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Disney World’s largest union seeks improved wages for cast members

You’re about to hear a lot of news about Walt Disney World’s largest worker’s group asking Mickey for a larger share of his cheese. The Service Trades Council Union (STCU), which represents 38,000 of WDW’s approximately 70,000 workers, want to open wage talks to resort employees can negotiate pay raises from the current minimum of $10 an hour. Disney CEO Bob Iger, by comparison, made $43.9 million last year.

The union has Disney in a bit of a bind. With the current Washington administration in office doing what it can keep foreign worker visas at a minimum, the resort won’t be able to rely on those workers to fill open jobs, this includes the loss of many Haitian workers who were on temporary visas after the devastating quake required their relocation to the USA.

Additionally, the Walt Disney Company is dealing with falling ad and subscription revenue in its television and cable divisions. This means the company expected to lean on the parks division for a larger share of its profits. Disney has already committed to building a large number of expansions in Orlando, including new themed lands and hotels, in order to keep the ahead of the curve in a world where entertainment options are more varied than ever.

Finally, the unemployment rate for Orlando is an incredibly low 3.4%, compared to 4.5% overall for Florida and 4.3% nationwide. Meanwhile the population of Orlando continues to rise and housing costs are increasing. This and other economic factors have made it increasingly difficult for front line Disney cast members to support themselves, let along a family, on the wages offered by Disney.

The wage talks are a scheduled part of the current contract (which expires in 2019). If both sides don’t reach an agreement on pay, the entire contract could be re-opened, said the STCU in a statement. The union expects to get a decent increase for its workers, likely due to the factors above.

Walt Disney World, for its part, promises to present workers with a new employment compensation package that it calls fair and equitable for the cast and the company. According to the union, the majority of Disney World’s workers make less than $15 an hour, even those that have worked for the company for many years.

Do Walt Disney World employees deserve to make a wage that allows them some economic security rather than living paycheck to paycheck? Should Disney be sharing more of its profits from the theme parks with the cast members who help make the magic? What other solution does Disney have when it’s already difficult to find new employees?

We’ll be keeping our eye on the negotiations, it’s sure to be interesting.

(via Bloomberg)