Theme Park of the Day: Islands of Adventure

Universal Orlando Raises Base Pay to $15 an Hour

May 27, 2021, 2:03 PM · The Universal Orlando Resort is raising base pay for team members to $15 an hour, effective next month, the resort announced today.

The resort is calling the pay raise "the single-largest wage increase in Universal Orlando history," up from the resort's current starting pay of $13 an hour. Universal also is taking credit for being the first major Orlando-area theme park to raise its hourly base pay to $15. The Walt Disney World Resort's planned increase to a $15 an hour minimum does not take effect until October.

"We are excited about our future and we want team members who will be excited to be part of that journey," Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for Universal Parks & Resorts John Sprouls said. "This is about taking care of both our current team members and those who will be joining our team. We know a great guest experience begins with our team members – and we will continue to provide the best work experience we can."

We have been covering the dramatic shift happening right now in America's wage economy, as the rush of employers looking to hire at once has shifted power to workers. With the ability to get multiple job offers as the nation's economy reopens, workers can hold out for better deals rather than having to settle for whatever offer they can get. Closed borders have cut the supply of international workers, and plenty of people who found workable side hustles to make ends meet during the pandemic are not coming back to the job market at all.

Theme parks traditionally have been voracious consumers of minimum wage and near-minimum wage labor, leaving them especially vulnerable to labor shortages if they don't move to react to this change. Parks across the country have been raising pay as they look to staff up for the season. But some parks are trying to get ahead of the market. Ohio's Cedar Point raised its starting wage to $20 an hour and is offering sign-on bonuses to entice people to work at its somewhat remote location on the Lake Erie coast.

Here are links to major theme park companies' job pages:

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Replies (9)

May 27, 2021 at 2:18 PM

There's a story this week about a McDonald's franchise giving new employees an iPhone after they complete their first 6 months on the job.

At some point, these additional labor costs will have to be offset through additional revenue. It's easy to float these increased costs right now because of all the red ink splattered across ledgers right now caused by the pandemic, but eventually there will be a reckoning that almost certainly will result in significantly increased costs to guests (either financial or convenience).

A number of businesses are simply learning to do more with less, and while they are raising entry-level wages, those staff are expected to do more work than their lower-paid predecessors. Other companies are automating aspects of their business that used to be done by employees. It should be no surprise when more mobile ordering and touch screen ordering systems are forced on guests so parks no longer need to hire cashiers. It's gotten to the point where resort guests don't even need to visit the front desk to enter their room, as they are notified automatically when their smart phone (or MagicBand) is active to open their hotel room.

May 27, 2021 at 2:47 PM

Great to see the USA is slowly but moving in a direction that people can actually earn a living, something that is normal in every first world country. Now if the mega rich can do with a bit less so the gap can be less wide you will find that the economy will benefit everyone.

May 27, 2021 at 3:23 PM

.... and according to the passholder Facebook page, they've just raised the AP prices as well.

Which is fine by me, because the TM's really deserve the $15/hour.

May 28, 2021 at 11:47 AM

I hope OT had read Makorider’s post directly underneath his and see that the cost of increasing the starting wage will simply be passed on to the consumer. This is true for not just theme parks, but every business from the super large corporations to the small mom and pop stores.

If you are worried about getting a livable wage, get some training, either through a college degree (one that has a purpose) or technical training! Minimal skills deserve a minimal wage, and that includes theme park ride operators. If you don’t believe me, go to a traveling carnival and tell me what kind of training so you believe the carnies have.

Regardless, there is a work force shortage and most businesses will have to raise their wages through the summer until the added unemployment benefit for all states runs out in September.

May 28, 2021 at 12:02 PM

TwoBits: "Minimal skills deserve a minimal wage ..."

Me: Wow. That statement didn't sound elitist at all.

May 28, 2021 at 3:09 PM

Wonderful news. Labor has been undervalued for too long.

May 28, 2021 at 4:37 PM

I stand by my statement, TH. No one should expect to have a good paying job without putting in training time and effort.

May 28, 2021 at 5:05 PM

Twobits, this isn't about having a "good paying job", this is about having a wage compatible with basic living. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.65 an hour. In a 40 hour week that equates to $346 a week. This has a person earning $5000 a year over the poverty line. If you're a single parent on this wage, you're right on the poverty line.

Considering that the poor in America don't come from families that will pay their college fees, or technical training, how can they afford the time or money to do it themselves? They're expected to pay rent, feed and clothe themselves. Heaven forbid they spend some money on a night out or a day at the parks. If you add a hospital visit to the year, that's the $5k gone.

You complain if prices go up a bit, but the expectation that you have is that the companies make things affordable for you by not paying their employees a living wage. You then have the arrogance to criticise these people for not getting a college degree or technical training.

These people aren't expecting a "good paying job", they deserve a job that allows them a basic quality of life and self respect for a job they do well.

June 1, 2021 at 11:17 AM

I think the biggest disconnect here is that jobs that used to be viewed as "part time" or side jobs for younger people and retirees are now being looked upon as careers by far too many people. Theme park and restaurant positions used to be the exclusive realm of teenagers and college kids looking for some supplemental income and some work experience before they entered adulthood and the "real" working world. Far too often nowadays, middle aged people are holding these positions and expecting to raise a family on wages initially calibrated for a teenager still living with their parents and little other obligations than gas and a few meals a week.

With the loss of many low-skilled manufacturing jobs across the country due to automation and technological efficiencies, an entire generation of people that didn't finish college or trade school kept their high school/adolescent part-time job and tried to turn it into a career. While there are some opportunities in those occupations to advance and make a decent living, those occupations were NEVER designed to sustain a family on their own nor on 2 of those types of incomes.

This country doesn't have a wage problem it has a jobs problem, and until people understand and accept that certain jobs and occupations are not meant for full-time career employees, we will always have an issue with people not being paid a "living wage". Simply raising the wages for these low skilled/educated workers won't solve the problem, because that will either create inflation or cause employers to increase wages of those higher up the corporate ladder to create the appropriate differentiation based on skill, education, and experience. What needs to happen is for low-skilled/low education people to be driven into programs that give them the skills and education to perform jobs that can pay higher so as to not rely on restaurant, hospitality, and theme park jobs to support themselves as a career.

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