The Service Trades Council Union, a six-union coalition representing 38,000 Disney World workers, says what the company is doing is also illegal. On Monday, the group filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
"Wages and bonuses are part of our negotiation process," Andrea Finger, a Disney spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We will continue to meet with the union to move toward a ratified agreement."
Disney's bonus announcement came just as the unions were restarting contract negotiations. In December, 93 percent of union members rejected the theme park's offer of a $200 signing bonus and a $1-an-hour raise over two years.
Ed Chambers, that union coalition's president, said by tying the bonus to contract negotiations only for those union members, Disney is engaging in a kind of extortion.
"We are taking a position at the council [that] they're two separate things: Give us the $1,000 bonus like everybody else; continue to bargain the contract," he says.
Madeline Johnson, a ride operator at Disney's Animal Kingdom, says from the moment the bonus was announced, she worried the company would try to use it as leverage over workers. Johnson voted against Disney's most recent offer and says the company is retaliating against workers who voted "no."
"I just feel like I'm trying to be bribed and I feel discriminated against, because I don't think it's right that we have to go through this and be blackmailed into accepting something," she says.
Johnson says she wants to hold out for a bigger raise, which she says is worth far more to her than a one-time bonus.
Not everyone agrees it's worth holding out.
Maria Cornell, who works in a Disney store, says she had plans for her bonus. "As a matter of fact, I was going to buy my new glasses," she says, but now those plans are on hold, because both the bonus and the contract remain in limbo.
Cornell says she thinks workers have little leverage to negotiate any more than what Disney is offering, and she wants to see a contract ratified.