Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy file a union ballot at Disneyland

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy file a union ballot at Disneyland

There are more than 21,000 Disneyland “cast member” employees, represented by more than a dozen unions. The unionized jobs include everything from retail and food service workers to security guards, hair and makeup artists and pyrotechnics workers. But it does not include performers who dress up as characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck or Goofy and interact with visitors. Employees performing similar roles are consolidated at several other Disney theme parks, such as Disney World.

“These performers, and the hosts, leaders and coaches who create magic with them, know that their lives – as well as the guest experience at Disneyland – can be improved through collective bargaining,” he said. “They deserve a voice in their workplace, and meaningful negotiation over wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Disney had no immediate comment on the filing. But asked earlier in the week about the organizing campaign, a company spokesman said: “We support the right of our cast members to a secret ballot that recognizes their individual choices.”
Higher wages are still unlivable
Performers in the proposed bargaining unit just saw their wages increase to $24.15 an hour from $20 an hour in January, a 20.8% increase. The increase comes after organizing efforts are underway, although it has not been publicly announced.

But Disney’s labor market in the state is changing, as California fast-food workers just raised their minimum wage to $20 an hour under state law, so previous pay levels may no longer be competitive.

Several workers who spoke to CNN before Wednesday’s announcement said that even the new, higher wage level is still not a livable wage in Southern California, given that many workers only work part-time.

Mai Vo, who Disney calls a “lookalike” performer, someone who plays a role with her facial appearance, like a Disney “Princess”, now lives at her mother’s house near Disneyland. Vo said it’s difficult for cast members to afford to live alone, and many have roommates.

Zach Elefante, a parade performer, said many performers can lose paid time if inclement weather shows up, with decisions about cancellations often made just minutes before showtime.

But Elefante is at pains to say that the workers are not fundamentally against their employers.

Elefante said they “want to be able to work with the resort to let people not be afraid to pay their rent because it starts raining.”

Security concerns outweigh pay
Elefante and other Disney cast members say they have a deep emotional connection to the shows they present, knowing they can bring stories to life in front of young and old. Even so, he says they feel disposable — and unheard.

Union advocates also spoke about health and safety concerns, such as concerns about the design of heavily worn clothing, and about interacting with park visitors following the outbreak.

Vo said she remembers being harassed by a co-worker who struggled for months with foot pain from dress shoes, which were often shared among employees.

“Maybe things aren’t perfect at the Happiest Place on Earth, because it feels like my colleagues in that department are unhappy, and it doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Elefante also described two colleagues who raised issues with the ergonomics of the new 120-pound suit, but were told there would be no changes. He said performers ended up performing in the costume for five or six years before the old version of the costume was brought back. But Elefante said that one of the main goals is simply for the people who work at Disneyland to have some influence on the Magic Kingdom.

“There are many benefits that come with [unification] and many benefits that people want to fight for. But if you get rid of all that and just keep the fact that we’re trying to have a voice at the table, that’s going to be worth this whole process,” he said.

Asked about the concerns raised by Elefante and Vo, a Disney spokesperson pointed to company policy that says schedule changes are based on the safety of visitors and employees, such as in the case of inclement weather, and that no notice is required when operational needs require it. used. He also said all cast members, whether they are represented by a union or not, have various methods of communicating grievances matan, including contacting park leadership, safety meetings, round tables or using an anonymous hotline.

But Elefante and Vo said they believe a majority of the group is ready to vote for a union because of their concerns. A two-thirds majority signature card is no guarantee the union will win the vote — support often dwindles when campaign management opposes the union in meetings with workers. But that level of support suggests it has a good chance of passing.

Vo hopes that communication between workers and managers can improve, and that pay rates can increase. He said the union representative would embody the same principles he espoused as his character when talking to children in the park.

“Change can be scary. All this is scary,” he said. “But if I’m brave enough and brave enough to do it, I’ll do it.”

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