One-tenth of Disneyland employees are paid so little that they recently experienced homelessness, while two-thirds of them are unable to afford three meals a day, according to a union-funded report released Tuesday.

Disney officials, however, slammed the report as a politically motivated document with results skewed to reflect the position of the unions that paid for it, with results based on a survey of a small percentage of park workers.

The report, prepared on behalf of a coalition of Disneyland employee unions by Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable, contends that 74 percent of workers at the theme park can’t pay for basic expenses each month and 85 percent are paid less than $15 an hour.

“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 report’s authors. “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. Similarly, we found it’s normal for Disneyland workers to skip meals in order to make ends meet.”

According to the unions that commissioned it, the study — “Working for the Mouse: A Survey of Disneyland Employees” — was based on a survey of 5,000 employees of the park, which has about 30,000 workers.

Disney blasted the report as a skewed survey of a small percentage of park workers, and contended it was conducted without any controls over who could respond to the questionnaire and no effort to prevent individual employees from answering the questionnaire more than once.

“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 said.

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

According to Disney, the majority of park employees make more than minimum wage, while entry-level positions range between $11 and $17.75 an hour, with most workers earning additional money through “premiums and overtime.”

The average annual salary of full-time, hourly employees in 2017 was about $37,000, according to the company, which noted that Disneyland created more than 4,000 jobs over the last five years — more than any other business in Orange County.

According to the report’s sponsors, the survey was commissioned by unions representing workers such as hair stylists, costumers, food-service workers, candy makers, security guards, ticket takers, musicians, singers and dancers.

“The value of workers’ pay has dropped 15 percent since 2000,” said Daniel Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable and co-author of the study. “Raising the wage floor to $20 an hour will give workers $190 million more a year to buy basic necessities for their families and it will generate $210 million more in sales by businesses in Anaheim and other communities where workers live.”

–City News Service

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