Magic Kingdom worker makes $13.02 an hour, has worked there for 17 years, lives in hotel

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

From the profile:

Faced with the economic challenges living off his $13.02 an hour, Beaver is watching closely to see if his wages increase as Disney, the country’s largest single-site employer with a payroll of more than $2 billion, is set to begin renegotiating with the park’s largest union group this summer.

“I do have a hard life,” he says, pausing for a moment on his daily commute. “But I don’t think about it.”

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

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Jeff's avatar

Here's what I don't understand: How does anyone not look at a front-line job like this as a precursor to something else? In that time, not counting a bunch of contract jobs (5), I've had 8 different positions.

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In contrast, in that same time, I've been with the same employer for almost 20 years, in 4 different positions, and I make more than 3 times what I did when I walked in the door. I know different people have different circumstances, but if you're in a minimum wage job for the better part of 2 decades (even getting incremental pay increases over those years), I can't help but think you're doing it wrong. And I'm sure somebody out there is thinking that the magical $15 an hour minimum wage that gets thrown out is made for a guy like this, but is that extra $2 an hour going to get him out of a hotel and into a running car?

If I learned anything working at WDW it's that folks like this think that "it's worth it" and at the end of the day pledge their loyalty to Disney. They love to complain about how Disney is unfair and complain about their situation but do very little to do things such as go for promotions, seek opportunities outside the company, etc.

I also want to point out that when I was an hourly Cast Member out of college I was making far less than this guy and was still able to scrape together apartment rent and a car payment. Was my lifestyle as nice as it is now? No. But I made it work.

When I was an hourly Cast Member I realized I didn't want to spend my life pushing a button for $8.50 an hour and bettered myself to advance with the company. Once I did, I realized my wants and needs as a person didn't mesh with the lifestyle of a Disney Cast Member. I didn't care for working every weekend, Christmas and Thanksgiving and felt that there were some major things lacking in the way I felt treated as an employee. So I started a job search, found a different path, and am the happiest I have been in some time. It took hard work and patience but I made it happen.

Moral of the story? If you truly are happy and content to work one of these non skilled entry level theme park positions pushing buttons on an attraction or working crowd control at a parade I think that is wonderful and fantastic that you have found your calling. But Disney makes no secrets in what you will be compensated for these positions. If crapping out pixie dust is your career calling, you can't expect Disney to suddenly change their compensation.

You bring up a good point that I thought about after I typed my reply. He's making more than $25k a year if he's getting 40 hours per week. Even with the high cost of apartments in the area, that's not terrible.

bigboy said:

is that extra $2 an hour going to get him out of a hotel and into a running car?

$2/hr = an extra 4 grand a year.

I'd say yes

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Let's assume he is getting 35-40 hours a week and the mandatory overtime that comes with the territory during the holiday and summer peak seasons. If he is single and childless as the article states, he and his roommate could easily find an apartment in the LBV/Kissimmee area and split rent. The article says the motel rent is $250/week which would be $1,000 a month. There are apartment complexes in the area where you can get something for this same rate or even less. Are they the new "luxury apartment homes" that have gone up all around town in the last half decade? No. But there are options. Including several that are still near the Lynx stops if a preowned car isn't in the cards. Is it luxurious living? No. But if the guys is as hellbent on staying in his current job indefinitely as he say in the article, these are still practical options.

Tekwardo's avatar

"In his spare time, Beaver plays online poker and dreams of entering the World Series of Poker."

Maybe if he didn't gamble or expect a low paying job he loves to become a high paying job he loves, he could get something better and afford a car and apartment.

I'm all for unions and belong to one myself, but I wouldn't pay union dues when I already struggled to afford a place to live and had no working vehicle.

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Something is missing from this story.. I don't know if you nailed it Tekwardo with the online poker or what, but if he makes $13.02 an hour and is full time (40 hours), even after say 20% taken out for taxes, healthcare, etc that's still $1600 in his pocket each month. If he's splitting a $1000/mo hotel room with someone else, that's $500, so $1100 left. Where's all that go? Whether or not he can afford an apartment in Orlando is one thing, but he can DEFINITELY afford a used car.

Last edited by jglonek83,

Which then asks the question, what is the true problem here? Is the pay too low, or is there a lack of money management skills in relation to the desired lifestyle? I see many instances of it being the latter. Low income folks generally aren't going to have access to financial planning, advising, etc., and they are often times those who need it most. I would love to know what this guy spends a month on his online poker hobby.

slithernoggin's avatar

Not to be indelicate ... but people rise to the level of their competence. I get that. I understand I will live out my days in a low level customer service position. I don't have the skills or the abilities to move upwards.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
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sws's avatar

slithernoggin said:

but people rise to the level of their incompetence.

Corrected that for you. It's known as the Peter Principle.

Morté615's avatar

When I was working at the parks in Ohio I would have killed for a job that paid $13/h. I was working a professional skilled position (not something that anyone coming in off the street could do with a week of training) and I was still making less than $10. I moved to Florida and immediately got a $4 raise.

After working in the parks in Florida and realizing I wasn't going to make much more, and what I really wanted to do was being done by contractors, I decided to leave the park and start working for the contractors who actually make the things. Even now I don't make what I think I should (or wish I did) but I'm much more comfortable and even looking at building/buying a new house in the near future.

I have always said I don't care how much I get paid, if I don't like what I do I won't do it. Heck I had many opportunity to work in factory jobs for $15 or more an hour. But sitting at a machine and doing repetitive work is not for me. I know others who love it because they can listen to music all day and zone out. To each their own.

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rollergator's avatar

Tekwardo said:

I'm all for unions and belong to one myself, but I wouldn't pay union dues when I already struggled to afford a place to live and had no working vehicle.

I'd guess that without the union, he'd probably still be closer to $10/hr.

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Tekwardo's avatar

Sorry Bill, but if after 17 years, union or not, he's struggling so much, that he can't afford a car or apartment it's time to cut costs. He obviously has no intention of moving out of his current job, so I doubt the Union is much benefit to him, and paying dues even less so.

The Union should be used as a benefit in my experience. Other than he likes volunteering (time he could use getting a second job or learning another skill, perhaps?) I don't see much of what it's got him in 17 years.

Also, I see no reason he can't get a car. My nephew is driving a car he paid less than a grand for.

Last edited by Tekwardo,

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Tek Disney could pay him more. They could pay everyone better. I've worked for both unions, and as a manager. I currently work for a company that is worldwide and employ more than 70k employees. There's a lot money when you get that level and Disney is part of that.

There's a whole rant I can go off on about our younger generation but it's not even worth it. They are selfish and don't want to labor.

Jeff's avatar

The fact that he's willing to stay in a job for 17 years that pays so low is precisely the reason Disney can and will continue to pay what they do for front-end, low skill jobs.

I don't get why the value proposition of a job never comes into play in wage debates. Literally anyone who can exercise basic human respect can be a ride host. And that people are so into snorting and selling pixie dust means that if one person won't do it, someone else will (for 17 years). I don't think this is a moral issue.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

So we're all going to ignore the portion of the article where it mentions his learning disability, then? That probably has something to do with having stayed in attractions without moving up for so long. Moving up beyond getting trainer and coordinator status requires going through the monolith of Casting (HR). That's a little different than moving up through typical fast food ranks where you're generally dealing with at most the franchise ownership, but more likely just the managers in your own store (probably depends on the chain setup, though, but seemed to be the case when I did my stint at a Pizza Hut in high school). I'm guessing he doesn't really have the skills to advance far beyond front line even if he went to F&B.

Original BlueStreak64

I get so upset when I read articles like this. At $13.02 an hour, even working 32 hours per week, he still would be making nearly double the income of the national poverty index. Plus 75% of his health premiums are being paid?! That’s some really good money. Making $13.02 an hour is an extremely high wage for that level of work.

Just a quick search and I was able to find several two-bedroom apartments for nearly half of what he is currently paying for renting a hotel room. The article doesn’t going into depth of his other financial obligations, but simple budgeting and sticking to the budget, he could easily live well on those wages.

Learning disabilities are so common and over diagnosed that it could be as simple as a speech impediment. In fact, I was diagnosed and placed in learning disability classes throughout grammar and middle school because I am quite dyslexic. Yet I was given the same opportunities as the students in the main-stream classes. I graduated high school, went on to graduate from college then continued to culinary and hospitality school. Can’t let a learning disability become a physical disability.

I busted my ass working in restaurants to make my way always knowing that the type of hourly positions I was working in were revolving. Make the best of the position that you’re in while you’re in it and know when it’s time to move on to something better, regardless of it being promotable or changing jobs completely. I loved my first General Manager position making $26k a year, but after a few years of that, while watching server and bartenders make just as much while working half the hours I was working, I knew it was time to start chasing money.

Listening to people complain about minimum wage and how corporations are just getting richer and keeping their employees “in poverty” just irritates me. If people are sick of making minimum wage, then they need to take advantage of the million opportunities surrounding them and move out of the way for the next generation. Making $15 an hour as an unskilled team member of a fast food joint? Absurd. Liberals, love the jobs, hate the employers. Everyone should share their wealth and should be ashamed for making a better life for themselves and their stakeholders. Nonsense. As far as I’m concerned, Disney is over paying this gentleman.

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Tekwardo's avatar

I admit I must have skimmed over the learning disability part, as I don't recall that.

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