Disney Springs Patina Restaurant Group workers seek to organize, ask employer for fair union process

Restaurant employees at five restaurants say they feel like 'second-class citizens' compared to unionized Disney workers.

click to enlarge Julie Ruiz, an employee of Pizza Ponte at Disney Springs, at the public launch of a new organizing campaign with Unite Here. (April 29, 2024) - photo by McKenna Schueler
photo by McKenna Schueler
Julie Ruiz, an employee of Pizza Ponte at Disney Springs, at the public launch of a new organizing campaign with Unite Here. (April 29, 2024)

Workers at five nonunion restaurants at Disney Springs in Orlando announced plans to unionize Monday, and are calling on their employer to allow for a fair process, free from unlawful intimidation.

Unlike the tens of thousands of Disney World employees who have been unionized for decades, the roughly 300 workers at Enzo’s Hideaway, Pizza Ponte, Morimoto Asia, Maria and Enzo’s, and The Edison — all subcontracted restaurants on Disney property — are technically employed by the Patina Restaurant Group, owned by the multinational food service and hospitality company Delaware North.

These five restaurants, scattered throughout the parks’ dining and shopping district, are currently nonunion, even though two others that are owned by Delaware North at Epcot’s Italy Pavilion — Tutto Italia and Via Napoli — are already unionized.

Employees of the restaurants at Disney Springs say they feel like “second-class citizens” compared to unionized Disney workers, and say they are denied access to full-time job benefits like paid time off and sick leave despite being expected to have full-time availability.  Wages for workers at these restaurants are also comparatively lower than those negotiated by unions at other restaurants owned and operated by the Walt Disney Co.

click to enlarge Enzo’s Hideaway is one of five Disney Springs restaurants whose workers plan to unionize. - Photo via Enzo’s Hideaway/Facebook
Photo via Enzo’s Hideaway/Facebook
Enzo’s Hideaway is one of five Disney Springs restaurants whose workers plan to unionize.

Now, they’re organizing with Unite Here Local 737, a labor union that represents roughly 18,000 Disney World employees, to change that.

"We're on Disney property," said Andrea Molineros, a part-time employee at Maria & Enzo's who also works part-time job as a server at Disney's Grand Floridian — a union job. "We should be given the same respect and be treated as equals," said Molineros, a mom of one and a shop steward for her union at the Grand Floridian.

Charlie Roberts, director of public relations for Delaware North, confirmed to Orlando Weekly over email that they'd received word from the union about the organizing activity, altogether remaining neutral (and sharing little) in their statement on the issue.

"We respect our employees' rights to consideration union representation," Roberts said. "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."

The announcement of this new organizing drive comes less than a month after Disneyland performers in Anaheim, California, officially filed their own petition to unionize with Actors Equity.

This move follows in the footsteps of their counterparts in Orlando’s Disney World, where character performers first organized with the Teamsters in the 1980s.

Altogether, a group of six labor unions, collectively known as the Service Trades Council Union, represent over 40,000 Disney World theme park workers in Orlando, ranging from Disney's character performers to ride operators, food service workers, housekeepers, lifeguards and more.

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McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
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