The minimum wage will be raised to $15 per hour for more than 38,000 unionized workers at Walt Disney World after members overwhelmingly voted to accept a new labor contract.

Speaking at the Park Inn by Radisson in Kissimmee, Service Trades Council Union president Matt Hollis said members of the six-union coalition turned out in record numbers, with 13,673 votes cast on Wednesday and Thursday. Only 116 voted no.

 “It’s due to the hard work of the union members who stood behind their leaders,” Hollis said, “who empowered them to stay at the bargaining table, who empowered them to say it’s not enough, we need more, and we got a fair deal.”

The contract means a series of wage increases the next three years over Disney World employees . The minimum wage will rise to $11 in December 2018, $12 in March 2019, $13 in September 2019, $14 in October 2020 and then $15 in October 2021, in time for the park’s 50th anniversary. Disney’s initial offer in August 2017 was an increase to $10.25 per hour.

For employees who collect tips, their minimum wage will go up by 15 cents every December through 2021. For workers who were already making above $10 per hour, they’ll be paid at least $4.75 more per hour by October 2021.

“Our 50 percent wage increase will have a real, meaningful impact on our Cast and their families—and is part of our commitment to the thousands of Cast Members who make magic for our guests each and every day,” George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a press release. “Increasing wages for Cast Members represents a significant investment in Central Florida, and will provide a powerful boost to the local economy.”

On Sept. 27, workers will also receive a $1,000 bonus and a retroactive pay bump of 50 cents an hour or 3 percent, whichever is greater, for hours worked dating back to Sept. 24, 2017. The bonus had previously been announced by Disney after the Republican tax cut law reduced corporate tax rates.

While unions characterized the deal as containing “no major concessions,” Disney did win two small changes in its favor. New hires now have to wait one year, up from six months, before transferring to a new position. The contract also raises the cap on part-time employees. 38 percent of the unionized positions can be filled by part-timers, up from 35 percent under the old deal – a limit Disney had never reached.

Outside of pay raises, the contract includes expanded anti-discrimination protections covering pregnancy, gender identity and military and veteran status. It also adds up to five days of pay for “business disruptions” like hurricanes.

For other theme parks and hotel operators in Central Florida, the Disney deal puts pressure on them to match the higher wages or risk losing employees. For example, Universal Orlando’s minimum wage remains at $10 per hour. The last time Disney gave its unionized workers a raise in 2014, with the minimum then going from $8 to $10 per hour, Universal and SeaWorld Orlando boosted pay for their own workers within two months.

About The Author

John has covered sports, politics, government and health care for a variety of news outlets, including the Illinois Radio Network and Rivet News Radio, as well as freelance work for the Florida Radio Network and contributing to the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. You can find him in the theme parks every chance he gets.

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