Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to Twitter on Monday to congratulate Disney World workers and their unions for negotiating a "historic" contract that will boost the minimum wage at the Florida resort to $15 an hour by 2021, a pay raise that will benefit thousands of employees.
"Congratulations to the courageous workers and their unions at Disney World for their historic victory," wrote Sanders, who over the past several months has shamed Disney at rallies and town halls for paying starvation wages. "I applaud everyone who stood up to demand that workers at one of the wealthiest corporations in the world should have a decent standard of living."
Congratulations to the courageous workers and their unions at Disney World for their historic victory. I applaud everyone who stood up to demand that workers at one of the wealthiest corporations in the world should have a decent standard of living. https://t.co/pdEzhBUPQU
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 27, 2018
The new contract—which union members are expected to approve in a final vote in September—was finally reached after nine months of grueling and often heated negotiations, during which workers accused Disney of holding $1,000 in bonuses "hostage" as a negotiating ploy.
"There's no doubt that this is going to change people's lives."
—Jessica Lella, Disney World employee
"Disney is a powerful company, they're a formidable foe," Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362—which represents Disney World employees—said in an interview with CNN. "To stand up to your boss that's that big and that powerful is really remarkable, and it's really inspiring."
The current minimum wage at Disney World is $10 an hour, and many employees report working at the resort for years without seeing a significant raise.
Jessica Lella, a 24-year-old ride operator at Disney World, told the New York Times that she has been working at the park for nearly six years and still makes just $10 an hour. (Disney CEO Bob Iger made over $36 million last year.)
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"There's no doubt that this is going to change people's lives," Lella said of the newly negotiated pay increase, which comes just a month after Disneyland workers in California won a $15 minimum wage.
— UNITEHERE Central FL (@UNITEHERE_CFL) August 25, 2018
— UNITE HERE #1Job (@unitehere) August 25, 2018
Disney World's decision to agree to the new pay hike comes as the company is under growing scrutiny from workers, lawmakers, and reporters over its long hours and low pay, which often force workers to live in their cars and cheap motels to get by.
"The dozens of motels lining a 15-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 192 just outside of Disney World have a secret inside: For the past two decades, they've increasingly served as home for many Disney World employees," journalist Michael Sainato noted in a report for Vice in June.
"Sometimes workers stay in the motels temporarily while they find permanent housing, others are forced by poverty and other circumstances to live in them for months or even years," Sainato added. "It's difficult to say exactly how many employees currently reside in these motels but three Disney World workers have told me the number is in the hundreds."