Disney can withhold bonuses during labor contract talks, NLRB rules

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Walt Disney World didn’t violate the law when it withheld $1,000 bonuses to workers in a coalition of unions renegotiating wages, even though it paid the bonuses to other Disney workers, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled. | Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP file

ORLANDO, Fla. — Walt Disney World didn’t violate the law when it withheld $1,000 bonuses to workers in a coalition of unions renegotiating wages, even though it paid the bonuses to other Disney workers who are either unorganized or represented by other unions, the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week.

NLRB Regional Director David Cohen dismissed charges brought by the coalition, which says Disney’s refusal to pay the bonuses was discriminatory and retaliatory. The coalition, known as the Service Trades Council Union, represents more than half the 70,000 workers at Disney World, which has the largest single-site workforce in the nation.

Disney announced last January it would give one-time bonuses to employees following a tax cut passed by Congress, but the company told the coalition it would withhold the bonuses to its members while talks on pay raises continue.

The NLRB said Disney was well within its rights to use the bonuses as part of its negotiations with the Service Trades Council Union. The company and unions have been renegotiating wages for almost a year for a contract that expires in 2019.

“There is no evidence that the employer is refusing to meet and bargain further about bonuses and wage rates,” Cohen wrote. “Accordingly, there is insufficient evidence to establish that the employer has unlawfully failed to bargain in good faith.”

Some members of the Service Trades Council are pushing Disney to raise the starting minimum from $10 to $15 an hour. Disney has responded by offering to raise the starting minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 in exchange for concessions on overtime pay, holiday pay and changes in how workers are transferred to new positions. But some members of the Service Trades Council say those concessions are too steep a price to pay.

Leaders of the unions and Disney representatives return to the negotiating table on Friday.

In a separate case, the NLRB last week denied Disney’s request to halt a decision allowing the unionization of Disney World drivers who are summoned to pick up guests through the Lyft app. The NLRB ruled last month that 74 drivers who pick up Disney World guests using the Lyft app can be represented by the Teamsters local in Orlando.

The Lyft drivers are Disney World employees who earn extra money by driving guests around the resort, which is roughly the size of the city of San Francisco.

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