Disney Employees Negotiate for a Wage Increase
Every paycheck Diana Geary gets from her $11.50-an-hour job as a ride operator at Animal Kingdom, the 41-year-old asks herself several important questions: How will she buy groceries? Can she split up this invoice she can’t afford into monthly payments? And who do does she have to call to get that bill pushed back?
Like many hospitality workers who toil away for low wages in Central Florida’s tourism economy, Geary can’t afford much on her salary. She and her husband rent with her parents to make it work, though some of her co-workers have it worse – they live in cheap motels behind Disney on U.S. Highway 192 or borrow money from family for basic needs.
Geary’s union Unite Here! Local 362 has joined with five other local unions representing 38,000 Disney cast members to negotiate a wage increase with the theme park for $15 an hour. Disney has countered by offering what it considers a “fair and equitable” employment package of a 2.5 percent salary increase for current employees while keeping the minimum wage at $10 an hour for new workers. The consortium of Disney unions, known as the Service Trades Council Union says 23,000 cast members in the union make less than $12 an hour, and out of those, 8,000 earn $10 an hour.
Union members planned a rally this week outside Disney gates to show the company their strength, including Geary. “I want Disney to see how important this is to their cast,” she says. “That’s why they’re coming out. They need a living wage.”