Walt Disney World and its largest union group, the services trade council, heads back to the negotiating table with a federal mediator today. While no one is optimistic that the differences can be resolved today, no one is worried about an impending strike either.
The Service Trade Council is actually compose of six separate unions and Disney has done a masterful job of dividing them. Three of the unions support the deal because the offer from Disney favors their members who typically have a higher wage and require more specialized skills. While the offer on the table from Disney is less rewarding to other unions who feel that their members are being asked to take too big of a financial hit during tough economic times. Of course the latter group is more numerous than the three happy unions. Hence the rejection of Disney’s offer last October.
By sticking firm to what it calls its ‘Best and Final’ offer made in October, Disney is hoping to split the Services Trade Council and reduce the likelihood and impact of strikes or other job actions from a group of 20,000 cast members, which would be much more difficult for Disney to handle than if just 3,000 were on strike.
Disney had better be careful, however. By entering into federal mediation without any serious intent to negotiate a different offer, they could be in violation of the law and subject to penalties from the National Labor Relations Board.
We’re talking a difference of nickels and dimes in pay increases on the lowest end of the pay scale and slighlty better health care coverage for families. With Disney stock at its highest point in a decade, ticket prices going up every year, a recession that didn’t impact the parks as severely as they had worried, and travel forecast for a recovery, I hope Disney can find some magic in their hearts and a few pennies in their wallets to improve the quality of life for their front line employees.