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Working for the Mouse

A Survey of Disneyland Resort Employees

February 27, 2018 / By Peter Dreier, Daniel Flaming, Lucero Herrera, Martha Matsuoka, Jane Carlen and Patrick Burns
Underwriter: The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions
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Disneyland Resort is the most iconic theme park in the world.

Disney’s best-known characters are present in the park and woven into America’s national culture, recognized and celebrated around the world. People share more photographs from their visits to Disneyland than from any other place in the world, making it the most Instagrammed location on earth.

In 2016, 27.2 million people visited the Anaheim, California theme park. It generated over $3 billion in revenues for the Walt Disney Company.

Walt Disney is often quoted as saying, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” However, the people in this equation are being shortchanged.

Disneyland employees report high instances of homelessness, food insecurity, ever-shifting work schedules, extra-long commutes, and low wages. While there is national attention on the minimum wage with successful local efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than 85% of union workers at Disneyland earn less than $15 an hour. Notwithstanding their economic hardships, four-fifths of employees say they are “proud of the work I do at the Disneyland Resort.”

Despite steep increases in the cost of housing and other necessities, Disneyland workers have suffered steady pay cuts and continue to struggle to make ends meet.
  • The average hourly wage for Disneyland Resort workers in real dollars dropped 15% from 2000 to 2017, from $15.80 to $13.36.
  • Almost three-quarters say that they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month.
  • Disneyland employees worry about keeping a roof over their heads.
  • Over half of Disneyland Resort employees report concerns about being evicted from their homes or apartments.
  • More than one out of ten Disneyland Resort employees report having been homeless – or not having a place of their own place to sleep – in the past two years.
  • Over half of workers who rent their housing are overcrowded – squeezing too many family members, roommates or even multiple families into a unit that is too small to accommodate the number of occupants.
Many Disneyland workers do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of Disneyland Resort workers are food insecure.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of Disneyland Resort employees with children under 18 are food insecure.
Disneyland employees often struggle with erratic work schedules and underemployment.
  • Only 28% of Disneyland Resort employees report having the same schedule every week.
  • More than half (59%) of Disneyland Resort employees who are parents of young children say that their schedules at the park make it difficult to care for their families and children.
  • 64% of employees report that “the scheduling of my work at the Disneyland Resort makes it difficult to find a second job.”
Most Disneyland workers are mature adults and the job is their career and their livelihood.
  • 59% of workers are 30 to 54 years old and 18% are 55 and older.
  • The job at Disneyland is the primary source of income for 91% of workers, but full-time employment is provided to only 54% of workers.
Disneyland parents are among the most negatively impacted by the resort’s policies.
  • Among Disneyland Resort employees with children who pay for child care, 80% say they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month, 79% are food insecure, and 25% say that they are unlikely to be able to pay for housing that month.
Many Disneyland workers can’t afford healthcare or dental coverage.
  • 43% of employees report that in the past year they needed, but could not afford, dental care.
  • 37% of parents with young children said that in the past year there were times when they needed prescription medicine but could not afford it.
  • 36% of employees enrolled in the Disneyland Resort’s health insurance plan report that they have to give up other necessities to pay the monthly premiums.

 

Many Disneyland workers live in outlying communities in order to find housing they can afford.
  • 31% of Disneyland workers spend one or more hours commuting to work compared to only 4% of the total workforce in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
  • 34% of Disneyland workers have moved within the past two years.
Raising the wages of Disneyland workers will be a powerful regional economic stimulus.
  • Raising the wage floor for Disneyland workers to $20 an hour will increase their collective buying power by $190 million a year.
  • When workers spend their increased pay for things such as housing, groceries, restaurant meals, health care, car maintenance, and child care it will generate $210 million more in sales at businesses in Anaheim and other communities where workers live.
Declining wages for Disneyland workers have weakened the regional economy.
  • There is a backlog of $1.4 billion in unpaid equitable wages that workers would have received if the wage level in 2000 had maintained a steady path to a wage floor of $20 in 2017.
  • Since 2000, the local economies where workers live have been diminished by $1.6 billion in lost sales that businesses would have made if workers had received equitable wages.
There is an extraordinary pay gap between the Walt Disney Company CEO and frontline workers at Disneyland.
  • In each of the three years from 2015 to 2017, the compensation received by Disney CEO Robert Iger was greater than the total pay of more than 2,000 Disneyland workers.
  • In 2018, Mr. Iger’s authorized compensation will equal the total pay of 9,284 Disneyland workers. His pay would make up 86% of the gap between the current wage and an equitable $20 wage for Disneyland workers.
  • When the wage floor for Disneyland workers is raised to $20 an hour, Mr. Iger’s authorized compensation for 2018 will equal the pay of 5,348 Disneyland workers.
Disneyland produces large profits and can afford to pay workers a living wage.
  • In the decade from 2007-2016, Disneyland’s attendance grew 21%, ticket prices grew 59%, and revenue grew 98%.
  • Each full-time-equivalent employee at Disneyland generates an average of $144,900 a year in revenue for the company.
  • It would require only 5.7% of park revenue to raise the wage floor for Disneyland workers to $20.
Findings are based on a survey of  Disneyland Resort employees that generated 5,000 responses, with supporting information from public datasets that describe these workers.

The survey, conducted in October 2017, revealed that while most Disneyland Resort employees – referred to as “cast members” by the company – are proud of the work they do, they feel undervalued, disrespected, and underpaid.

Disneyland Resort is a major profit center for the Walt Disney Company. Over the past decade, the number of visitors to Disneyland Resort has increased, the company has increased ticket prices, and overall revenues have grown dramatically. However, during that period, wages for Disneyland Resort workers have steadily declined in real terms. The rank-and-file employees who make Disneyland Resort such a profitable enterprise have not shared in the park’s success.

Survey respondents’ comments about their employment at Disneyland Resort:

“I have been working for Disneyland for almost 28 years and I make less than $20 an hour. If I didn’t have my husband to help with the bills and other life expenses, I would be living out of my car, or worse, homeless. Disney has increased admission tickets, food & merchandise has increased too. Yet, the front of line ‘Cast Members’ are struggling to pay their mortgage/rent, groceries, transportation and other daily/monthly bills. I am not asking to get rich by working for Disney, but I am asking for fair pay for fair work. I expect to be able to not worry, to not stress, about having food to eat and a roof over my head.”
– Merchandise host at Disneyland Resort for 28 years

“It’s really sad that after working 16 years for Disney I’m not making enough money to pay bills and when I do pay bills, there is not enough for other things like enjoying a nice meal with family or going on vacation. I sometimes stress on how I will pay rent, food, gas, and other expenses. I recently had to work Monday-Saturday and had 1 day off (Sunday,) just to pay bills.”
– Merchandise employee for 16 years

“I loved the work I did for the Disneyland Resort. It was one of the best, most fun, and rewarding (personally) jobs I’ve had. But making magic doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t feed my children, keep a roof over their heads, put clothes on their back, or keep the electricity on. How are we supposed to make magic when we can’t even afford to live?”
– Former employee who worked at the park for 3 years

“Disney has become a nightmare to work for. The long hours, lack of livable wages, and zero respect has got to stop.”
– Full-time worker

“After 11 years at the resort I make $12.02 as my base wage. Why should I drive 30 miles on the 91 and 5 freeways, almost always in heavy traffic, to earn a minimum wage?”
– Full-time merchandise host for 11 years

“Disneyland truly is a magical place for the guests but it’s a life struggle for all the employees. Something needs to be done or more and more people will lose time with their families, friends and even their very lives.”
– Full-time wardrobe worker

Press Coverage and Articles

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at rally to call for higher wages for Disneyland Resort workers
By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (June 2, 2018)

Bernie Sanders: Disney needs ‘moral defense’ for having hungry workers while making billions
By Luis Sanchez, The Hill (June 2, 2018)

Sen. Bernie Sanders attacks Disney a day after Trump — for different reasons
By Tucker Higgins, CNBC (June 1, 2018)

Bernie Sanders takes job-killing stands at Disney workers’ rally, critics say
By Stephen Sorace, Fox News (June 2, 2018)

Bernie Sanders barnstorms Southern California, urges wage increases for Disney, port workers
By Alicia Robinson, The Orange County Register (June 2, 2018)

“We Need to Shame Disney” Over Poverty Wages, Declares Bernie Sanders at Workers’ Rally
By Jon Queally, Common Dreams (June 2, 2018)

Sen. Bernie Sanders holds roundtable on wages with Disney workers
By Circa, ABC 13 Rochester, NY (June 2, 2018)

Bernie Sanders blasts Disney ahead of meetings with workers: ‘Employees can’t afford basic expenses’
BY Joe Difazio, Newsweek (June 1, 2018)

Bernie Sanders Calls Out Bob Iger at Disneyland Workers Protest
By Jeremy Fuster, The Wrap (June 3, 2018)

Disney’s workers: Realities, fantasies, and lessons for NL
By Conor Curtis, The Newfoundland and Labrador Independent (June 6, 2018)

US Sen. Bernie Sanders To Disneyland: ‘We’ve Got Families Struggling’
CBS Los Angeles (June 3, 2018)

Bernie Sanders rallies Disneyland employees for a $15 minimum wage
By Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing (June 3, 2018)

Disneyland’s not a happy place for Bernie Sander
KPCC 89.3 (June 1, 2018)

‘Woke Disneyland is gonna suck’! Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders fights for worker raises… in California
By Doug P., twitchy (June 2, 2018)

Disney embraces $15 minimum wage in negotiations with workers
By Jackie Wattles, CNN Money (June 3, 2018)

Disneyland Rolls Out Wage Bump Proposal for Hourly Employees
NBC 4 (May 31, 2018)

Disney survey research was factual and credible
Daniel Flaming and Peter Dreier, letter to the Orange County Register (April 19, 2018)

Union-funded survey biased, just propaganda
Lisa Haines, Disneyland VP, letter to the Orange County Register (April 12, 2018)

These charts show how 5,000 Disney workers feel about their jobs
Jeff Goertzen, Art Director, Southern California News Group (April 11, 2018)

Outside Disneyland, a Reminder for Governments to Be Careful What They Wish for
By John Buntin, Governing (April 2018)

The homeless Disney worker who died alone in her car became the face of a public debate, but all she wanted was privacy
By Theresa Walker, Orange County Register (April 3, 2018)

Are Disney Workers Having a Hard Time Making Ends Meet?
By Michelle Chen, The Nation (March 14, 2018)

Yeweinisht Mesfin, California Adventure Custodian, Died Homeless in Her Car
By Gabriel San Roman, OC Weekly (March 9, 2018)

Disney shareholders reject executive pay plan in nonbinding vote at annual meeting
By Daniel Miller and Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (March 8, 2018)

Disney workers protest wages, demand more at Houston meeting
By Janel Forte, KHOU 11, Houston, TX (March 8, 2018)

Disney investors vote no on rich executive pay as union employees protest wages outside annual meeting
Orange County Register (March 8, 2018)

Disneyland workers demonstrate at Walt Disney Co. meeting, demanding ‘living wages’
By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (March 8, 2018)

Disneyland Workers Chant for ‘Living Wage’ Outside Shareholder Meeting
NBC Southern California (March 9, 2018)

Disney Shareholders Vote on Executive Pay While Disneyland Workers Demonstrate Outside
By Tom Bell, Disney Information (March 8, 2018)

Disney Investors Offer Say on Executive Pay, and Dislike
By Christopher Palmeri and Jack Kaskey, Bloomberg News (March 8, 2017)

America is Disneyland
By Chris Kanthan, Nation of Change (March 7, 2018)

Keep the city of Anaheim out of Disney labor dispute
By The Editorial Board, Orange County Register (March 7, 2018)

Disneyland’s low pay is a reminder that benevolent corporations do not exist
Letters to the Editor, Los Angeles Times (March 6, 2018)

Five Takeaways From the Disneyland “Homeless” Report
By Gustavo Arellano, Capital & Main and BeyondChron (March 6, 2018)

High housing costs and long commutes drive more workers to sleep in cars
By Patrick Sisson, Curbed (March 6, 2018)

Disneyland’s workers are undervalued, disrespected and underpaid
by Peter Dreier and Daniel Flaming, Los Angeles Times (February 28, 2018)

Unions at the Disneyland Resort propose ballot measure to raise wages for workers
By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (March 2, 2018)

Unions Propose Ballot Measure Requiring Disneyland to Pay Workers Living Wage
By KTLA 5 (March 2, 2018)

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) promotes Disneyland Resort as the ‘happiest place on earth
By Benchmark Monitor (March 5, 2018)

Disneyland workers face homelessness due to low pay
By Beckett Frith, HR Grapevine (March 5 2018)

Disneyland Employees Report Low-Pay Hardships
By Michelle Gant, Brinkwire (March 4, 2018)

Three-quarters of employees surveyed at Disney’s Anaheim resort say they can’t afford basic living expenses
By Herald and News (March 3, 2018)

Not-So-Magic Kingdom? Many Disneyland Workers Poor & Homeless, Union Says Newburgh Gazette
By Jacquelyn Byrd, Newburgh Gazette (March 4, 2018)

Disneyland Employees Report Low-Pay Hardships — New Survey
By Violet Powell, Newburgh Gazette (March 3, 2018)

‘Happiest Place on Earth:’ Disneyland Workers Cannot Afford Food and Shelter
By Joanna Estrada, Lancashire Independent News (March 4, 2018)

Disneyland employees struggling to keep up with cost of living
By Zac Fyffe, Best in AU (March 3, 2018)

Survey points to economic struggles for Disneyland workers
By Jason Aycock, Seeking Alpha (March 3, 2018)

Disneyland Employees Report Low-Pay Hardships
http://aliveforfootball.com/2018/03/disneyland-employees-report-low-pay-hardships/
By Christopher Zimmerman, Alive For Football (March 3, 2018)

Down and out in Disneyland: study finds most LA workers can’t cover basic needs
By Paulina Velasco, The Guardian (March 1, 2018)

Disney unions’ ballot drive seeks to raise wages up to $18 an hour for hospitality companies that take Anaheim subsidies
By Margot Roosevelt, Orange County Register (March 1, 2018)

Disneyland Staffers Grapple With Worries of Homelessness, Survey Says
By Beatrice Verhoeven, The Wrap (March 1, 2018)

‘Happiest Place on Earth:’ Disneyland Workers Cannot Afford Food and Shelter
By Adelle Nazarian, Breitbart News (March 1, 2018)

Disneyland staff ‘living on streets’
By Ben Hoyle, The Times (March 2, 2018 )

Survey reveals many Disneyland workers can’t make ends meet
By Madeline Brand, KCRW-Press Play (March 1, 2018)

Disneyland Staffers Are Suffering From Low Wages
MSN (March 1, 2018)

Study finds three quarters of Disney’s Anaheim resort employees can’t afford basic living expenses
by Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (February 28, 2018)

Disney unions’ ballot drive seeks to raise wages up to $18 an hour for hospitality companies that take Anaheim subsidies
By Margo Roosevelt, Orange County Register (February 28, 2018)

Empleados de Disneylandia acusan a la compañía multimillonaria de pagarles salarios de miseria
By Jacqueline García, La Opinión (February 28, 2018)

Survey reveals Disneyland employees struggling to pay living expenses, face homelessness
By Michelle Gant, NEWS.com.au (March 1, 2018)

Disney Labor Unions Announce $15 Living Wage Campaign for Anaheim Resort
By Gabriel San Roman, OC Weekly (March 1, 2018)

Survey: Most Calif. Disney Workers Can’t Afford Living Expenses
By Jenn Gidman, Newser (March 1, 2018)

Report: 10 percent of Disneyland employees have recently experienced homelessness
By Zac Self, City News Service and ABC10News (February 28, 2018)

Report finds Disneyland employees struggle to make ends meet
By Sanika Bhargaw, USC Annenberg Media (February 28, 2018)

Some Disneyland Employees Struggle to Pay For Food, Shelter, Survey Finds
By Merrit Kennedy, KQED and NPR (February 28, 2018)

Disneyland workers struggle with low wages and homelessness
CBS News Money Watch (March 1, 2018)

Your favorite Disneyland characters probably can’t pay for food or rent
BY Christina Flygstad, CW33 NewsFix (March 1, 2018)

Some Disneyland staff say they struggle with homelessness and food insecurity
By Jacob Passy, Market Watch (March 1, 2018)

Some Disneyland Workers Are Homeless: Union-Funded Report
NBC 7 San Diego (February 28, 2018)

Not-so-magic kingdom? Many Disneyland workers poor & homeless, union says
RT (February 28, 2018)

Survey finds 10 percent of Disneyland employees have been homeless in past two years
Tribune Media myfox8.com and Wire Fox 61 and Oklahoma’s News 4 (February 28, 2018)

New Survey: Disneyland Employees Report Low-Pay Hardships
by Diane Hathman­, Los Angeles Business Journal (February 28, 2018), also run in the Orange County Business Journal

Informe revela bajos salarios en Disneyland
by Alejandra Ortiz Chagín, Telemundo 52 and City News Service (February 28, 2018)

Some Disneyland Employees Struggle To Pay For Food, Shelter, Survey Finds
by Merrit Kennedy, National Public Radio (February 28, 2018)

10% of Disneyland Employees Have Been Homeless in the Past 2 Years, Union-Funded Wage Report Finds
by Tracy Bloom and Chip Yost, KTLA5 News (February 28, 2018)

Many Disneyland employees struggle to pay living expenses, face homelessness, according to survey
by Michelle Gant, Fox News (February 28, 2018)

Homeless and Hungry: Survey Finds Disneyland workers are Massively Underpaid
by Ewan Palmer, Newsweek (February 28, 2018)

Report details struggles theme park employees face to make ends meet
by Robert Niles, Theme Park Insider (February 28, 2018)

Some Disneyland Workers Are Homeless: Union-Funded Report Says
by NBC Southern California (February 28, 2018)

Disneyland Employees Have Had To Use Food Stamps, Risk Homelessness Due To Low Wages, Union Claims
by Aaron Homer, Inquisitr (February 28, 2018)

Disneyland Resort Workers Are the True Magic-Makers, But a Survey Shows Many Toil in Poverty
by Gabriel San Roman, OC Weekly (February 28, 2018)

Disneyland blasts report claiming many park employees paid so little they go hungry, are homeless
By Toni McAllister, MyNewsLA.com (February 27, 2018)

Some Disneyland workers get paid so little they experience homelessness
By CBS 8 San Diego (February 27, 2018)

Disneyland Resort workers struggle to pay for food, housing and medical care, union survey finds
By Margot Roosevelt, Orange County Register (February 27, 2018); also appears in the San Jose Mercury News (February 28, 2018)

By Day, a Sunny Smile for Disney Visitors. By Night, an Uneasy Sleep in a Car.
By Jennifer Medina, New York Times (February 27, 2018)

Broadcast Coverage of Working for the Mouse

KSAZ-PHX (FOX) – Phoenix, AZ, March 1, 2018, 6:00 a.m.

WTVT-TB (FOX) – Tampa Bay, FL, March 1, 2018, 7:30 a.m.

WOGX (FOX) – Gainesville, FL, March 1, 2018, 7:15 a.m.

WGN – Chicago, IL, March 1, 2018, 6:30 a.m.

WXIN-IN (FOX) – Indianapolis, IN, March 2, 2018, 9:00 a.m.

KMSS-SHV (FOX) – Shreveport, LA, March 1, 2018, 7:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m.

WGNO-NO (ABC) – New Orleans, LA, March 1, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

WDAF-KC (FOX) – Kansas City, MO, March 1, 2018, 7:00 a.m.

WYFX (FOX) – Youngstown, OH, March 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m.

KINK Radio – Portland, OR, March 1, 2018, 7:30 a.m.

WTAT-CHS (FOX) – Charleston, SC, March 1, 2018, 7:00 a.m.

KDAF (CW) – Dallas, TX, March 1, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

KSTU-SLC (FOX) – Salt Lake City, UT, March 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m.

WTTG-DC (FOX) – Washington, D.C, March 1, 2018, 7:30 a.m.

WITI-MILW (FOX) – Milwaukee, WI, March 1, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

WIT -MILW (FOX) – Milwaukee, WI, March 1, 2018, 5:30 a.m.

KTTV-LA (FOX) – Los Angeles, CA, March 1, 2018, 6:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 8:30 p.m.

KCOY-SBA (CBS) – Santa Barbara, CA, March 1, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

KCBS-AM (Radio) – San Francisco, CA, March 1, 2018, 3:30 p.m.

KPIX-SF (CBS) – San Francisco, CA, February 28, 2018 , 11:00 p.m.

KCRW-FM (Radio) – Los Angeles, CA, March 1, 2018 , 6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m.

Capital Public Radio – Sacramento, CA, March 1, 2018, 7:00 a.m.

KQED-FM (Radio) – San Francisco, CA, March 1, 2018, 6:00 a.m.

KMPH-FRES (FOX) – Fresno, CA, March 1, 2018 , 6:00 a.m.

WIT -MILW (FOX) – Milwaukee, WI, March 1, 2018 , 5:30 a.m.

WXMI-GR (FOX) – Grand Rapids, MI, March 1, 2018 , 5:30 a.m.

KVVU-LV (FOX) – Las Vegas, NV, February 28, 2018 , 11:30 p.m.

WFFT (FOX) – Fort Wayne, IN, February 28, 2018, 10:30 p.m.

KTLA, February 28, 2018, 6:00 pm

KNBC, March 1, 2018, 6:00 pm

KCAL, Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 6:00 pm, 4:30 pm , 10:00 pm

KNX-AM (Radio) – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.

KMEX-LA (Univision) – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 6:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.

KVEA (Telemundo) – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018 , 12:00 p.m.

KFI-AM – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 8:45 a.m.; March 1, 2018, 7: 00 a.m.

KNBC-LA (NBC) – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m.

KTLA-LA (WB) – Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2018, 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.

KMBC-KC (ABC) – Kansas City, MO, February 28, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

KMEX-LA (Univision) – Los Angeles, CA, February 27, 2018 , 11:00 p.m.

KABC-AM (Radio) – Los Angeles, CA, February 27, 2018 , 11:30 p.m.

Area of Work: Economy, People
Tags: Anaheim, Disneyland, Earnings, Economic Growth, Economic Impacts, Economic Ripple Effects, Economy, Employment, Homelessness, Income, Industry Impacts, Job Quality, Labor Market, Minimum Wage, Orange County, Public Costs, Wages, Walt Disney Company, Work