Unions fight for living wage for Disney workers

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Thousands of unionized workers at Walt Disney World parks are negotiating for a wage increase and other benefits; and like what happened after previous wage hikes, the laborers hope that if they win a victory, higher wages will spread to other workers in the huge service industry in Central Florida. WMNF News interviewed Ivette Garcia, who has been a housekeeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for 5 years. She makes $10.50 an hour and is a member of the UNITE HERE Local 737 union.

“I would like to have, decent pay, in a living wage area. You know, what I’m getting paid now, it’s not enough for me to live comfortable because here, where I live at in the city of Kissimmee, it’s really high–expensive. You know, the rent is really high. The food is really high. It’s not easy to live hourly. It’s not easy.”

And a living wage, would that be about $15 an hour? Is that something that you think that you could survive on?

“I could say something like that, yeah.”

Tell us what it’s like to live on the wage that you make right now. How do you make ends meet?

“I work at six days in a week. Sometimes I do fall off. Not all the time. I check, which means I have to hold off on my rent for one week and another week cut it for my gas and my utilities and also for my food. And also with my medical expense, because I have to see a doctor because of 5 years working in the same positions, you know, I end up having carpal tunnel and I have to see a doctor for that.”

If your union is successful and it negotiates with Walt Disney World and you get a $15 an hour wage, that help the unionized workers that you work with. But, what about the people who aren’t members of the union? Do you think that that might trickle down to them, that they might actually get better working conditions and get better wages if you win this victory?

“They will also be involved in that. Even though they’re not in the union, they will also be getting a raise also, as well, the same amount that we’re asking for. Even though they’re not a union member.”

Is there anything else that you think that our listeners should know about your struggle for higher wages with Disney World?

“Housekeeping, as this area and all the areas is a hardworking job. Because they tell us to do the best in what we love to do and it’s really demanding. Working at Disney is a really demanding job because of– but, really this place is really expensive and we do our best to do it, but, I think that what we’re getting is not what we deserve. We need more than that. In order to live right. In order to come out of poverty. I’m not trying to ask to be rich, I’m trying to ask for what I want to be living, so I won’t have to work overtime just to kinda make ends meet. I want to spend time with my family. I want to work 5 days a week, where I actually have my two days off, knowing that all my bills are going to be paid.”

In a press release this week, the Service Trades Council Union, which represents most Disney front-line cast members, set out its negotiation priorities. Those include moving toward a $15/hour living wage long before the current 2028 target.