Disneyland may bill itself as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but for the employees behind the scenes, low wages have forced some of them to use food stamps, forgo medical care, and even risk homelessness, according to the employees’ unions.
As the Orange County Register reports, a coalition of 11 different Disneyland employees’ unions is working together with the company to address the issue of low wages. A survey of 5,000 employees found that some had difficulty paying for food or medical expenses, and 11 percent said they’d experienced homelessness over the past two years.
According to a 125-page report by the unions, entitled “Working For The Mouse,” Disneyland wages, when adjusted for inflation, have either stagnated or even gone down. Specifically, an employee earning $15 per hour in 2018 dollars is actually only earning $13.36 — and that’s in Southern California’s famously-expensive housing market.
In fact, of the 17,000 workers represented by the 11 unions, 85 percent earn $15 per hour or less on the job at the Anaheim theme park. A full half of the unions’ representation earns less than $12 per hour; at 40 hours per week, that puts their weekly earnings below the federal poverty level for a family of four.
“For many of the approximately 30,000 people who work there, [Disneyland] is not the happiest place to work. Despite steep increases in the cost of housing and other necessities, Disneyland workers have suffered steady pay cuts and are struggling to make ends meet.”
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) February 28, 2018
The report reveals some alarming specifics. For example, three quarters of Disneyland’s low-wage employees say they don’t make enough money to cover expenses every month. Half live in overcrowded housing conditions, squeezing several people or even whole families into small spaces to keep costs down. Two thirds are “food insecure.” Fifty-nine percent of Disneyland workers who are also parents say their low pay and shifting schedules make it hard to find, and pay for, child care. Forty-three percent reported that they needed dental care in the last year but couldn’t afford to pay for it.
The coalition of unions is pushing for a $20-per-hour minimum wage for Disneyland employees. Implementing this wage increase, says the coalition, would inject $210 million per year into the Anaheim economy through money spent on things like housing, food, and auto repair, among other things.
In a statement, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown took exception to the report’s alarming accusation.
“This inaccurate and unscientific survey was paid for by politically motivated labor unions and its results are deliberately distorted and do not reflect how the overwhelming majority of our 30,000 cast members feel about the company.”
However, she also admitted that the economic realities of living in Southern California can cause economic hardships, but that overall, Disney “takes pride in its employment experience.”