Disney union workers rally for better pay ahead of contract fight

Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, emcees a Disney workers press conference.
Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, emcees a Disney workers press conference ahead of contract negotiations later this month.
(Gabriel San Román)

A coalition of Disneyland Resort labor unions is gearing up for a “hot labor summer” of its own in hopes of boosting wages for its members.

Theme park ride operators, candy makers, custodians and cashiers rallied just outside of Disney’s California Adventure on Tuesday morning to kick off a contract campaign a week before the first round of bargaining is set to begin.

“It is time for Disney to step up and take care of their cast members,” said Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, at a press conference. “They are the reason Disney’s revenue continues to grow. They are the reason why Disney can plan a $1.9-billion expansion project because the theme parks are so profitable.”


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The Master Services Council, comprised of four major unions, represents 13,000 workers at the Disneyland Resort.

Its current contract with the company expires on June 16, but both sides will come to the bargaining table soon in hopes of hammering out a deal.

“We value our cast members and have a long and positive history of working with the unions that represent them,” said Jessica Good, a Disneyland Resort spokesperson. “We look forward to meeting next week to begin negotiation discussions.”

Good also pointed to a contract reached last summer with Workers United Local 50, which represents nearly 10,000 food and beverage workers. Wages will rise to $23 an hour in September under the agreement.

But pay at the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth” has remained a contentious issue since 2018, when a broader coalition of Disney labor unions backed a living-wage ballot measure in Anaheim.

The city’s voters approved the initiative only to see it tied up in court for years where it concerned Disney.

In October, the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the company, ending its legal fight. Disney complied with an appellate court’s earlier ruling that the wage law applied to its workers.

Disney workers raise their fists up in demanding better pay from Disney.
Disney union workers raise their fists and hold signs demanding better pay from Orange County’s largest employer during an April 16 press conference.
(Gabriel San Román)

The current minimum wage under the measure is $19.90 an hour, which boosted pay up from $18 an hour under the Master Services Council’s expiring contract.

“It is a good start, but it’s not enough to live on in Orange County,” said Zinder after the press conference. “So many members have to commute from far distances, even on that wage. Again, it’s a start, but we’ve got a ways to go, and that’s what we’re going to do in these negotiations.”

Hector Ojeda, a union member with SEIU-USWW, is one of several Disney super commuters. He makes the trek from Moreno Valley, where rent is more affordable, but heavy traffic days can leave him gridlocked on the road for two hours.

“I’m spending about $20 on gas a day,” Ojeda said. “That’s why I have to work two jobs.”

Ojeda, who began working for Disney in 1998, used to live in La Habra but moved to the Inland Empire and does Door Dash deliveries on the side. He said his main job prepping costumes for character performers at Disneyland simply doesn’t pay enough for him to consider moving back to Orange County.

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The Disney union coalition is also looking to tackle seniority head-on as many workers who tally years of experience with the company said they don’t see that longevity meaningfully reflected in pay.

David Hernandez, a ride operator at Tomorrowland attractions who is a Teamsters Local 495 union member, has worked at Disneyland for the past 19 years.

He said the difference between starting pay for a new hire and his own wage is less than $1 an hour.

“It’s very frustrating to see, being a longtime cast member,” Hernandez said. “It’s a weekly struggle to make ends meet for me. Getting a raise would mean a little less stress in daily life, especially in trying to provide for my children.”