Orlando tourism workers need $18 an hour to survive

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Workers in Central Florida’s tourism industry are pushing to raise their minimum wage to at least $18 an hour, arguing that rising rents and inflation have reduced their ability to make ends meet.

Unite Here Local 737 released a report on Thursday stating that a working adult with no dependents would need to earn $18.19 an hour to earn a living, while a family with two children would need both parents to earn $23. $.91 an hour for a living wage.

Local 737 is part of a coalition of other unions currently negotiating a new five-year contract for service workers at Walt Disney World, Central Florida’s largest employer. Local 737 is also in the midst of contract negotiations with Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company, at the Orange County Convention Center.

In both cases, the union is proposing a minimum wage of $18 per hour starting in the first year of the contract.

In 2018, Disney World workers approved a contract with service workers that raised the minimum starting wage to $15 an hour over three years while allowing Disney to use more part-time workers and to require new workers to stay longer in their jobs before being transferred.

Local 737 said that while $15 an hour was enough three years ago, “with the skyrocketing prices of rent, food and gas over the past three years , it is no longer possible to survive on these wages”.

In an emailed statement, Disney said company officials have offered a “meaningful” wage proposal that would give workers a starting minimum wage of $20 an hour for full-time positions. without tip by the end of the contract.

“If our offer is accepted, our wages will continue to exceed the Florida minimum wage by at least $5 an hour,” the statement said.

Even as theme park operations and hotel occupancy have returned to pre-pandemic levels, service sector workers are struggling to pay rent, have skipped meals and medication and have been forced to take a second job, according to the union.

Before the pandemic, workers with families in the $15 to $16.50 an hour wage bracket could pay their bills. But with inflation skyrocketing the price of food and gas, an employee earning $15 an hour full-time currently earns $530 less than the worker would have to pay for rent, food and gas each month, Local 737 said.

“For many tourism workers – many of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck – living expenses went from difficult to nearly impossible to afford,” Local 737 said in the report.

Local 737 represents 19,000 workers at six major central Florida employers. Workers include cooks, dishwashers, housekeepers, quick service restaurant staff, restaurant servers, convention retail workers and food handlers.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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