The Orlando Sentinel has provided an update on the negotations between Walt Disney World and their largest union group, which began today. The group represents 36,000 cast members. Disney is proposing up to a 2.5 percent salary increase for current employees while freezing new cast members at a starting wage of $10 per hour.
The union has proposed an increase that would raise average salaries from $11.28 an hour up to $15.71. This is an 18% increase over what the union says are the current pay levels. According to Disney, with overtime and premium pay, the average salary is closer to $13.34 an hour. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cost of living increased by 2.5%
The union acknowledges that it is a steep increase, but they believe that raising the wages for tourism workers is good for Central Florida. “It’s something that affects the entire community in Central Florida,” said Jeremy Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737 during a news conference at a Kissimmee hotel after Monday’s discussions had ended. “Everybody knows somebody who works at Disney. There’s a lot of interest in this negotiation.”
“Our starting Cast Members currently earn nearly $2 more an hour than Florida’s minimum wage for entry level jobs,” Disney said in a statement. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union to reach a fair and reasonable agreement.”
The current negotations are regarding wages only. If no agreement is reached by October 24, other issues may be negotiated. The union plans to hold a rally on September 14 and both sides are set to return to the bargaining table on September 19.