The Mouse House has a problem that could ruin your upcoming vacation.
Disney World has often been branded with a phrase that was first applied to its sister resort Disneyland. “The Happiest Place on Earth”
When you visit one of the four Disney World theme parks, the company wants that image projected. Cast members offer smiling faces and an endlessly upbeat attitude designed to make visitors forget their problems and think that they’re truly in a magical place.
Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, are, of course, magical places after a fashion. They contain wonders that we don’t experience in our day-to-day lives, but unlike the animatronics that inhabit many of the rides, the cast members who work at the parks are actual people.
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Disney World Facing a Labor Problem
Disney has been under increased scrutiny in recent years as the cost of living has steadily risen in central Florida. For decades, the Orlando area was much cheaper than living on either coast, but the overall increased popularity of living in the sunny state has driven housing costs higher.
That puts Disney under an increased spotlight because nobody likes to think that the kind person who helped them at the parks (or the guy in the Winnie-the-Pooh suit) might be living in poverty. In many ways, however, that’s what happening and the company has been fighting/negotiating with its labor union both publicly and privately for years.
In 2018 the company reached an agreement to raise wages at Disney World to a minimum of $15 an hour, but that increase did not fully kick in until 2021. Now, the company wants to raise wages in a new deal at the same $1 per yea rate and workers are not happy about that.
“Thousands of Disney workers are on the verge of rejecting Disney’s wage offer. Workers at Disney have been clear that they need immediate, large raises. All 6 unions representing workers in the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) are recommending that our members vote no on Disney’s contract proposal to keep fighting for the raises workers need,” the union shared in a statement.
Florida Prices Keep Rising
Disney used to be able to take advantage of the fact that a lot of people want to work at Disney World. That allowed the company to pay relatively low wages which wasn’t really noticed by Park visitors because workers could make do with those wages because the cost of living was low.
Orlando now has a cost of living that’s 3% higher than the national average while housing costs are 7% higher, according to data from Payscale. Median rent comes in at $1,301 a month while the median home price is $425.882.
That means that a person making $15 per hour, or $600 for a 40-hour week would be paying more than 50% of their pre-tax income on rent alone.
“A popular standard for budgeting rent is to follow is the 30% rule(Opens Overlay), where you spend a maximum of 30% of your monthly income before taxes (your gross income) on your rent. This has been a rule of thumb since 1981, when the government found that people who spent over 30% of their income on housing were ‘cost-burdened,'” Chase bank shared.
Disney workers technically cannot strike, according to the current no-strike/no-lockout deal the union has with the company.
That changes when the deal expires, a date that’s not publicly known as the company and the union are working under an extension to the original deal.
The union wants an immediate raise to an $18-an-hour minimum while the company has offered to continue raising wages by $1 per year.