Cast members working for Walt Disney World say they are struggling to live and are pushing for an increase in wages to at least $20 an hour.

Union leaders are asking and demanding that Disney improve the offer the company currently has on the table, and the Service Trades Council Union workers are being encouraged to reject Disney’s offer to raise wages to $1 an hour per year for most workers when they vote next week.  The union represents about 45,00 Disney workers.

What You Need To Know

  •  The union representing about 45,000 Disney workers are asking for wage increase to at least $30 an hour

  •  Leaders with the Service Trades Council Union are urging members to reject the offer Disney currently has on the table

  • Disney officials say that offer would, among other things, increase wages $1 an hour per year for most workers

Mel Paradiso started coming to Disney with her family when she was a freshman in high school. Eventually, she came down to Orlando with her dad to look at the area, and ever since she has wanted to work at "The Most Magical Place on Earth."

After starting out as part-time, Paradiso transitioned to a full-time position in 2021. Now she says she regrets that decision and would change it if she could.

“If I was in the same position and started off as part-time, I probably wouldn’t have gone full-time,” Paradiso said. “I probably would have stayed part-time and then had a second job where I can get either paid more, or again, just balance the hours between both.”

The new mom said the unions and company have acknowledged they want to get to a $20 an hour wage for employees, and she doesn’t understand why they can’t give the increase all at once.

Paradiso said the increase would allow her and her husband, along with their 4-month-old son Bruno, to move into a bigger place. However, she said an initial $1 increase — which is what Disney is offering — wouldn’t be enough to make that dream a reality.

“We could get the $20 tomorrow — like, that would mean so much," she said. "But again, it is not going to be a huge difference to the company, they are a billion-dollar company.'

"We are not all going to go tomorrow and buy Tesla’s and Ferraris," she added. "We just want to — I just want to get my windshield fixed, it has a crack in it type thing. I don’t want to go and spend all that money.”

The check oil light in her car just came on too, and Paradiso said she can’t afford to get it changed right now.

With the cost of everything rising, she added that even her job is becoming too expensive for her.

“I feel like this is the first time I’ve ever worked at a company where it is almost too it’s expensive for me to work there,” she said. “I was actually talking to my husband about it — I’ve never worked somewhere where I can’t afford to work there just because of the increase in everything.”

She believes she and her fellow cast members do everything they can to create magical moments for the guests that visit the Disney parks, and questions why the company wouldn't want to help its employees.

“It is just surprising that Disney, again the great company that it is, that says that it wants to bring all of these families together, I feel like in a sense it is tearing families apart,” Paradiso said. “That is not fair to us.”

She believes getting to this $20 mark quicker will help the company and will show people that Disney is taking care of its cast members.

In response, a Disney spokesperson sent Spectrum News the following statement about the offer it has made the union:

“This very strong offer provides our Cast Members with a nearly 10% average increase immediately and guaranteed raises for the next four years with every single non-tipped Cast Member promised at least a $20 starting wage during the contract, and the majority seeing a 33% to 46% increase during that time.”

Below are some additional aspects of the contract that Disney shared with Spectrum News:

  • 25% of non-tipped, STCU roles will reach $20 an hour wages in the first year of the contract
  • Our offer includes eight weeks of paid child-bonding for eligible Cast Members
  • Within the first year, nearly 1/3 of STCU Cast Members will see their hourly wages increase by 16%
  • Our proposal includes a nearly 10 percent pay increase on average in the first year
  • Full-time non-tipped Cast Member wages will continue to be at least $5 above the Florida minimum wage each year
  • Effective upon ratification of an agreement, roles including housekeepers and bus drivers will be paid at least $20 per hour and culinary Cast Members will start at $20-25 per hour depending on the role
  • Cast Members would also receive retroactive increased pay dating back to October 2022, starting at a minimum of $700 for Cast Members working 40 hours per week
  • The offer maintains the current pension and introduces an additional 401K option 
  • In addition to Walt Disney World being the first major employer in Central Florida to set a path to a $15 per hour starting wage for our Cast Members by 2021, we invest in their overall employee experience by offering a comprehensive employment package that includes health care, paid vacation and sick time, overtime opportunities, discount offers, along with multiple options for development and advancement
  • 46% of approximately 30,000 non-tipped, full-time Cast Members represented by STCU will receive more than $1 an hour wage increase in year one