Sanders to Disney: Stop Paying Workers Starvation Wages

WASHINGTON, June 27 – Following a meeting with Disneyland workers during which they told stories of going hungry as a result of low pay, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led a letter cosigned by 22 of his colleagues to Disney CEO Bob Iger urging the company to agree to a fair contract that pays employees a living wage and provides affordable health care benefits and a reliable schedule.

Disney is currently in the middle of contract negotiations with unions representing workers at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

“In the year 2018, no one in America, especially those working for a profitable corporation like Disney, should be homeless, living in their cars or not be able to feed their families,” the members wrote to Disney. “By sitting down with all of your unions and negotiating a fair contract that pays a living wage, provides affordable and accessible health care benefits and a reliable schedule, Disney can show the rest of corporate America that it must value not just the bottom line and its wealthy shareholders, but the workers responsible for making those profits a reality.”

The real average hourly wage for Disneyland Resort workers dropped 15 percent from 2000 to 2017, from $15.80 to $13.36, according to a February 2018 report from the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable. Almost three-quarters say that they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month. More than 1 out of 10 Disneyland workers report having been homeless in the past two years. More than two-thirds of Disneyland’s workers are food insecure. And only 28 percent of Disneyland employees report having the same schedule every week.

Meanwhile, Disney made $9 billion in profits last year and received a $1.6 billion tax break from the Trump tax plan. Iger recently agreed to a four-year compensation agreement worth an estimated $423 million.

At a town hall in Anaheim earlier this month, Disneyland workers told Sanders how working at the theme park has become a nightmare.

“Since I started working for Disney because my wages are so low I had to move my 16-year-old daughter out of the house,” an employee at Disney's Grand California Hotel explained. “I can no longer afford to take care of her so my family members have taken her in and are supporting her. I currently don't make enough to eat three times a day. I eat cans of tuna or celery sticks and carrots because that's what I can afford. I typically eat once sometimes twice a day because I can't afford three meals a day.”

Another woman, a licensed cosmetologist, described how she had to live out of her car for three and a half months despite working 40 to 60 hours a week. Eventually she found a place to live, but now has to drive two hours each way to get to and from work and can barely afford the necessary gas.

In addition to Sanders, the letter to Iger was signed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Henry C. Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald Norcoss (D-N.J.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Richard M. Nolan (D-Minn.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

To read the letter, click here.