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28 Feb, 2018 23:51

Not-so-magic kingdom? Many Disneyland workers poor & homeless, union says

Not-so-magic kingdom? Many Disneyland workers poor & homeless, union says

Disneyland unions are demanding higher wages after a new survey revealed that many workers at the California theme park are struggling to make ends meet and some have even been homeless while the company’s profits soar.

A survey of 5,000 workers at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California found that many were unable to afford basic food and medical expenses. Eleven percent of the workers even said they experienced homelessness in the past two years. The findings come from a union-backed report 'Working for the Mouse', which was conducted by researchers at Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable and released on Wednesday.

The group of 11 unions behind the survey is calling on Disneyland Resort to raise its base wage to $20 an hour.

“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,” an anonymous merchandise host said in the survey, which was conducted in October 2017.

The average hourly wage for Disneyland resort workers actually went down by 15 percent between 2000 and 2017, from $15.80 to $13.36 after adjusting for inflation. Disneyland generated over $3 billion in revenues for the Walt Disney Company in 2016.

More than 85 percent of unionized workers at Disneyland earn less than $15 an hour. Almost three-quarters of them said that they do not earn enough money to afford basic expenses each month, the survey revealed. Over half of the employees expressed concerns about being evicted from their homes.

“I have a full-time job that does not allow me to live like a human being. My stress and anxiety levels are so high because I live paycheck to paycheck, asking people if I could borrow money for gas to get me to work,” one anonymous full-time worker said in the survey.

Disney denounced the survey as inaccurate and said it does not reflect the feelings of the 30,000 employees or “cast members” at the resort.

“This inaccurate and unscientific survey was paid for by politically motivated labor unions and its results are deliberately distorted," Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register.

“While we recognize that socio-economic challenges exist for many people living in Southern California, we take pride in our employment experience,” Brown added.

In a recent CNBC survey, California was ranked as the third most expensive state in the US in terms of the cost of living, behind Hawaii and New York.

Disney’s first theme park opened 1955. The park attracted more than 27.2 million visitors in 2016. The Walt Disney Company was named as the number six “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune Magazine in 2018.