NEWS: Disney Springs Employees Claim Unfair Working Conditions, Hope To Unionize

We firmly believe that Disney World Cast Members make the magic! The parks, hotels, and beyond just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Cast Members make the magic happen!

Over the past few years, Disney World and certain unionized Cast Members battled it out over contract negotiations, and now it looks like employees at multiple Disney Springs establishments are looking to unionize, too.

Back in October of 2022, the contracts for various unionized Disney World Cast Members expired so these unions and Disney entered into negotiations on future contracts.

Disney World Cast Members

The Disney World Cast Member unions asked Disney to increase the minimum wage to $18 per hour and asked that the pay of those who already make close to that amount be increased by $3 to keep up with inflation.

There was a rally over the wagesDisney issued a statement, and ultimately the groups came to an agreement in March 2023.

TRON Cast Members

Now, two different groups of Disney Springs employees have voiced complaints of unfair working conditions and employee mistreatment. An important distinction to note here is that both groups of Disney Springs employees mentioned work at businesses not owned or operated by Disney — they are third-party employees.

Sunset over Disney Springs

Employees at five Disney Springs restaurants operated by the Patina Restaurant Group (owned by the hospitality company Delaware North Companies or DNC) have announced their intent to unionize and are looking for their employer’s support.

Unite Here! Local 737 wants to represent workers of Morimoto Asia, The Edison, Maria and Enzo’s, Enzo’s Hideaway, and Pizza Ponte. The union currently represents 18,000 food, beverage, and housekeeping workers at Disney World.

Morimoto Asia

Delaware North’s website states they are “one of the largest privately-owned-and-operated hospitality and entertainment companies in the world,” and Local 737 claims that “Thousands of DNC workers in the US and Canada are represented by unions” already.

The Edison

Over a one-week period in March and April, the union conducted a survey of about 12% of the 300+ Delaware North workers at Disney Springs and found that:

  • Over 60% were uninsured. Of the remaining 40% who had health insurance, only half got it through their job at Delaware North.
  • Only 38% are full-time – compared to 70% of restaurant workers employed by Disney.
  • Only 1 out of 10 servers reported that they are full-time. That means nearly 90% are part-time.
  • Among part-time workers, nearly 3/4 have no health insurance.
  • 78% of workers report that they have no paid sick time or paid vacation days – including 100% of the part-time workers and nearly half of the full-time workers.
Pizza Ponte

“We’re expected to provide that Disney experience for our guests, but as employees, we are not getting that Disney experience we deserve,” said Kristen Mercer, an employee at Maria and Enzo’s.

Additionally, Unite Here! Local 737 shared an example of Disney wages in comparison to those of a Delaware North cook, Sabrina, who makes $18 an hour working at multiple cook stations at Morimoto Asia. On the other hand, the union says Disney’s wages are as follows:

  • Cook 2 (prep cook) starts at $21
  • Cook 1 (line cook) starts at $24.10
  • Assistant Sous Chef (experienced cook, assistant supervisor) starts at $25.60
  • All have a guaranteed union raise in December of an additional $1
Enzo’s Hideaway

The Orlando Sentinel shared a statement from Delaware North about the union campaign that read:

“We respect our employees’ rights to consider union representation. Should any union gain sufficient backing to petition for a vote at any of our locations, we are committed to adhering to all relevant regulations and procedures throughout the process.”

Local 737 also filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the Patina Restaurant Group, accusing them of watching and threatening employees because of their union activity.

Maria & Enzo’s

Workers of the Patina Restaurant Group aren’t the only Disney Springs employees trying to unionize at the moment, though. On May 11th, an Instagram account with the username @ghostsofgideons, which claims to be a “collective voice representing the employees” of Gideon’s Bakehouse, issued a statement alleging employee mistreatment and other unfair workplace practices.

Like Patina employees, Gideon’s employees are also third-party, though they do go through Disney-specific training to work at the shop.

Gideon’s Bakehouse

The @ghostsofgideons allege in their statement that “Ownership & Upper-management of Gideon’s have built a toxic empire of lies. We feel unsafe, underpaid, and are being severely taken advantage of, purely so they can reap a fortune.” The complaint lists multiple alleged instances of employee mistreatment, including the use of racial slurs, and health and safety violations.

Steve Lewis, owner of Gideon’s Bakehouse, responded to the claims via the bakery’s official Instagram account on May 14th in a post which is no longer available. Lewis said that “much of what is being represented is either misleading or false,” and that the company will properly respond to the @ghostsofgideons’ list of demands soon.

In addition, Lewis disputed the failed health and safety inspection claims and went on to say, “I love my team. I hire everyone personally, and we discuss bringing emotional maturity and leaving out ego in the workplace with the need to look out for each other. Sometimes, people fall short and are let go, but you’ll notice many of the same faces have been with me for years…I feel confident that everyone is treated with care and respect.”

Gideon’s cookie

The @ghostsofgideons Instagram disputed Lewis’ claims that same day and posted a screenshot of what they say is an employee’s paystub — edited to remain anonymous.

Later on May 14th, the @ghostsofgideons account posted an additional update claiming that “the workers of Gideon’s Bakehouse are now in the process of organizing with Unite Here! Local 362.”

According to the @ghostsofgideons, “Through your support we have brought national attention to unsafe and unfair working conditions, and through the union we will now have a contract that demands fair pay, safe conditions, and fair conditions for all.”

UPDATE: On May 21st, Gideon’s Bakehouse owner Steve Lewis shared an additional update on Instagram. In it, he claims the @ghostsofgideons account was run by someone who wasn’t an employee of Gideon’s, as well as refuting other claims.

We’ll be keeping an eye on these developing situations, so stay tuned to AllEars for the latest updates.

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