Union asks Disney to increase worker pay
The union representing about half the workers at Walt Disney World called on Disney executives Friday to increase wages to combat recent hiring and retention problems.
In a letter to Disney, the Services Trade Council cited mandatory overtime, increases in living costs — such as high gas prices — and stagnant wages as contributing to "low morale" on the job.
"The problem has clearly become such a general one affecting so many of the cast members that we represent we felt we needed to emphasize to the company the fundamental issues of the low starting wage," said Morty Miller, president of the council, an umbrella group that represents six unions with 29,000 Disney employees.
Disney launched a hiring blitz in recent months that featured job fairs and bonuses to workers who refer new hires.
Miller said those tactics ignore the real reason Disney can't hire and retain enough workers: compensation. He said 20 percent of the workers he represents earn less than $7 an hour.
Universal Orlando raised its minimum wage this month by 50 cents to $7.25 an hour as a way to remain competitive in the hiring game in a market with low unemployment. In March, SeaWorld Orlando went to $7 an hour.
Disney's starting wage is $6.90.
Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the company is always assessing its pay packages and ways to recruit employees.
"We offer a competitive package of wages and benefits, including subsidized on-site child care, commuter assistance and theme-park admission," he said. "We are constantly evaluating the market to ensure our wages remain competitive. Currently, we are looking at several different options to help us recruit and retain the best and most qualified cast members."