The union representing Walt Disney World’s firefighters has expressed support for Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ plan to strip Disney of their special district, which the company has been allowed to self-govern.
In April 2022, DeSantis signed a bill that would dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Since its creation in 1967, Disney has been allowed to essentially self-govern the 25,000-acre district in most ways.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the district provides its own public services, such as utilities, and can issue bonds, levy taxes and oversee land use and environmental protections.
Reedy Creek is set to be put under new management in June and a state-appointed board will oversee the district.
“The corporate kingdom has come to an end”
The DeSantis Administration says a new proposal would allow the state to control Disney’s district
And require Disney pay its debtshttps://t.co/Pu8gZJ7aOQ
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) January 7, 2023
Not long after DeSantis signed the bill, the union representing first responders in Reedy Creek told the Sentinel that many of their members were worried about their jobs and benefits.
But union leaders are now backing DeSantis’ plan, saying they’ve been in contact with the governor and trust his track record of taking care of Florida’s first responders.
“Anything has got to be better than what we currently have,” Tim Stromsnes, communications director for the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117, told the Sentinel.
“We really hope that this new board will bring the morale up for Reedy Creek [and] will make us an elite emergency services department again,” Stromsnes said.
He added, “We’ve got our faith in the governor that we’re going to be around and that it’s going to be a better place to work.”
According to the Sentinel, the district employs nearly 400 people — half of whom provide fire and medical emergency services.
Reedy Creek union members have long complained of understaffing, poor employee support and have said that changes made to the fire department’s mutual aid policies with neighboring departments have compromised the safety of guests and Disney employees, the Sentinel reported.
The union also cited a lack of accountability and communication with Reedy Creek officials, saying that the district has failed to negotiate a new contract for first responders. The previous contract expired four years ago, according to the Sentinel.
Both Disney and Reedy Creek officials have denied the union’s claims.
On Monday, District Spokeswoman Eryka Washington Perry forwarded an email from District Administrator John Classe, notifying district employees of the upcoming change in management.
“It is very clear that there is legislative intent for the District to continue to do the great work you do every day,” Classe wrote, according to the Sentinel.
“As the legislative process continues to play out in the weeks/months ahead, it is imperative that we continue to provide excellence in our government services to the tens of thousands of visitors who come here daily,” Classe said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.