Orlando union workers say Disney is discriminating by withholding bonuses

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PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Disney union workers in Orlando say the theme park company is discriminating against them by withholding bonuses it promised to all employees.

Leaders of the six organizations that make up the Service Trades Council Union said Thursday that about 80,000 Disney cast members across the nation were getting their first $250 of a $1,000 cash bonus the Walt Disney Company promised to all full-time and part-time non-executive employees in January.

But the 38,000 union workers in Orlando will not be receiving that money – union leaders say Disney representatives have told them they must accept the company's wage proposal before receiving the bonus. Back in December, STCU members overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Disney giving non-tipped employees a 6 to 10 percent increase over two years. The proposal would give cast members making a starting wage of $10 per hour a 50-cent raise during the first year, a far cry from the $15 per hour increase that cast members wanted.



Last month, the Disney union coalition filed a complaint with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board against the company for retaliating and discriminating against union cast members. In a statement, a spokesperson for Disney said wages and bonuses are "part of our negotiation process."

At a protest in front of the Crossroads entrance to Disney at State Road 535 and Hotel Plaza Boulevard on Thursday, union workers chanted "Disney, don't discriminate!"

"We want the $1,000 tax cut bonus and we want a good raise, too," says Jeremy Haicken, president of UNITE HERE Local 737.

Rosa Cruz, a housekeeper at Disney's Old Key West Resort, says she given the company 26 years of hard work and service.

"This morning, I feel heartbroken," she says. "This morning, I know that I've been discriminated. … Today, I have voice to say that I know I deserve the bonus. I deserve a good raise. And I know Disney can do better."

Union cast members who work at Disneyland in Anaheim are also not receiving the cash bonus as their contract is negotiated. The Los Angeles Times reports a union survey of 5,000 Anaheim cast members found that "73 percent of employees questioned don't earn enough to pay for such expenses as rent, food and gas." The survey also found that about 11 percent of resort employees "have been homeless or have not had a place of their own in the last two years," according to the Times.

At the protest in Orlando, Norma Jean Rose told the crowd she worked as a vacation planner at Magic Kingdom. She and other Disney planners constantly make profits for the company, and Rose has seen Disney executives bragging on TV about their quarterly earnings – so why can't workers get a raise?

"I love this company, but I don't like the way they're treating us right now," Rose says. "It's inhumane. We have to decide if we're going to put gas in our car or if we're going to eat that week."