The unions that represent service workers at Walt Disney World in Florida reached a tentative contract with the company that would raise the minimum wage for existing staffers to $18 by year end.
Disney workers, called “cast members” by the House of Mouse, must still vote to ratify the deal. They are represented by six unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union coalition, which plans a vote on Wednesday.
The unions overwhemingly rejected an earlier pact reached last month because it didn’t go far enough to address the rising cost of living in Florida, with 96% of members voting against that deal.
The new agreement which covers around 45,000 service workers at the theme park, calls for new and current cast members to earn $17 minimum when the contract is ratified. Current workers will also get retroactive pay back to October when their prior contract expired.
By the end of the year, all current cast members will be earning at least $18 an hour, Disney said, and entry-level pay would reach that point by next year. Each year of the five-year deal includes further increases.
Workers could see their hourly wages rise between $5.50 and $8.60 by the end of the five-year contract if it’s approved, union leaders told The Associated Press.
“The company finally heard voices of the cast members,” Matt Hollis, the president of the Service Trades Council Union, the collection of unions that are negotiating with Disney management, told CNN Business. “I can’t help but believe the overwhelming result of the previous vote played a role in reaching this agreement. I think an overwhelming majority of cast members will see this as a win.”
Disney also put a positive spin on the deal.
“Our cast members are central to Walt Disney World’s enduring magic, which is why we are pleased to have reached this tentative agreement,” Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement, pointing to Disney’s “industry-leading employment package,” which includes perks like tuition payments for higher education for hourly employees.
“With the support of the unions, we anticipate cast members will approve this new agreement.,” Vahle said.
The deal is seen as one that could set a floor for starting pay throughout central Florida’s tourism industry. That includes other parks owned by major entertainment conglomerates, including Universal Orlando, which is owned by under Comcast’s NBCUniversal.
Among those responding to news of the deal online was Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy O. Disney and grandniece of Walt, who has repeatedly criticized the family company for its astronomical executive pay and the relative poverty of Disney cast members, including in her 2022 documentary, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales.”
“I think I can be forgiven for a little victory dance,” she posted on Twitter Friday morning. “It’s not enough, the struggle continues and of course, this is the work of unions and workers who have chosen to stand strong, so if I get any credit it is tiny. But still, c’mon…. HOORAY!!!!”