The relationship between firefighters and Walt Disney World’s governing district has turned sour after a new district administrator reopened negotiations on a contract that had already been approved by the unionized firefighters.
The contract had promised pay raises and more manpower for the firefighters, but it was not voted on during last month’s meeting and was also not included in the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The proposed three-year contract included an increase in annual starting pay for firefighters and the hiring of up to 36 firefighters and paramedics.
After the DeSantis-appointed supervisors took over earlier this year, Jon Shirey, the leader of the firefighters union, welcomed them and praised their visits to the firefighters’ stations around the Walt Disney World property. The firefighters hoped to collaborate with the new administration after years of tension with their Disney-supporting predecessors.
Shirey described the appointments as an opportunity for a fresh start and said that for the first time, there was transparency, open dialogue, and the ability to get issues heard and listened to.
He also acknowledged that they had been able to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed for a long time.
The board chairman, Martin Garcia, reciprocated the positive sentiment and stated that the supervisors were collaborating with the firefighters to address their concerns.
However, Garcia also made it clear that the board aimed to support all the district employees, not just the firefighters.
Garcia emphasized that it was important to communicate to all the district employees that they were valued and cared for, not just the firefighters. “We love you, too.
We care about you. We love you as much as we love our firefighters,” he said. Garcia’s statement conveyed the board’s intention to work towards the well-being of all employees under the district’s purview.
The delay in approving the proposed contract has caused a rift between the firefighters’ union and the district administration. The union had endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during his reelection campaign last year, and his recent launch of a campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
However, the delay in the contract has caused the union to feel alienated and has the potential to sour their relationship with the administration.
The previous contract between the district and the firefighters’ union had expired four years ago. The union had declared an impasse last year when the board was still controlled by Disney supporters, citing understaffing as a safety concern as the theme park resort grew larger.
Despite negotiations, a new contract was not approved until last month, only to be stalled again.
In the meantime, John Classe, who had negotiated the proposed new contract, was replaced by Glenton Gilzean. Gilzean is a DeSantis ally who had previously served as the president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League and will receive a $400,000 salary in his new role. The district is also keeping Classe on as a special advisor.
Alexei Woltornist, the spokesperson for the board, confirmed that the negotiations with the firefighters’ union were still ongoing. However, he did not provide an explanation as to why the negotiations had been reopened after the proposed contract had already been approved by the firefighters and first responders. It remains unclear what specific issues led to the delay in approving the contract.
According to Alexei Woltornist, the board’s spokesperson, Administrator Gilzean is actively engaged in discussions with the fire department to finalize a compensation package and provide the necessary resources to ensure public safety. Woltornist confirmed this in an email to The Associated Press, without providing any details on the progress of the negotiations.
The board seems to be prioritizing the interests of all its employees, including the firefighters, to ensure that all parties involved are satisfied with the final agreement.
In response to the recent legal dispute between Disney and Governor DeSantis, I would like to express my thoughts on the matter. The issue at hand revolves around Disney’s claim that the governor’s takeover of the theme park district, as well as the actions of the oversight board, infringed upon the company’s free speech rights.
On the other hand, the board has filed a lawsuit against Disney in state court, aiming to retain its control over construction and design at Disney World.
It is important to note that the district in question was established back in 1967, with the intention of regulating land use, enforcing building codes, treating wastewater, controlling drainage, maintaining utilities, and providing fire protection at Disney World.
Similar private governments exist in Florida, a state known for its rapid growth, with over 600 community development districts that manage and finance infrastructure in new communities.
While I cannot comment on the specifics of the case, as it is a matter for the courts to decide, I believe it is crucial for both parties to engage in a fair and transparent legal process. Respecting the rights of all involved parties, including Disney’s free speech rights and the board’s authority over construction and design, is of utmost importance.
Ultimately, the outcome of this legal battle will have implications not only for Disney and the board but also for the broader concept of private governance in Florida. It will be interesting to see how the court evaluates the arguments presented by both sides and reaches a fair resolution.
In conclusion, the lawsuit between Disney and Governor DeSantis, as well as the board, raises important questions regarding free speech rights and the authority of private governments. I trust that the legal process will provide a fair and just resolution to this complex issue.