In a recent exclusive from Theme Park Insider, Disney Parks Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro spoke positively of Walt Disney World’s Housekeeping, Food & Beverage employees, whose Cast Member (CM) union protests are currently renegotiating contracts for a wage raise.
The recently released interview addresses various hot topics regarding the Walt Disney Company’s theme park division as it celebrates its 100th year in 2023 and operates post-lockdown in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. For instance, D’Amaro answered questions on the new theme park reservation system, the scarcity of annual passes, and the value of both Guest Experience and Cast Member feedback.
Of course, the topic of Cast Members’ job security came up as former CEO Bob Chapek announced an upcoming hiring freeze and employee layoffs as a result of dubious profits for the 2022 fiscal year, a Company decision that current CEO Bob Iger has confirmed will continue as planned even after Chapek’s expensive exit. Speaking of, fans have drawn a correlation between salary discrepancies regarding the Walt Disney Company CEOs’ current salaries, Chapek’s severance pay, and the below-living wage most everyday Cast Members receive for returning to work each day to make magic for Disney Park Guests.
Since last August, Cast Members at the Walt Disney World Resort, most within the Housekeeping and Food & Beverage departments, have organized through the Service Trade Unions Council, representing Cast Members and other tourist industry workers. Moreover, following unsuccessful attempts to renegotiate Company contracts, these CMs have hosted protests hoping to raise awareness of the hardships Disney employees face and change the mogul’s mind.
In fact, D’Amaro emphasized the importance of valuing the Cast’s perspective and determination to serve Guests, even as they readjust to newly introduced policies such as theme park reservations, Disney Genie and LightningLane technology, and changes to the Annual Pass systems. He also revealed that Disney Parks will not freeze any of its operations jobs to ensure full staffing that does not sacrifice Guest Experience.
On the “challenge” of ensuring Housekeeping, Food, and Beverage staff since the 2020 lockdown, D’Amaro noted an “incredible amount of progress” on the situation, leaving Disney “feeling very good.” As to why in even the wake of difficulties, the Chairman added:
Because people want to work for Disney. I think they trust Disney. They trust the leadership, and they also see that – you know this being a [former] Cast Member – it’s a special place to work, to be around great people who share a passion for delivering magic to people when they come into the theme park, to participating in some of the Cast previews, some of which we’re having a Disneyland for these new experiences that we’re offering soon. It’s a special place to be.
Certainly, this is a charming sentiment that showcases just how genuinely D’Amaro believes in the significant contribution Cast Member interactions with Guests have on Disney Parks’ success due to his “frequent” conversations with these “difference makers.” Even so, it does little to prove Disney values the employees it currently has, who are struggling to survive without leaving a job they love, rather than just the concept of a generic Cast Member, an ambiguous role that could be easily filled by any newcomer willing to overlook these hardships either because this is the job of their dreams, or they are in a specific position in which the salary or benefits do not particularly matter.
While the Chairman’s comments did not specifically address the Cast Member Union wage protests, clearly, the fate of these specific departments is on Disney’s mind. Though he suggests Disney’s hiring situation for these departments is good, we will have to wait and see if these union Cast Members can eventually say the same while doing what they love.