Homeless and Hungry: Survey Finds Disneyland Workers Are Massively Underpaid

Nearly half of all Disneyland Resort employees have gone hungry because they couldn’t afford to buy food, a survey found. More than one in 10 reported being homeless while working at the Magic Kingdom because of the low pay.

The survey of 5,000 Disneyland employees, titled "Working for the Mouse," claimed that 74 percent of workers don't earn enough to pay for basic expenses each month. Eighty-five percent of Disneyland Resort workers earn less than $15 an hour, while more than half of those surveyed earned less than $12 an hour.

“I have been working for Disneyland for almost 28 years and I make less than $20 an hour," an anonymous merchandise host who has worked at Disneyland Resort said in the survey. "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.”

Conducted by Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable on behalf of Disneyland unions, the report also found that 43 percent of employees needed, but couldn't afford, dental care. More than two-thirds enrolled in the company’s health insurance plan said they were forced to give up other necessities in order to make payments.

Eleven percent of those surveyed—including 13 percent of employees with young children—reported having been homeless in the past two years.

GettyImages-84933068 Pedestrians walk near the entrance to Disneyland Resort on February 19, 2009, in Anaheim, California. David McNew/Getty Images

A further 46 percent said they had been forced to lower their food intake or have disrupted eating patterns. Fifteen percent of Disneyland employees receive food stamps.

The survey suggests one of the reasons workers continue to struggle is that the hourly wage has dropped by 15 percent between 2000 and 2017. Despite cost of living increases, the average hourly wage for Disneyland Resort workers has fallen from $15.80 to $13.36 when adjusted for inflation. 

“As Disneyland profits and prices hit record highs, Disneyland employees are falling farther behind," said Peter Dreier, a policy professor at Occidental and one of the authors of the report. “Disneyland wages aren’t keeping up with rising rents in Southern California.

"Our survey found that homelessness and housing instability are so widespread that they have become a normal part of employees’ lives at the park," Dreier said in the report. 

GettyImages-2739543 Disney said a majority of its workers make more than minimum wage. TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Disneyland Resort, which employs around 30,000 people across its theme park, California Adventure and nearby hotels, dismissed the report.

“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," Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown told CBS8.

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

According to Disney, the majority of park employees make more than the Californian minimum wage of $10.50, while most workers earn additional money through “premiums and overtime.”

“We are proud of our record as a quality employer,” Brown added. “We have created more than 4,000 jobs over the last five years—more than any other business in Orange County.”