The Disneyland Resort is proposing a 36 percent increase in wages over three year’s span for its largest union contract. This would put its Master Services cast members at $15 per hour by 2020, two years before California’s minimum wage increases to that same amount. The offer was made in April as part of the resort’s ongoing contract negotiations with the Master Services Council, which represents the company’s two largest labor contracts, and includes approximately 9,500 hourly cast members.
“Disneyland Resort has created 10,000 new jobs in the last decade—and that’s just the beginning,” said Josh D’Amaro, president, Disneyland Resort. “Today’s investment in our cast — along with world-class training and development opportunities for both full- and part-time cast members — confirms that working at the Disneyland Resort is not only a good opportunity today, but a pathway to growth opportunities and career advancement tomorrow.”
The background to this is a state level plan to raise minimum wages and an Anaheim City ballot measure, sponsored by Disneyland’s largest unions, that would force companies that receive tax subsidies (like the Disneyland Resort) to raise the minimum wage immediately with a gradual increase to $18 an hour in 2022. Whether or not that measure passes, it has already succeeded by forcing Disney’s hand to act now and raise wages.
Over the last decade, Disneyland Resort employment numbers have increased by 50 percent, adding 10,000 new jobs, for a total of 30,000 cast members, making the resort the largest employer in Orange County. With the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019, and other expansion projects, thousands of additional roles will be added. In addition to operations jobs, Disney’s significant investment in Anaheim has created nearly 2,000 construction jobs since 2016.
There are good reasons to work for Disney beyond wages. Aside from being part of the magic, there are some great benefits, including tuition assistance. Earlier this year, the company announced an unprecedented education investment program for both full-time and part-time hourly cast members, with an initial investment of $50 million for the first year and an ongoing annual investment of up to $25 million. This program, which officially launches this fall, will provide tuition assistance and other support for Disney cast members interested in obtaining a college degree or gaining valuable skills through vocational training — opening up additional opportunities both within and outside of Disney.
“Our cast members want opportunities to learn and grow over the course of their careers. In fact, two-thirds of our surveyed cast expressed interest in the new program and we are proud to provide resources to help them advance and develop,” said D’Amaro.
In addition, the company provides multiple training and career development opportunities. Over the last five years, 89 percent of entry-level leadership roles in parks operations have been filled by hourly cast members. The fact that so many cast members want to make their career at Disney parks speaks to the strength of the overall employment experience, with 86 percent saying they are proud of their roles and the work they do, and 90 percent who believe Disney is a leader in the marketplace.
Disneyland continues to be a vital part of the economy for Anaheim. It will be interesting to see whether this proposed increase will be enough to allow the resort to attract quality candidates as wage pressures grow across the state.
There has been a lot of speculation about increasing wages for Walt Disney World cast members as well. Starting wage is currently $10 an hour and the resort’s largest union has been advocating for an increase to $15. With the unemployment rate in Orlando hovering around 3.1%, all the local theme parks will be forced to get creative with staffing, eventually external pressures will force a wage increase in Orlando too.