The mouse gloves are off: Disney workers to vote on strike amid contract talks

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.
After filing a series of labor charges, a coalition of four major unions representing 14,000 Disney workers has scheduled a strike authorization vote next week.
(Associated Press)
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A hot labor summer is warming up at the Disneyland Resort.

After filing a series of labor charges, a coalition of four major unions representing 14,000 Disney workers has scheduled a strike authorization vote next week.

“We haven’t been able to move the company on the issues most important to our members,” said Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324. “The unfair labor practices that Disney has committed are so egregious that they interfere with our ability to get a fair contract.”

The strike vote slated for July 19 comes as the National Labor Relations Board is investigating alleged labor violations by the company.


Amid a contract fight, a coalition of four major Disney unions have alleged that the company unlawfully intimidated, surveilled and disciplined workers for wearing union buttons on the job.

June 12, 2024

Last month, the union coalition filed charges with the board claiming that more than 500 workers have faced unlawful intimidation, surveillance and disciplinary threats for wearing a union button depicting a Mickey Mouse-styled glove raised in a fist.

Disney has stated that the union buttons violate its “Disney Look” dress code.

Coleen Palmer, a Disneyland cashier, wore the button to work one day and said she was reprimanded by management for it within the first half hour of her shift.

“The intimidation is stressful for cast members,” Palmer said of her co-workers. “But on the other hand, we are willing to stand up and say we are worth much more than this when it comes to contract talks.”

The Disneyland Resort released a statement affirming its “respect and value” for cast members, as workers are referred to in Disney parlance, as negotiations continue.

“With the next meeting scheduled for July 22, 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,” it read.

Disney union workers raise their fists up in demanding better pay from Orange County's largest employer
The Disney Workers Rising campaign kicked off with an April 16 press conference in Anaheim.
(Gabriel San Román)

As negotiations began in April for the thousands of theme park ride operators, candy makers, custodians and cashiers represented by the Master Services Council coalition, higher wages, a fair attendance policy, raises based on seniority and park safety have rounded out key issues.

“The company is trying to claim that their pay proposal represents a 40% increase over the term of the contract from 2023,” Zinder said. “But, in reality, a portion of that was imposed upon them by Anaheim’s living-wage law.”

The current minimum wage under the city’s measure is $19.90 an hour, which boosted pay up from $18 an hour under the Master Services Council’s contract that expired for Disneyland workers in June.

Disney filed an appeal with the California Supreme Court over the wage law, which declined to hear the case in ending a years-long court battle over whether it applied to the company.

A coalition of four major Disney labor unions kick off a campaign for higher wages at the company’s Anaheim theme parks.

April 17, 2024

Seniority-based raises are another key issue the company and the union coalition remain at odds on.

Palmer has worked at Disneyland since 1987 and makes $23.64 an hour.

“The company’s opening proposal was to recognize somebody who has been there for 20 years or more by giving them an extra 25 cents per hour,” she said. “That is neither generous nor gracious, and it’s certainly not fair.”

In Palmer’s 37 years of experience, she has never seen the company and its union workers so far apart.

Next week’s strike authorization vote comes after the union coalition has already taken its frustrations directly to Disney parkgoers.

A day after Disneyland’s contract expired in June, Disney workers handed balloons to guests entering the park to ding the company for being “full of hot air” during contract talks.

In another action, Disney workers passed out union buttons to parkgoers.

“We have also asked guests to sign a petition of support, which has gained thousands of signatures” Zinder said. “The guests understand the employees’ role in the experience that they have when they go to Disney. They expect the company to compensate employees fairly for that.”

Disney theme park workers haven’t walked off the job since a major strike in 1984 lasted 22 days, which remains the largest such work stoppage in the company’s history.

If Disney workers authorize a strike vote next week, it gives the union coalition the authority to organize a walk out if necessary.

Contract talks between Disney and the union coalition are scheduled three days after the vote.

“We would like to reach a contract with Disney,” Zinder said. “We hope that Disney comes to the bargaining table with appropriate proposals. If they don’t, we’re going to have to take some kind of serious action.”