‘Being able to breathe’: Disney workers celebrate historic pay increase

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Disney union members tallied up the vote, and more than 12,500 cast members, or 97%, said yes to a pay raise.


Cast member Nicole Mischer is a mom of six and has been a Disney cook since 2014. Her raise brings her salary from $19 to $23.10.

But for her, it’s more than just the numbers.

“It means being able to say yes a little bit more, being able to breathe and not having to work a lot of overtime to make ends meet,” Mischer said. “Right now, we have to work a maybe 50-60-hour week in order to make ends meet, in order to make sure all the bills are paid.”

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Negotiations had been going on for more than 210 days. Disney previously offered $20 an hour minimum wage, but that wouldn’t kick in until five years.

“What we’re being paid … may seem like a lot of money to some people. However, it’s not a lot of money when you have to qualify for an apartment and make three times that amount,” Mischer said. “It’s not a lot of money when you have to choose between medicine and paying your rent, medicine and maybe paying your car payment.”

Mischer said she has lung issues at the beginning of the year, and one of her medications cost over $900.

READ: Disney workers, Disney World reach tentative agreement on wage increase

In a prepared statement Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort, said:

“Our cast members have always been at the heart of the Walt Disney World experience, and we are thrilled that, with the support of the union, they have overwhelmingly approved this new five-year agreement that significantly increases wages, alongside our leading benefits program that includes affordable medical coverage and more. Frontline employees also have access to 100 percent paid tuition for higher education through the Disney Aspire program.”

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.