I work at the happiest place on Earth. Why can’t I pay my rent?

0:00

Disneyland is promoted as being ‘the happiest place on earth.’ But for many of the 30,000 people who work there, it doesn’t even come close.

Working for Disneyland should be a fairy tale come true. But employees are working under conditions a little more "Cinderella" than "Princess Jasmine."

According to a recent survey, more than one in ten Disneyland Resort employees have experienced some form of homelessness in the last two years. Some of them resort to sleeping in their cars. Nearly 75 percent of Disneyland employees questioned said they can’t afford basic living expenses.

When adjusted for inflation the average hourly wage of a Disneyland employee dropped from $15.80 in 2000 to $13.36 in 2017. More than 85% of Disneyland employees earn less than $15 an hour.

Glyndanna Shevlin has worked as a concierge for Disneyland in Anaheim, California, for almost three decades.  Ms Shelvin is one of thousands of workers standing up to Disney and demanding a living wage.

 Is it fun? Is it a great job? Yes. But the biggest misconception is that we’re paid well.

After a month of employee protests, Disneyland renegotiated with thousands of its workers for $15 an hour starting next year.  In a statement, Disneyland said it is ‘leading the industry in wages that are well above the market rates” including a 40% increase over two years. It also cited a $150 million education program for employees to attend college.

Voting for wage increases

In November, Anaheim residents will vote on a ballot measure requiring large hotels that accept city subsides to pay workers $18 per hour by 2022.

But in August Disneyland turned down over $200 million in tax breaks from Anaheim. If Anaheim stops giving them tax incentives, the proposed wage measure won’t apply to Disneyland. As that’s still up for legal debate, activists are urging Anaheim residents to get out and vote.

This year, Disney CEO Robert Iger’s annual income will be greater than the total pay of more than 9,000 Disneyland workers.

80% of employees say they are ‘proud of the work I do at the Disneyland Resort.’ Rebekah Pederson works as a wig stylist for Disneyland. She has a special message for the Disney CEO: “We love our jobs - just pay us right. We just want to survive.”

For now, neither Ms Pederson nor Ms Shevlin have benefitted from the wage increases.

This video was originally published by the New York Times. It has been republished here under a licencing agreement. 

Source: The New York Times