NOT-SO-MAGICAL KINGDOM

Disney World workers in Orlando are rallying for livable wages

Disney's new-old CEO Bob Iger is more focussed on fixing Disney+ right now

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Asking for more than the bare minimum.
Asking for more than the bare minimum.
Photo: Bryan R. Smith (Getty Images)

Bob Iger, Disney’s new-old CEO, has a union negotiation heading his way.

Services Trades Council Union (STCU), a coalition of six unions, is resuming negotiations for a new contract for tens of thousands of frontline Disney World workers in Orlando, Florida, today (Nov. 29) and Thursday (Dec. 1). On the day between the two bargaining sessions, Disney’s “cast members” are prepared to rally for a fairer contract.

Here’s what they’re asking for: wage increases, healthcare costs, child bonding leave, retirement, and premiums.

Hurricane Ian and a failure to find common ground have delayed talks for months now. The old contract expired on Oct. 1, 2022, but the two parties have agreed to maintain a status quo till a new one is reached.

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The STCU is a powerful force. Two years ago, in October 2020, Disney was planning to move 5,299 full-time workers and 8,857 part-time workers from furlough to layoff status. Almost all of the part-time workers were hit, but STCU negotiated to ensure no full-time cast member was laid off.

Disney World workers’ wages, by the digits

70,000: The number of workers at Florida’s Disney World. It is the largest employer in Central Florida

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42,000: The number of Disney “cast members” represented by STCU

$800 million: Increase in Disney’s third-quarter revenues from its Parks, Experiences, and Products division, between pre-pandemic 2019 and post-pandemic 2022

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$27 million: Bob Iger’s reported annual pay check for his two-year tenure

$15: The minimum hourly wage that Disney agreed to in Oct. 2021

$18: The minimum hourly wage that Unite Here Local 737, one of the six unions, is calling for amid rising costs of living

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23.7%: The rise in average rent in the Orlando metro area in the last year.

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Will Bob Iger help Disney World workers?

Fixing how Disney’s theme parks work doesn’t seem to be the top agenda item for Iger. After all, the parks make plenty of money already. The division accounted for a third of Disney’s revenue and more than half its operating income over the first nine months of 2022. And it’ll likely bring in loads more, especially given the planned ticket price hikes.

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Iger’s immediate focus is on plugging the financial holes that Bob Chapek, his predecessor, left in the streaming business.

Under Chapek, Disney+ increased its content spending to around $30 billion this fiscal year, while charging customers far less than rivals. The customers poured in, but so did losses for the unit, which reached $1.5 billion.

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Now Disney will prioritize making money with streaming rather than just adding subscribers, Iger said during a town hall yesterday (Nov. 28), as the Wall Street Journal reported.

Charted: Bob Iger’s return is helping Disney’s ailing stock

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