Disney will give 125,000 workers cash bonuses, but Orlando unions want pay raise


  • Photo via Disney
The Walt Disney Company will be giving 125,000 employees a one-time cash bonus of $1,000 each and will invest $50 million to create a higher education program for workers.

The mass media and entertainment conglomerate credited these initiatives as a result of the GOP tax reform that massively reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the "largest one-time rate cut in U.S. history for the nation's largest companies," according to the Washington Post. Financial analysts have said the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul would largely benefit the wealthy and corporations.

Disney says it will spend a total of $125 million on cash bonuses for all full-time and part-time non-executive domestic employees who have been with the company since Jan. 1. Cast members will receive the $1,000 bonus in two payments this March and September.

The $50 million initiative into higher education will go to paying tuition costs for hourly employees. The company estimates that almost 88,000 cast members will be eligible for the program. Disney says it plans to invest $25 million in annual funding for the program going forward.

"I am proud we are directing approximately $125 million to our cast members and employees across the country and making higher education more accessible with the launch of this new program," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. "I have always believed that education is the key to opportunity; it opens doors and creates new possibilities. Matched with the $1,000 cash bonus, these initiatives will have both an immediate and long-term positive impact."

But union leaders representing thousands of Disney World workers in Orlando say the company is only sharing a tiny fraction of its profits with its employees.

Last month, workers belonging to six local unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union overwhelmingly voted to reject Disney's proposed contract, with union leaders comparing proposed pay raises to "poverty wages."

The unions originally wanted an increase for workers to $15 per hour, but Disney proposed an increase of 6 to 10 percent raise over two years for non-tipped full-time and part-time workers. Cast members making $10 per hour would have only received a 50-cent raise in their first year. Other workers who earn more would get a 3 percent raise in the same time frame. Disney also offered employees a one-time $200 bonus.

Out of the 38,000 cast members the unions represent, 23,000 workers 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 and notes that its starting wages are almost $2 more than Florida's minimum wage.

Leaders with Unite Here unions representing 24,000 service workers say the $1,000 bonus should be offered unconditionally to all unionized and non-unionized employees because it's unrelated to ongoing wage negotiations.

Although Disney is spending $125 million on these initiative, the unions estimate the windfall from the tax cuts for Disney is over $2 billion annually based on 2016 calculations.

"Unionized cast members in Orlando are bargaining for real raises that make a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of Central Floridians who live in poverty," the Unite Here unions said in a statement. "Disney has a choice to make: either spread the wealth created by the tax cut and grow the local economy or share only a fraction of their profits with their dedicated and hard-working employees."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.