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Will there be a strike?

Planning a vacation to Disney World soon and want to know if there will be a strike when you get there? You might want to call Disney and let them know you expect them to settle with the unions and preserve your vacacation.

At lot of the talk around the union is that why would someone working at the park making $7.00 an hour want to strike. Do they expect to earn a living working at Dumbo or the fast food counter. The reality is no. They do not. Most are part time employees, people who are supplimenting their income, or dedicated Disney fans of some sort. These employees probably didn’t even vote in the election, and if they did they were probably among the ‘yes’ votes as their income would be severly impacted by a strike.

My sense is the people who voted no on this contract are the people who have the highest skilled jobs (some require special training or licenses). These positions include Bus Drivers, Characters, Housekeeping. Their pay scales have been structured in such a manner that if you work 4-5 years in a position you’re now earning what could be a decent wage ($13-$15/hr). If you throw in a little overtime and have two wage earners in the household you could even do quite nicely in parts of Orlando/Kissimmee.

So, now Disney has given these people (about 5,000-6,000 positions in total) a taste of what its like and wants to take it away. Disney’s plan is to reduce overtime hours by changing how OT is calculated and to make scheduling more stable, but at the same time not allowing anyone to work close to 40hrs a week, the new defination for OT. The union members rightly see this as an attack on their positions.

Florida is an at-will state, so non-union employees just find themselves scheduled out of the best time slots, reduced hours, etc. But Union Members have other protections, so they’ll use those protections and fight to keep their ability to earn a decent living.

This happened in Las Vegas when the housekeepers (mostly hispanic women who were enjoying economic power for the first time) got smart and banded together in their unions, then went on strike for better pay and benefits. They had the resort industry backed into a corner and the management eventually met the housekeepers more than halfway. This also had the side effect of increasing wages for other positions in the same union. The other union members haven’t forgotten this and will back the housekeepers anytime they want to threaten a strike.

At WDW, the bus drivers and housekeepers have the same ability to push Disney into a corner. Their only weakness is that they only have about 50% of the staff in the union. If Disney is able to move this strike to the off season they might be able to get by with a reduced staff working lots of overtime.

There are other factors at play here (the teamsters, how some employees were treated during the hurricanes, the rising cost of healthcare for everybody, Disney’s effort to put a good face forward for the 50th Celebration, etc). But it looks to me like the union members (especially the bus drivers and housekeepers) are willing to fight to keep their livable wages.

So should you postpone your vacation for Late November and December? That’s really up to you. I suspect if you’re staying off property you really won’t notice much of a difference if there’s a strike. Food lines might be longer. There might be leafletting or picketing at the Airports, malls, etc. Some supplies (food, merchandise) might not get through a teamster strike as other teamsters won’t cross picket lines. Of course, this all goes out the window if WDW’s other unions decide not to cross the picket lines too. In that case, I would definately reschedule.