Disney World service workers represented by six unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union coalition will see their minimum hourly wage increase to $18 by the end of 2021, up from the current $15. The deal represents a major win for the 45,000 service workers covered by the contract, which includes costumed performers, bus drivers, culinary staff, lifeguards, and hotel housekeepers, among others. The wage increase, combined with other benefits such as industry-leading health insurance coverage and tuition reimbursement, could see workers’ hourly wages rise by up to $8.60 over the five-year contract.
Union leaders hailed the deal as a victory for workers’ rights and fair pay, noting that it could set a precedent for wages across central Florida’s tourism industry. Disney, which employs over 70,000 workers at the popular theme park resort outside Orlando, said the tentative deal was a testament to the contributions of the “cast members” who make the park’s magic happen.
The deal comes at a challenging time for Disney World, with Republican governor Ron DeSantis recently passing legislation that gives him control over the governing board of the district overseeing government services for the 27,000-acre resort, which was previously controlled by Disney. The move follows Disney’s public opposition to “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, which bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and lessons deemed inappropriate for younger children. DeSantis is positioning himself as a culture warrior, ahead of the expected GOP presidential run.
In addition to being a significant win for service workers, the Disney World agreement may also have wider implications for companies and corporations of all sizes grappling with the issue of fair compensation for employees. At a time when workers in numerous industries are increasingly advocating for their rights, Disney World’s decision to raise minimum pay above the current federal minimum and set an example for other firms, particularly in the hospitality sector, underscores the growing influence and power of organized labor movements.