14,000 Disneyland Cast Members Vote To Authorize A Strike If Negotiations Are Unsuccessful – Updated

UPDATED with vote results: The vote is in, and it turns out many of those who work at the Happiest Place on Earth aren’t so happy.

The largest bargaining unit of Disney workers in California representing more than 14,000 cast members, announced last week that those same employees had voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. The Disney Workers Rising Bargaining Committee announced the vote was 99% in favor of authorization.

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That does not mean there will be a strike among everyone from custodians and ride operators to candy makers and merchandise clerks. What it means is that if discussions set for today and tomorrow with Disney do not bear fruit, union leadership is authorized to declare a strike.

“We have given the company more than enough time to do the right thing,” the Bargaining Committee said in a statement. “If Disney is not prepared to agree to the offer you deserve after two more days of bargaining, we will move forward with the actions we need to take and that you have overwhelmingly voiced your support for.”

Disneyland officials sought to stress that a strike authorization “is not unusual as part of a negotiations process,” and that “a strike has not been scheduled.

Here is their full statement:

We greatly appreciate the important roles our cast members play in creating memorable experiences for our guests, and we remain committed to reaching an agreement that focuses on what matters most to them while positioning Disneyland Resort for growth and job creation. Master Services Council’s strike date authorization is not unusual as part of a negotiations process, and we look forward to continuing discussions at upcoming meetings on Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 23. A strike has not been scheduled, and Disneyland Resort continues to welcome guests.

PREVIOUSLY on July 7: All is not well in the Mouse’s house.

The largest bargaining unit of Disney workers in California – representing everyone from custodians and ride operators to candy makers and merchandise clerks – today announced that a strike authorization vote is scheduled for Disneyland cast members. The results are expected to be announced by July 20, after votes are tallied and the unions have notified cast members.

Unions representing 14,000 cast members at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the Disney hotels entered into negotiations with the company on April 24 asking for what they say are fair wages, a fair attendance policy, seniority increases and safe parks for cast members and guests.

Disneyland officials, for their part, said in a statement that “continued conversations [have been] taking place throughout the last few months. The official Disneyland Park Master Services Council contract expired on June 16, with Master Services Council declining to enter into a contract extension.”

In May, Disney cast members filed unfair labor practice charges against Disney on behalf of 14,000 workers at the resort for unlawful discipline, intimidation and surveillance of union members exercising their right to wear union buttons at work. The charges relate to more than 675 cast members and are currently being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.

“Our goal for negotiations has always been to reach an agreement with Disney — one that provides cast members with wages they need to live in Southern California, the respect they deserve for the years they’ve dedicated to the company and an attendance policy that works for everyone while keeping park guests safe,” reads a statement from the Disney Workers Rising Bargaining Committee.

“But instead of working with us toward a fair contract, Disney has engaged in multiple instances of conduct we allege are unfair labor practices, including unlawful discipline and intimidation and surveillance of union members exercising their right to wear union buttons at work. We know these actions are only an attempt to stop us from exercising our rights and saddle us with a contract that perpetuates the status quo at Disney.”

Disney officials say that the two sides will meet shortly after the results of the strike authorization vote is announced.

“With the next meeting scheduled for July 22,” reads their statement, “we remain committed to continuing discussions and to reaching an agreement with the Master Services Council that focuses on what matters most to our current cast members, helps us attract new cast, and positions Disneyland Resort for growth and the creation of more jobs.”

Workers involved include the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 83, the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW), the Teamsters Local 495 and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 324.

The group does not include the cast members who perform as characters or dance in the parades and the hosts, leads, and trainers who work alongside them. Those workers voted to unionize with the Actors’ Equity Association in May.

Disney has big plans for Walt’s original park.

On May 8, the Anaheim City Council gave final approval to DisneylandForward, the $1.9 billion multi-decade expansion plan. It allows theme park attractions alongside hotels on the west side of Disneyland Drive as well as new shopping, dining and entertainment to the southeast on what is today the Toy Story Parking Area at Katella Avenue and Harbor Boulevard. All of those plans would include workers like the 14,000 who will now be voting on a strike authorization.

The Disney Workers Rising Bargaining Committee added the following: “We won’t accept less than what we deserve because we know our value to Disney. The theme parks’ profits come from our hard work making a trip to Disneyland a magical experience for guests. By undermining our rights, Disney has only made harder our fight to help our guests and keep our parks safe, which is why we are compelled to take a vote next week on whether to authorize a strike after our contract expired. With this strike authorization vote, we will ensure Disney hears Disneyland’s cast members’ voices.”

Disney needs the DisneylandForward project because, while its Parks and Experiences unit continues to throw off cash, most of the outstanding 10% revenue growth the unit saw in Q2 of this year is due to its overseas properties.

Disneyland, despite growing attendance and per capita spend, saw results dip year-on-year on higher costs, including labor, CFO Hugh Johnston said on a Q2 earnings call.

Park employees say they haven’t seen much of that bounty. According to a survey shared by the unions before the strike authorization vote, 73% of the cast members that make those profits possible report “they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses each month.”

A separate survey of cast members earlier this year found that:

  • Nearly three in 10 cast members (28%) report experiencing food insecurity

  • 64% of cast members are “rent burdened” or spending more than half of their monthly paychecks on rent

  • 33% of cast members experienced housing insecurity in the past year

  • 42% of cast members had to miss work for medical treatment because they didn’t have enough sick leave

In terms of pay, Disneyland’s employment site states that starting rates “range from $19.90 to $24.15, with many skilled roles exceeding a starting rate of $25 an hour.” Meanwhile, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Anaheim is $2000, per Apartments.com.

The contract for the cast members in question expired on June 16. The contract for Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney cast members expires September 30.

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