ORLANDO, FL. - In a move that could set the tone for the entire tourism industry in Central Florida, service worker unions at Walt Disney World reached a tentative agreement with the company on Thursday. The deal would increase the starting minimum wage from $15 to $18 an hour by the end of the year.
The six unions that comprise the Service Trades Council Union coalition, representing around 45,000 service workers at the Disney theme park resort outside of Orlando, had previously rejected an offer that fell short of the $18 hourly minimum wage last month. But after negotiations, a five-year contract proposal was agreed upon that the workers will vote on next week.
According to union leaders, if the contract is approved, workers' hourly wages could increase by anywhere from $5.50 to $8.60 by the end of the five-year term.
Matt Hollis, head of the coalition of unions, stated,
The priorities union members were determined to fight for are securing an $18 minimum hourly rate this year, increasing the overall economic value of Disney's original offer, and ensuring full back pay for every worker. We won that battle today."
The agreement also includes health insurance coverage and tuition reimbursement, described by Disney as "industry-leading" benefits.
Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said,
Our cast members are central to Walt Disney World's enduring magic, which is why we are pleased to have reached this tentative agreement."
The service workers' contract covers costumed performers who portray Disney characters, bus drivers, culinary workers, lifeguards, theatrical workers, and hotel housekeepers. These workers comprise more than half of the more than 70,000 people who work at Disney World.
Five years ago, Disney was the first major employer in central Florida to agree to a $15 minimum hourly wage, setting the standard for other workers in the hospitality-dominated region.
But the recent legislation granting the Republican Governor of Florida the authority to appoint the district's governing board that oversees government services for the 27,000-acre (11,000-hectare) resort has put Disney in a precarious position. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed the bill, removing Disney's previous board control.
The agreement reached between Disney and the service worker unions is a significant victory for workers, who have long pushed for higher wages and better benefits. And it could have ripple effects throughout the central Florida tourism industry, where many workers have struggled to make ends meet on minimum wage salaries.
But the future of Disney's governance and relationship with its workers remains uncertain. As the largest employer in central Florida, Disney's actions will likely set the tone for other regional employers. But, for now, service workers at Disney World can celebrate their hard-fought victory and hope for a brighter future.
What impact could the tentative agreement between Disney World and its service worker unions, which will raise the minimum hourly wage to $18, have on the broader tourism industry in central Florida? Share your thoughts in the comments, and if you found this article worth reading, show some love and buy me a coffee. It will be greatly appreciated and might even prevent me from falling asleep on my keyboard.
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