Disneyland Staffers Grapple With Worries of Homelessness, Survey Says

“Cast members” also worry about accessing health care as well as affordable, nutritious food

Disneyland castle
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A majority of Disneyland Resort staffers report they can’t cover basic expenses each month and mention high instances of homelessness, food insecurity and low wages.

In a February survey, titled “Working for the Mouse: A Survey of Disneyland Resort Employees,” conducted on behalf of a group of unions by Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable, 5,000 part-time and full-time staffers, all union members, participated out of the full 30,000 “cast members.”

“The Walt Disney Company promotes Disneyland Resort as the ‘happiest place on earth,’ but for many of the approximately 30,000 people who work there, it is not the happiest place to work,” researchers wrote in the introductions.

“Disneyland employees report high instances of homelessness, food insecurity, ever-shifting work schedules, extra-long commutes, and low wages,” researchers continued. “While there is national attention on the minimum wage and have been successful local efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than 85 percent of Disneyland workers earn less than $15 an hour.” Additionally, more than half earn less than $12 an hour.

Nearly 73 percent of staffers say they don’t make enough to cover basic expenses every month. More than 11 percent of employees have reported being homeless or not having a place of their own to sleep over the past two years. Fifty-six percent of Disneyland Resort employees say they have a fear of being evicted from their homes and apartments. Fifty-two percent of workers say their housing is overcrowded. Thirty-one percent of Disneyland workers spend one or more hours commuting to work, compared to 4 percent of the rest of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, to be able to find housing they can afford.

Workers also cited that they don’t have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. More than 68 precent of Disneyland Resort are “food insecure.” More than half of the people surveyed said they ate smaller meals or skipped meals because of their low wage, and one in seven employees said they relied on benefits like food stamps or food banks. More than 59 percent of employees, who are parents of young children, say their schedules working at the parks make it difficult to care for their families.

Additionally, many surveyed employees said they can’t afford health care or dental coverage — 43 percent of employees said although they needed dental care, they couldn’t afford it. 37 percent of parents with young children needed prescriptions medication but couldn’t afford it. And 36 percent of employees enrolled in the Resort’s health insurance plan say they have to give up other necessities per month to afford their premiums.

At the same time, according to the survey, Disney CEO Robert Iger received pay greater than the total pay of more than 2,000 Disneyland employees in each of the past three years. In 2018, Iger’s compensation with equal the total pay of 9,284 workers. In the last decade, the park’s attendance rose by 21 percent, ticket prices rose by 59 percent and revenue grew by 98 percent.

“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,” Disneyland Resorts spokesperson Suzi Brown told TheWrap. “While we recognize that socio-economic challenges exist for many people living in Southern California, we take pride in our employment experience.”

The survey comes at a time when labor unions have proposed to raise the minimum wage in Anaheim to $18 an hour by 2022. But despite the low wages, 79 percent of “cast members” said they were “proud of the work [they] do at the Disneyland Resort.”

You can read the full survey here.