By Michael Sainato

October 27, 2017

In Orlando, Florida, labor unions representing 38,000 full-time and part-time workers at Disney World agreed this week to extend an existing contract until December 1, 2017. The unions are fighting for wage increases for workers that include an increase of the company’s minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 an hour.

Last week hundreds of employees picketed outside of Disney entrances demanding better wages from the company. In negotiations, the unions and Disney were unable to come to an agreement. Disney was only willing to offer a five percent salary increase over the next two years.

In November 2016, the Orlando Business Journal reported that Disney saw a record year in growth and revenue. “Overall revenue at Disney reached a record $55.6 billion for the fiscal year, up 6 percent from $52.4 billion reported for the year prior.” The company has a reputation for boosting profits and revenue on the backs of its’ workers. In March 2017, Fortune reported that the Department of Labor ordered Disney to pay $3.8 million in back wages to more than 16,000 Florida employees for forcing the employees to pay for their own costumes. The costume deductions put several employees under the federal minimum wage of $7.25, violating federal wage laws. During hurricane closures, unions and Disney have clashed over Disney’s refusal to pay lost wages to employees, though this year after Hurricane Irma they agreed to pay some workers for the hours of pay they lost.

Several reports by former Disney employees have explained that the Disney culture and low wages often push employees to working long hours and shifts for overtime pay, putting in 60 hours a week or more to make ends meet. In June 2016, Thrillist published an article by a former anonymous Disney employee who worked for the company as a cast member for six years. She wrote, “Disney didn’t mind paying out the overtime. The thing they did mind was giving people days off for anything. And I mean ANYTHING. I knew a woman who alerted Disney to her wedding nine months before it happened, and they gave her one day off. And it wasn’t even her wedding date. They told her you can either get married and quit, or work around our schedule.” Other reports have detailed how the company micro-manages the appearances and behaviors of employees on and off the clock to maintain the appearance of rigid character personas.

Given the immense wealth Disney accrues from its parks, the grueling conditions the jobs often entail, and the high cost of living in Orlando, workers are demanding they receive a livable wage in exchange for the work they put into creating Disney World.

“Everyone hopes that Disney does the right thing. We all deserve this. Every single worker at Disney deserves to be making more money by working for a company that makes billions and billions of dollars a year,”  Susie Easton, a Parking employee at Magic Kingdom told local Orlando News outlet My13.

The protest rally lasted almost two hours until it was broken up by Orange County Police who threatened to arrest the union leaders who organized the protest for “unlawful assembly.”

Photo courtesy of Unite Here Central Florida

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