November 28, 2023
Setting the pace: New Disney contract raises wages to $15 an hour
Disney's wage increase puts pressure on other parks to raise pay.

Central Florida Roundup

Setting the pace: New Disney contract raises wages to $15 an hour

Disney raises wages to $15 an hour

Jason Garcia | 10/26/2018

Walt Disney World agreed to raise starting pay from $10 an hour to $15, a move being hailed by civic leaders and worker advocates as a potentially catalytic moment in low-wage Orlando.

The raises will be phased in over the next three years as part of a new labor contract with Disney’s largest union group. Central Florida’s largest employer, Disney has more than 70,000 full- and part-time workers. The hope is that the raises will force rival tourism operators — such as nonunion Universal Orlando, which has about 20,000 employees — to match Disney as they compete for workers in a tight labor market.

“Increasing wages for cast members represents a significant investment in Central Florida and will provide a powerful boost to the local economy,” Disney World President George Kalogridis said in a written statement.

The Florida contract came a few months after Disney reached a deal in California with a union group representing nearly 10,000 workers at Disneyland. Disney pledged to raise starting pay to $15 an hour by next year as part of that deal.

The Disney contracts underscore the pressure facing businesses across the country as low unemployment and inflation push wages higher. The U.S. Department of Labor says private-sector wages grew 2.9% in August, the highest year-over-year increase in nearly a decade. Wages in the leisure and hospitality sector grew 3.2%.

Operating labor costs at Disney’s global theme parks and resorts division have climbed 18.1% — $767 million — over the past three years, primarily because of inflation, according to the company’s regulatory filings. The division’s operating costs have risen 17.1% over the same period. Disney absorbed the rising costs in large part by raising prices; the average price for U.S. theme park tickets and cruise line sailings rose 3% last year alone.

Disney World management won some key concessions from its unions in exchange for going to $15 an hour. The resort will be able to use more part-time workers, as the new contract allows for part-timers to work 38% of total hours, up from 35%. It will also trim some costs by preventing employees from clocking in more than 5 minutes before their shifts begin and clocking out more than five minutes after it ends.

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Tags: Central, Travel & Tourism

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