Just two weeks after a town hall in which U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) shamed Disney for paying workers so little, Disney is raising park employees’ wages.
On Thursday night, the Orange County register reported that Disneyland employees will see their hourly wages immediately increase from $11/hour to $13.25/hour, with all 8,600 workers at the park making at least $15/hour by next year. The new wages came on the heels of intense public protest from workers about the resort paying them so little, and tireless negotiation efforts on behalf of four different unions representing resort employees.
“The cost of living in Orange County is incredibly high,” Disneyland president Josh D’Amaro told the Register. “But we want to do our part. The resort is taking a leadership position on wages in O.C., and we are committed to providing not just an exceptional employment experience, but real, meaningful increases in pay as well.”
However, it’s worth noting that Sen. Sanders recently hosted a town hall featuring the stories of workers at multiple billion-dollar corporations like Disney, Amazon, Walmart, McDonalds, and American Airlines all talking about how they struggle to make ends meet on a full-time salary despite the CEOs of those corporations making exponentially more than their employees. In March, Disney CEO Bob Iger was promised a $423 million pay package if he succeeded in hitting all of the company’s financial goals (Iger did not accept Sanders’ invite to the town hall).
During Sanders’ town hall, Disney worker Artemis Bell, told a personal story of how difficult it is to live on $11.86/hour in Southern California. One of Bell’s coworkers worked for the resort six days a week for ten years and died while sleeping in her car.
“How do people live on $11.86 an hour?” Sanders asked Bell during the town hall.
“We don’t really. We just barely make it, even when we have more roommates than we have bedrooms,” Bell replied.
While the raise is likely welcome news for the thousands of workers at the Disneyland resort, $15/hour is still just shy of what MIT’s living wage calculator says is necessary to pay reasonable monthly expenses in Orange County. And for a single parent, $15/hour is less than half of what is needed to live in Orange County.
Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.