3 Years After Winning 40% Wage Increase, Disneyland Resort Unions Agitating For More

Photo: Gaston Castellanos

In July of 2018, the Disneyland Resort and the Master Services Council agreed on a contract that increased wages for the union’s members by 40% over two years – giving them one of the highest minimum wages in the nation.

The Master Services Council unions represent 9,700 cast members who work in eateries and retail shops, and as ride operators and maintenance workers.

The 2018 agreement immediately increased Master Services Council members hourly pay by 20%, boosting their minimum wage from $11 to $13.25. On January 1, 2019, that increased to $15 per hour – three years prior to state minimum wage increase to that level. It would climb again in June 2020 to $15.45 an hour. The agreement also stipulated a wage rate increase of at least 3% annually for those near or above the minimum rates.

Three years later, they are picketing and demanding Disney “come to the negotiation table with an acceptable contract offer that improves workers’ quality of life.”  They cite Disney profits (or in their parlance, “corporate greed”) as the basis for their demands. However, Resort unions always cite Disney profits when pressing additional demands.

Master Services Council unions picketed the Disneyland Resort main gate on Saturday. As you can see here, the Resort unions continue to exploit the tragic death of Yeweinisht Mesfin, a cast member who passed away in 2016 after living in her car for seven years:

Photo: Gaston Castellanos

Photo: Gaston Castellanos

Mesfin was an extremely private person who did not seek help and kept her situation a secret from even close family members. Her relatives have been critical of the unions’ exploitation of her death:

“They are trying to use her situation to push forward their own agenda,” said her nephew, Jerome Isayas, a computer network engineer in Virginia who filed the missing person’s report on his aunt. “I support the idea that Disney needs to pay its workers more in this day and age, but not at the expense of someone who was a very private person.

“It’s very sad. They are not even allowing her to rest in peace after her passing.”

Nonetheless, the Master Services Council doesn’t let that stand in the way of continuing to exploit her death for their own purposes rather than respect her desire for privacy.

4th District Supervisor Doug Chaffee showed up to support the union demands, as did Marisol Ramirez, policy aide to Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno:

Supervisor Doug Chaffee. [Photo: Gaston Castellanos]

Marisol Ramirez. [Photo: Gaston Castellanos]

State government-imposed pandemic measures forced the Disneyland Resort to shut down entirely from mid-March 2020 until June 2021.  Disney continued paying it’s more than 30,000 cast members for the first five weeks of the shutdown, before finally furloughing them and slashing executive compensation. Even then, the company continued paying their health care premiums.

Ultimately, the longer-than-expected shutdown forced the company to lay off more than 30,000 cast members.

Last year, the Disneyland Resort signed right-to-recall agreements with the Master Service Council and other Resort unions. Among other things, it guarantees them first right-of-refusal to their old jobs, benefits and seniority until the end of 2022.

Union leaders are criticizing Disneyland for not recalling cast members quickly enough.  Although the state has lifted its arbitrary capacity limits, the Resort is re-opening at its own pace. It is bringing hundreds of cast members back every week, but re-starting a complex, gigantic operation like the Disneyland Resort after a 14-month shutdown is not as simple as flipping a switch.

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