45. Disney's proposal would increase his hourly wages by 35 cents.

"It's a misery wage," he says. "You have cast members sleeping in their cars, cast members who are homeless. Is that normal? No, I don't think so."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Vital supports his wife and two kids with a second job driving for Uber. He says can't afford his rent just working a full-time job at Disney. After paying taxes and insurance on his check, he has $220 to spare for his family of four to live on for two weeks. Because he works seven days a week, he doesn't get to spend much time with his family.

"We pressure-wash, we clean, we do everything to prepare the park to open, but Disney, somehow, don't want my family to be better off," he says. "It's a multi-million-dollar company. I have a 6-year-old kid and a 7-month-old. I don't get to raise them. I don't get to be there with them because I have to work, work, work to pay the bills. Is that normal?"

Vital says he and his fellow cast members need a minimum wage that gives them a pathway out of poverty.

"We want everybody to come together to ask Disney to make magic for the cast members because we are the ones making magic for the guests," he says.

The negotiation period between Disney and the unions ends Oct. 24.

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

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