A woman dressed as the Little Mermaid walked past a sign that read: “Ariel can’t afford to live on land!” A young girl stared at bright-pink posters proclaiming “Disneyland pays poverty wages” and “No home for Cinderella in Anaheim”.
During a day of protest on Friday, tourists and Disney fans in the streets surrounding Disneyland were confronted with protesters condemning working conditions at the Los Angeles-area resort. The place that prides itself on being “the happiest place on earth” is, in their view, anything but for employees struggling with homelessness and low pay.
“Disney, we feel, is a contributor to the homeless problem here in Anaheim,” said protest organizer Jeanine Robbins, a longtime local resident. “There are Disney employees who live on the street. They live in their cars. They live in unstable housing.”
Occasionally, there are consequences of the most tragic kind.
Amid an unprecedented regional homelessness crisis, there are almost 4,800 people experiencing homelessness in Orange County, where Anaheim is located, on any given night. More than half can be found on the streets or in other places unfit for habitation. It is unclear exactly how many are Disney employees, but it should perhaps come as no surprise that some face challenges.
The largest employer in Orange County, Disneyland is located in one of the most expensive metro housing markets in the US. According to the Orange County office of care coordination, the hourly wage needed to afford a median-priced, one-bedroom unit in Orange County last year was $25.46, complementing nationwide data suggesting that it is virtually impossible for those earning minimum wage, or near it, to find an affordable place to live anywhere in the country.
Protesters and Disney employees cited wages at the park in the low teens.
“I see a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck. I see a lot of people living in long-term motels or living in their…