When Working in Disney World Means Being Stuck Living in a Cheap Motel

mkt

Maleante Izquierdozo
Premium Member
Original Poster
So sad :(

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xwma3q/when-working-in-disney-world-means-being-stuck-living-in-a-cheap-motel

The dozens of motels lining a 15-mile stretch of US Highway 192 just outside of Disney World have a secret inside: For the past two decades, they’ve increasingly served as home for many Disney World employees. Sometimes workers stay in the motels temporarily while they find permanent housing, others are forced by poverty and other circumstances to live in them for months or even years. It’s difficult to say exactly how many employees currently reside in these motels but three Disney World workers have told me the number is in the hundreds.

Clarid Patterson, a food service coordinator at Disney World, has lived in a motel since 2013, beginning shortly after she started working at the company. At the time she took care of her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and her best friend, who has kidney issues requiring dialysis.

“My mom passed away and everything went downhill because I didn’t have her [Social Security] income anymore,” Patterson told me. “I tried to get public assistance for food stamps, but they told me I was making too much. How can you make too much if you can’t make ends meet?”

Even when she works overtime above her typical 40 hours a week, she can’t save enough to afford to pay for the costs of moving into an apartment on her $11.65 hourly wage. (Minimum wage in Florida is $8.25, and Disney World’s lowest hourly rate is $10.) Apartment rental prices in the Orlando area are among the fastest growing in the nation; in 2017, average rents here increased by 5.6 percent, twice the national average, according to the real estate data firm Yardi Matrix. The average one-bedroom goes for just under $1,100 a month, but it’s not just the cost of rent that prevents Patterson from moving. She’s also trapped by landlords who require prospective tenants to meet requirements difficult for low-wage workers like her.

“Some places waive application fees, some don’t or I’m not qualified because I don’t make three times the amount of rent,” Patterson said. (She often pays more than a third of her monthly income to stay in the motel, she added.) “If you’re by yourself, you can’t get your own place. You need to have multiple people living with you, and you might not be comfortable with them, but you have to survive. Disney needs to give us a little bit more so we can make ends meet.”

Patterson and the other Disney employees I spoke with told me motel management would evict them if they spoke to the media on their property. Patterson said her motel is an extended stay, so she isn’t required to frequently change rooms at least. Weekly fees often fluctuate without warning, though she claims to pay an average of around $230 a week. The washer and dryers available rarely work, she said, the rooms have no kitchens, and motel guests face eviction if they keep any kind of hot plate in their rooms. It’s not uncommon for the water to be shut off in the building if any other room has a plumbing issue, according to Patterson.

She is a member of Unite Here 737, a union of service workers, one of six in Orlando representing 38,000 Disney World Cast Members (the park term for employees). The group of unions have asked Disney to increase the park’s minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 in contract negotiations over the past year, which Patterson says would enable her to finally move out.

On May 2, Disney World management offered two proposals. The first would increase wages by $0.50 an hour annually—an offer that 93 percent of union members already rejected in a December vote. The second proposal, which the union is considering, would increase wages to $15 an hour by 2021 in exchange for scaling back overtime, holiday pay, and employment and scheduling protections agreed upon in past contracts with Disney. (Patterson believes this latter agreement would result in her going from 40 to 32 hours a week.)

“We proposed a 50 percent wage increase, the largest we have ever offered, which includes an industry-leading path to a $15 an hour starting wage by 2021, one of the highest in Central Florida,” Disney World spokesperson Andrea Finger told me in an email.

Disney did not respond to specific questions about wages. When I asked if the company knew how many employees lived in motels, a spokesperson replied, “I don’t have that number for you.” (Disney is an investor in VICE Media, the company that owns VICE.com.)

Disney World responded to allegations of low pay in a websiteexplainer that says, “We agree our Cast Members deserve a raise, which is why we’ve offered an increase of 6-10 percent over the next two years for all existing Service Trades Council Union (STCU) Cast Members.” The site also says that full-time STCU employees who don’t earn tips make $13.34 an hour on average when overtime is factored in and that Disney World donated $3.7 million to anti-homelessness organizations in 2017.

One Disney World employee who told me they make $13.02 an hour, close to the average rate cited by the website, is still struggling. They told me they have worked at the park for 17 years, and did not want me to use their name because they feared for their job. “At 40 hours, I have around $120 extra after rent each week and around $100 for the week for food and living expenses after bus fare,” the employee, who has lived in a motel with a coworker for nearly three years, told me.

For some, living in a motel means not just lacking some amenities like kitchens or reliable laundry machines; they also experience periods of homelessness when they can’t pay the room fees. “I would pay for three or four nights a week, whatever I could afford out of that week’s paycheck, and the rest of the nights my 12-year-old daughter and I slept in my car,” said one Disney World employee of four years who asked to be kept anonymous to protect her job. “Many times I would drive to Disney property and park my car there because I knew it was a safe place.”

The only reason this Disney World employee was able to escape this cycle was the help of a nonprofit transitional housing service for homeless single mothers called HOME, but finding permanent housing was still a challenge. “You can spend $200 to fill out an apartment application and background check, but still get rejected,” she told me.

Disney World employees say it’s difficult to find higher-paying work—the park is such a large employer in the Orlando area that it sets the wage standard, according to a 2007 report from a team of economists that examined the effects of lowered wages from 1998 to 2006. And some told me they enjoyed working for Disney and the park, they just wanted to earn a little more. “I love what I do, despite the low pay,” the employee who has worked there for 17 years said.

Disneyland workers in Anaheim, California, face similar issues. Sixty-year-old Karen Dist has worked at Disneyland in food prep for 12 years and has lived in a motel with her daughter and two granddaughters since 2011. “I live paycheck to paycheck, I pay $260 a week. If we were to get a two-bedroom for the four of us, it would be around $1,800 and a cheap one bedroom is $1,350,” Dist told me.

“With those extra wages, I could put a little bit of money away. Right now, I don’t have any. It would be nice if we could get a raise, I think it would help a lot of people,” Dist, who currently makes $13 an hour, said. “I used to work overtime a lot. They don’t appreciate you, even if you’re picking up shifts for other people. The pay is not very good to live on. You have good medical benefits, but you need enough money put in. I need orthopedic shoes... My back bothers me every day, because I’m shorter and I’m reaching, bending, stretching, and everything else all day, but I push myself to do as much as I can.”

Dist told me that she relies on the few extra dollars she gets every month from recycling bottles and cans to help pay her medical co-pays.

The Walt Disney Company is negotiating with unions that represent some Disneyland workers. In addition, an alliance of unions are currently backing a ballot measure in the city of Anaheim to force large employers like Disneyland to pay at least $15 an hour, and increase it until it reaches $18 by 2022. Some local businesses say that such an increase would lead to lost jobs or reduced work hours due to the funds required for the pay increases.

At Disney World, according to Unite Here 737 President Jeremy Haicken, a similar ballot measure wouldn’t be possible because the park is part of a municipality called the Reedy Creek Improvement District inside of which the company has broad powers. But negotiations between the company and the park’s union workers are ongoing, and unions seem to be taking the latest proposal—which would raise wages while limiting hours and benefits—seriously.

"This proposal is an important step in our effort to achieve a living wage for all Central Florida hospitality workers, BUT we need to consider it with caution,” the unions told Disney World employee members in a statement. “Disney’s proposed raises would come at the cost of other key protections for you, from overtime, to scheduling, and your rights on the job. If we settle, we want it to be fair.”

Meanwhile, individual workers are struggling to make ends meet.

“I have to do it paycheck to paycheck,” Patterson told me. “I try to do what I can do with the little bit that I make.”
 

"El Scorpion"

I'm not saying........
Premium Member
In the Parks
No
It's always sad to see people struggling - But there has to be some perspective here.

The story mentions a "food service coordinator" a fancy name for food prep. The average salary for this position is $18,200 a year or $8.75 an hour. Disney is paying $11.65 which is about 35% higher than the national average.

Walmart cashiers make about $10 an hour. In a place like Orlando there are a plethora of call-center jobs paying $15-20 an hour. If an individual wants to advance themselves...they have the ability to do so.
 

raven

Well-Known Member
This has been discussed many times.

People who say “If they don’t like the pay, go somewhere else” don’t understand that this doesn’t resolve anything except for that individual. Low paying jobs like these will always be filled by someone. If they move on, the low wage becomes someone else’s worry. The cycle continues over and over and over. The only way to end the actual problem is obvious.
 

Chef Mickey

Well-Known Member
We’ve all been poor, or at least most of us have. You do what you have to do to increase your income and jobs at Disney and other low wage jobs help fill the gaps on your journey. No, you don’t deserve $50/hr for working retail at Disney or anywhere else.

Disney has jobs ranging from $20,000/yr to $20,000,000/year. It’s your responsibility to figure out which you want.

Disney’s employment opportunities are based on market wages for similar jobs and are not unique to Disney. $20k/year jobs aren’t careers. If they are, that’s a personal problem.
 

Jim S

Well-Known Member
This individual has been at Disney since 2013-it appears she has not progressed at all in her career. Wonder why? Another person mentioned claimed they have been at Disney 17 years and is still making at or near minimum wage. Hard to be all that sympathetic.

WalMart in my area of Texas is advertising for truck drivers with starting pay in the neighborhood of $80000 a year.
Maybe these individuals should consider a change in professions.
 

Chef Mickey

Well-Known Member
This has been discussed many times.

People who say “If they don’t like the pay, go somewhere else” don’t understand that this doesn’t resolve anything except for that individual. Low paying jobs like these will always be filled by someone. If they move on, the low wage becomes someone else’s worry. The cycle continues over and over and over. The only way to end the actual problem is obvious.
There is no problem. And the methods to solve a non-existent problem would create real problems.
 

larryz

Gold Star Duck
Premium Member
When Disney can't get workers at those wages, the wages will rise. But the system is rigged, and Disney will always be able to find workers at those wages.
 

DisneyMedStudent

Well-Known Member
This has been discussed many times.

People who say “If they don’t like the pay, go somewhere else” don’t understand that this doesn’t resolve anything except for that individual. Low paying jobs like these will always be filled by someone. If they move on, the low wage becomes someone else’s worry. The cycle continues over and over and over. The only way to end the actual problem is obvious.
These jobs aren’t designed for people to make careers out of them.
 

Spike-in-Berlin

Well-Known Member
I am an employed architect and at the moment my hourly wage is something around 20 $. It will increase after my probation time however to something around 25 (Architects are not very well paid in Germany in the last decades) . I saw already some TV reports about low paid CMs who live in motels, one was a man in his 40ies who was living with his wife and two children in a motel. His job at the MK is to help guests at the entrance how to use their tickets and passes. I mean, honestly, what do you expect as a payment for such a basic task? He didn't have to visit a university and so on, all he has to do at his job can be told in what? 2 days? Perhaps a week? I consider the payment adequate if you consider the qualification necessary. I actually would be quite annoyed if he would be payed 15 bucks by Disney for mereley greeting guests at the entrance while I have to design buildings for 5 bucks more? If they want more money get a higher job profile. They are not classic blue collar workers in the industry who are exploited although highly qualified in their jobs. I don't want to pay even more for the parks because Disney suddenly overpays CMs in low profile jobs.

The only way to end the actual problem is obvious.
And the only way is what?
 

Goofyernmost

Well-Known Member
This has been discussed many times.

People who say “If they don’t like the pay, go somewhere else” don’t understand that this doesn’t resolve anything except for that individual. Low paying jobs like these will always be filled by someone. If they move on, the low wage becomes someone else’s worry. The cycle continues over and over and over. The only way to end the actual problem is obvious.
Yes, we do understand. It is you that doesn't. Yes, in a perfect world perhaps everyone would make the same amount of money per year, but, that wouldn't work either. Pay rates are based on skill and experience and, what you mentioned, competition. We cannot solve the problems of every single person, but, individuals can do what is necessary to better themselves. Whether that be moving on to a better job, increasing their skill levels in jobs with less competition or just being patient and getting experience and moving up the ladder where they currently work.

If the entire country had a "minimum wage" of $60K per year, it would still be the bottom of the rung and things would just cost more to compensate for higher wages. It is no sin to spend a few years making your way through the chain, in fact, once accomplished it is quite satisfying and feels good. Without the division of pay there would be no incentive to ever do better. Why should they if they make a huge amount without doing anything other then showing up.

Disney, in particular, has yet another reason why wages can be low (even though they aren't based on nation wide minimums) and that is because they have people that want to work there for the experience. Work ethic, dependability, attitude and ability all play into the worth more money scenario. They also have the luxury of being a location that very few without any real thought going in that this is absolutely going to be a career. It is a very good thing to see on a resume though, and many decide that they can work there, get through an apprenticeship and sell their skills to places that are more lifetime career motivating.

If external hardships had any bearing on salary, then we all would have some issues that could be jockeyed into a reason for more money needs. People that walk in there without a previously established skill, only a high school diploma and an attitude that reeks of "I'll do more when you pay me more", will be pretty sad before too long. Frankly, upward mobility will be hard to come by.
 

raven

Well-Known Member
These jobs aren’t designed for people to make careers out of them.
No, they aren’t. But they still exist and need to be filled. So if you suggest that everyone just find a real career instead of these jobs then the entire place would close. Again, someone else has to do the job and the cycle continues.

The cost of living in Orlando is outrageous compared to the amount of minimum wage jobs that keep the industry alive. If you wiped out all of those jobs everything would crash. And the price of housing will not fall.
 

DisneyMedStudent

Well-Known Member
No, they aren’t. But they still exist and need to be filled. So if you suggest that everyone just find a real career instead of these jobs then the entire place would close. Again, someone else has to do the job and the cycle continues.

The cost of living in Orlando is outrageous compared to the amount of minimum wage jobs that keep the industry alive. If you wiped out all of those jobs everything would crash. And the price of housing will not fall.
Smh..

There is no direction this conversationg could go which would be productive.
 

FutureCEO

Well-Known Member
. But if you're making that much in the Orlando area--forget it. You most definitely would have to have roommates or have another job or two to make up for the high rents--high rents for regular standard apartments that are not fancy in the slightest. Florida was so messed up--I'm glad we moved. .
come to the Northeast. You'll get your dose of high apartment rents.
 

mergatroid

Well-Known Member
It's a strange title as it implies it's a problem to many Disney employees or is a problem only relative to Disney, rather than a problem to society regardless of which company you work for at a lower level. I'd imagine every company in Orlando employs staff on a similar if not lower salary to Disney, quite why only one gets a mention is a bit weird.

I also wonder how other low level Disney employees manage to not live in motels, maybe they budget better or were just lucky and found affordable accommodation? The jobs my wife and I do in the UK don't pay fantastically well, though we own our own home and don't have our income supplemented by anyone. We both however work with people on the same wage who say they cannot afford a home and live in subsidised, rented accommodation which they'll never own. So some would claim they couldn't do their job and own their own home when the reality may not really be that simple, it's more that they perhaps choose to pay for certain things above their rent out of choice and could own their own home if they prioritised that?

I can't say for sure about the folk who work at Disney as some may have expenses connected to health issues etc, again though the implication that this is a Disney issue seems very unfair.
 

raven

Well-Known Member
I also wonder how other low level Disney employees manage to not live in motels, maybe they budget better or were just lucky and found affordable accommodation?

So some would claim they couldn't do their job and own their own home when the reality may not really be that simple, it's more that they perhaps choose to pay for certain things above their rent out of choice and could own their own home if they prioritised that?
Giving up your privacy and having to share a home with other people is the most popular method. Affordable housing by yourself is about an hour drive away. And when people work 6 or 7 days every week to make ends meet, there isn’t much “prioritizing” other than paying rent, gas and food. Not much is left in the paycheck for anything else. Luxuries like buying new clothes, eating out and seeing a movie go out the window.
 

mergatroid

Well-Known Member
Giving up your privacy and having to share a home with other people is the most popular method. Affordable housing by yourself is about an hour drive away. And when people work 6 or 7 days every week to make ends meet, there isn’t much “prioritizing” other than paying rent, gas and food. Not much is left in the paycheck for anything else. Luxuries like buying new clothes, eating out and seeing a movie go out the window.
You've rather strangely edited my reply to omit the huge chunk relating to the British people I was talking about before adding my quote "So some would claim they couldn't do their job and own their own home when the reality may not really be that simple, it's more that they perhaps choose to pay for certain things above their rent out of choice and could own their own home if they prioritised that? " as though I was saying that about the people in Orlando when it was clearly about my colleagues in Britain?

It may or may not apply to those in Orlando which you've addressed in your reply but you're editing does take what I've said out of context somewhat my friend.
 
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