ORLANDO, FLORIDA (AP) – Union members voted down a contract proposal covering tens of thousands of Walt Disney World service workers, saying it didn’t go far enough toward helping employees face cost-of-living hikes in housing and other expenses in central Florida.
The unions said that 13,650 out of 14,263 members who voted on the contract on Friday rejected the proposal from Disney, sending negotiators back to the bargaining table for another round of talks that have been ongoing since August. The contract covers around 45,000 service workers at the Disney theme park resort outside Orlando.
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 USD18 an hour in the first year of the contract, up from the starting minimum wage of USD15 an hour won in the previous contract.
The proposal rejected on Friday would have raised the starting minimum wage to USD20 an hour for all service workers by the last year of the five-year contract, an increase of USD1 each year for a majority of the workers it covered.
Certain positions, like housekeepers, bus drivers and culinary jobs, would start immediately at a minimum of USD20 under the proposal.
“Housekeepers work extremely hard to bring the magic to Disney, but we can’t pay our bills with magic,” said Vilane Raphael, who works as a housekeeper at the Disney Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
The company said that the proposal had offered a quarter of those covered by the contract an hourly wage of USD20 in its first year, eight weeks of paid time off for a new child, maintenance of a pension and the introduction of a 401K plan.
“Our strong offer provides more than 30,000 Cast Members a nearly 10 per cent on average raise immediately, as well as retroactive increased pay in their paychecks, and we are disappointed that those increases are now delayed,” Disney spokesperson Andrea Finger said in a statement.
A report commissioned last year by one of the unions in the coalition, Unite Here Local 737, said that an adult worker with no dependents would need to earn USD18.19 an hour to make a living wage in central Florida, while a family with two children would need both parents earning USD23.91 an hour for a living wage.