Union survey says three-fourths of Disneyland workers can't afford basic living expenses

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Only weeks after Walt Disney Co. reported better-than-expected profit, a survey at the company's Anaheim theme parks found that 73% of employees questioned don't earn enough to pay for such expenses as rent, food and gas. The online survey, funded by labor groups pushing for higher wages for workers at Disneyland and California Adventure Park, also said that 11% of resort employees have been homeless or have not had a place of their own in the last two years. Disney disputes the results of the survey.

Read more from The LA Times.

Jeff's avatar

I totally get that the issue of the working poor is a real problem, and I don't know what the solution is. My issue is this:

Critics of Disney and its Anaheim theme parks say the entertainment giant has the resources to pay workers higher wages.

This kind of thinking bothers me, because it suggests that critics know more about the company's priorities and responsibilities than the company does. Disney did pretty well getting through the recession without letting go of a ton of people (I think it was around 900 in Orlando in 2009), and managed to invest in the parks in the years that followed. Also recall people predicting the end of days in just a year and a half ago with some minor decreases in attendance. You don't get to do that if you arbitrarily spend money. My point is, what Disney can "afford" without context to how they approach variations in economic conditions, or even other struggling company divisions (ESPN), is the worst kind of armchair quarterbacking.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

When I read Jeff's excerpt and saw online survey I figured it would be some lousy attempt, but they actually put together a nice report. That being said, we have people working in entry level jobs, and getting wages typical of an entry level job.

What is the real problem here? Is it that Disney pays too little? If that was simply the case, couldn't the workers just look for other employment? Or is the problem unskilled labor? Then the workers can't find higher wages regardless where they look. If the issue is unskilled labor, then is that Disney's problem, or a bigger one overall?

The article mentions, "59% of workers are 30 to 54 years old and 18% are 55 and older." We are talking about making a career of an entry level job, and then complaining that wages are too low, did these people expect higher wages by simply staying put?

I don't know much about the inner workings of the company anymore. Are the wages for similar positions the same in California as they are in Orlando? If they are that may be part of the problem as we all know Southern California cost of living is significantly higher than the Orlando area. Yes, most of the jobs are entry level but I assume a good number of those are full time with benefits. Benefits are nice but if you can't afford Orange County rent that certainly is an obstacle.

What Disney may need to consider, sometime in the future, is reverting back to the "company town" philosophy that was traditional in industries such as coal. Housing owned by the company near the work. Heck, Disney does that in practice now when it comes to their college program students . I think I remember seeing that they hire something like 12,000 college program students in Orlando, annually, that live in company provided apartments. Back in 1992 (man I'm dating myself) I was paid something like $5.30 an hour and I lived in an apartment (3 bedroom, two bath for six guys) that cost me something like $57 per week. Looks like those fees have gone up in the past 25+ years...as one might expect...but so too has the wage. Looks like they are paying $8-$10 per hour depending on the type of job.

So, this may seem a little draconian but if they want to continue to pay employees "low" wages then they may need to consider providing more accessibility to housing and so forth.

Jeff's avatar

Disney officials challenged the figure, saying the annual salary for hourly workers at the resort is $37,000, which calculates to about $17.80 per hour.

That's still not great for SoCal, but I imagine they have the same situation there: For every person in one of those jobs, 10 people are lined up behind them who also want it.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Other than college, things aren't priced based on how much you can afford to pay. Just doesn't work that way.

So THAT explains why Tesla didn't take my $80k for the Roadster.

Damn. Maths are hard.

June 11th, 2001 - Gemini 100
VertiGo Rides - 82

These “we work at X and can’t afford Y” articles kinda get on my nerves. If you’re gonna work a job that doesn’t pay well, you’re not gonna live in the lap of luxury. Whatever happened to having a roommate to split expenses or working a second part time job to make ends meet? It’s not the employer’s job to make sure you earn enough to live the lifestyle you want. They pay just enough to fill the job. If nobody accepted working at WDW for $10/hr, I’m pretty sure the pay would go up. And by “accepted” I don’t mean have a tantrum on Twitter; I mean not taking the job.

But then again, what do I know?

ApolloAndy's avatar

Meh. I think I agree with ShaneDenmark, but then another part of me says that organizing and publicizing is about the only leverage the workers have in a negotiation where Disney has every other advantage.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

LostKause's avatar

Businesses like Disney rely on making it too difficult for their employees to get an education and get a better job. They discourage them to do anything to better their life by giving them an unpredictable work schedule, and low wages. You can't go to college if you work a wonky schedule that is totally different every single day. Disney, like other big corporations, need those low-wage earners to run their businesses.

If everyone who worked at Disney somehow pulled $50,000+ out of their butt to pay for college, and somehow got their employer to work their schedule around their college courses, who would work at the parks once these thousands-of-cast members got higher paying jobs?

These low wage cast members help their employer make gazillions-of-dollars. Why don't they get to reap the rewards that they work do hard to make for the company? Why don't they simply make enough to live on?

This has been my experience with jobs like this, at least. If I could poop out some money, and if my employer wouldn't cut my hours in half, I would be going to school. At least I can study whatever I want on the internet everyday. I have that. It doen't make me more money though.

Jeff's avatar

LostKause said:

Businesses like Disney rely on making it too difficult for their employees to get an education and get a better job. They discourage them to do anything to better their life by giving them an unpredictable work schedule, and low wages.

And what evidence do you have that this is their intent? They literally have a college program intended to give people front-line experience while they're going to school, for people who in fact treat that work as entry-level.

You have the same opportunities I did when it comes to college. I chose to do it immediately after high school, take the loans, and get it done. We all make choices.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Tekwardo's avatar

I chose to better myself and move on from Walmart in my early twenties and fought my way into a state job with good pay and benefits.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Jeff's avatar

This completely sums up the real problem:


"People say if you don't like it, then quit. Get another job. But I love my job. I love what i do. That's why I stay," she said. "I left my home and my family to work here. I love this company. But I don't love the way I'm being treated right now."

And that's why Disney doesn't have to pay you more.

Also they mention that by law the bonus has to be negotiated through the union.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Tekwardo's avatar

I’ve never had a job that I loved so much that I would put up with low pay and poor treatment. I’m only loyal for as far as it gets me. Because my job is only loyal to me for as long as they need me.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Online classes have made getting a college degree easier than ever before. You don't need a predictable schedule. My wife got a graduate degree in a year and the only times she had to step on campus was for a meeting with her internship professor and for graduation. And this wasn't a $50k degree from a for-profit diploma mill in the Caribbean. This was from the same large public university where she did her undergraduate work.

Vater's avatar

The first nine years of my experience in the workforce consisted of two part-time jobs: 2.5 years at a drugstore and 6.5 years at a grocery store, both working inconsistent schedules of days or nights any day of the week. I managed to go to college (until I didn't want to anymore). I was given consistent raises at the grocery store and eventually managed to transfer to a store that needed to fill morning shifts (6am-1pm) Monday through Friday. I moved out around that time when my take-home pay was enough to afford to live on my own.

Then I got fired and moved on to bigger and better things, but that's another story.

Dale K's avatar

bigboy said it right. People can no longer use the excuse that "I don't have time to go to college because of my work schedule". Online classes have completely eliminated

that excuse now a days. My wife got her masters from the University of Michigan completely online without ever stepping foot on campus. The price of it? Well that's a different debate.

Last edited by Dale K,
sirloindude's avatar

I wish people would move out of the mindset that they are entitled to career wages for jobs that aren't career jobs. If you absolutely love the job, great, but those are not skilled positions with some demand shortage. Those jobs were only ever meant to be entry-level positions.

On top of that, you don't need college to do well. There are plenty of trade schools out there for plenty of trades that can lead to very lucrative jobs. Ultimately, there are plenty of opportunities at lower costs than college, and there are hard-working individuals who do very well without either because they buckle down and work their way up where they can. I have a cousin with no degree or trade certification and I'm convinced he makes more than I do, and I'm not hurting by any means.

Ultimately, it's great that people enjoy these jobs and want to do them forever, but that comes with sacrifices, especially in a financial sense. These jobs are not meant to be filled for career-length tenures.

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones


Lord Gonchar's avatar

sirloindude said:

Those jobs were only ever meant to be entry-level positions.

These jobs are not meant to be filled for career-length tenures.

Honestly, jobs aren't meant to be anything beyond a business filling a need.

I don't get the mindset that relies on an employer (or somehow thinks it's an employer's responsibility) to meet the individual's life goals and needs.

A job is just a job. It's a means to an end and it owes you jack. You are responsible for you.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,

Lord Gonchar said:

Honestly, jobs aren't meant to be anything beyond a business filling a need.

^This.^ Which is why the argument of "Disney made x amount of profit. They can afford it." doesn't make sense to me. They can also afford to buy everyone on the board of directors a personal private jet, but that doesn't mean they should.

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