Disney World, union reach tentative deal for minimum wage increase
ORLANDO, Fla. - After months of back-and-forth negotiations, The Walt Disney Co. and the unions in Florida just reached an agreement on a pay raise.
Once it's ratified, all service workers at Walt Disney World Resort will be making a minimum of $18 an hour. It would be implemented by the end of the year. Workers will also receive retroactive pay dating back to October 2022 as part of the deal is expected to be ratified as early as next week.
"Our cast members are central to Walt Disney World’s enduring magic, which is why we are pleased to have reached this tentative agreement," said Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort. "Disney is proud to offer an industry-leading employment package that includes comprehensive benefits and affordable medical coverage, in addition to 100 percent paid tuition for higher education for hourly employees through the Disney Aspire program. With the support of the unions, we anticipate cast members will approve this new agreement."
Disney World service workers who are in the six unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union coalition had been demanding a starting minimum wage jump to at least $18 an hour in the first year of the contract, up from the starting minimum wage of $15 an hour won in the previous contract.
Workers could see their hourly wages rise between $5.50 and $8.60 by the end of the five-year contract if it’s approved, union leaders said.
"Securing an $18 minimum hourly rate this year, increasing the overall economic value of Disney’s original offer, and ensuring full back pay for every worker are the priorities union members were determined to fight for," said Matt Hollis, head of the coalition of unions. "Today, we won that fight."
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It's a move that many Disney workers said will make a huge difference toward helping face cost-of-living hikes in housing and other expenses in Central Florida.
"This proposal is going to be life-changing for our family. We live in a one-bedroom apartment, and now we can make it two," said Mel Paradiso.
"When we fight, we win," said Diego Henry. "That's been my chant forever, because we have to be able to stay in that fight. Didn't people say you got to be in it to win it? And we were in it."
The contract with the service workers covers the costumed character performers who perform as Mickey Mouse, bus drivers, culinary workers, lifeguards, theatrical workers and hotel housekeepers, representing more than half of the 70,000-plus workforce at Disney World. The contract approved five years ago made Disney the first major employer in central Florida to agree to a minimum hourly wage of $15, setting the trend for other workers in the hospitality industry-heavy region.
This new deal now makes Disney the highest-paying tourism employer in Orlando.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.