Disney World Workers Win 37% Salary Bump, $18 Hourly Minimum Wage

Pilots aren’t the only ones scoring double-digit wage hikes these days. After about eight months of negotiations, approximately 45,000 theme park workers and Disney World have agreed to a $3-an-hour bump in pay by the end of 2023 and raises of roughly 37% by 2026.

What a difference a few months makes. In early February, Disney’s unionized park workers rejected a five-year contract “best offer,” saying that the company’s proposed $1-an-hour-per-year raise was not enough.

MORE FROM FORBESAhead Of Disney Earnings Call, Theme Park Workers Rejected $1-An-Hour Raise

Currently, the minimum starting hourly wage for Disney World workers is $15, significantly higher than Florida’s state minimum wage of $11, which will rise to $12 in September. Disney’s previously rejected offer would have brought the company’s minimum wage to $16 an hour, with most union members to at least $20 an hour by 2026.

After the final vote next week, Walt Disney World workers will instead receive an immediate bump to a minimum $17 an hour, which will rise to $18 an hour by the end of 2023. Then, over the next three years, workers will see additional bumps of $2.50 to $5.60 per hour.

“Sticking together works,” says Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here, Local 362, whose members include attraction workers who run rides, custodial workers, and ticket sellers at the parks. “In 2018, the starting wage for Disney cast members was $10 an hour. And five years later, at the end of this year, it’s going to be $18 an hour. That is a pretty tremendous statistic when you think about it.”

Local 362 is one of six unions in the Service Trades Council Union (STCU), a consortium representing about 45,000 of Walt Disney World’s full- and part-time workers, from costumed characters and bus drivers to hotel housekeepers, restaurant and shop employees, and more.

“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, in a statement. “Disney is proud to offer an industry-leading employment package that includes comprehensive benefits and affordable medical coverage, in addition to 100% 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.”

Theme parks remain Disney’s most successful segment of business. In fiscal year 2022, Disney’s parks division raked in $7.9 billion in operating profit, compared to a loss of about $4 billion for its streaming unit.

“Workers today across the country see that our bosses are getting richer and richer every single day and we’re stuck,” says Clinton of the renewed union activism across a variety of industries in the U.S.. “Our rent has gone up. And gas is too expensive. And food is outrageous. What about us?”

Did the return of CEO Bob Iger impact negotiations? “Absolutely not,” Clinton says. “Bob Iger ran the company for many, many years prior to his departure. He was in charge when we had to fight for $15 an hour. So no, I don’t think him coming back had anything to do with our settlement or what we would call a victory.”

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