Disneyland is far from fun and games for workers who claim they’re not being paid a living wage — forcing them to sleep in cars and struggle to feed their families, a new lawsuit charges.
The suit, filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court in California, accuses the Walt Disney Corporation of “unlawful conduct and unfair business practices” for allegedly failing to pay its workers the $15-an-hour wage mandated by the city of Anaheim.
The plaintiffs, who are five Disney employees on behalf of 400 hospitality workers, seek back wages, restitution and damages.
“A lot of [workers] have to live in their cars, or on people’s couches, because they can’t afford the rent on that wage in the City of Anaheim,” one of the plaintiffs, Kathleen Grace, told the Daily Beast. “It’s really sad to see. A lot of times, they’re choosing to feed their families or put gas in their car to come to work.”
Grace is a Starbucks barista employed by Disney contractor Sodexo, which is contracted by Disney.
A 2018 survey of 5,000 Disneyland Resort workers found that 73% of company employees “do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month,” with more than half responding that they are concerned with being evicted from their homes and two-thirds reporting they were food insecure, the Daily Beast reported.
At the heart of the suit is a November 2018 ballot initiative in Anaheim called Measure L, which required resort employers who received tax rebates from the city to pay their workers $15 an hour.
According to the suit, at the time Measure L was drafted, Walt Disney Corporation had two deals with Anaheim that would have made them subject to the new law, but the company terminated the agreements so as to leave their status under Measure L uncertain.
The workers point to $500 million in tax rebates Disney received from Anaheim to build the California Adventure theme park, as well as $35 million in revenue the company receives per year from a parking facility the city leases for just $1 per year, the suit said.
An October 2018 report issued by Anaheim City Attorney Robert Fabela declared that Measure L, as written, did not apply to the Disneyland Resort because the bonds on the parking garage are being paid off by taxes collected from Disney. Fabela claimed the parking facility “does not appear to incorporate a direct city subsidy.”
Disneyland spokesperson Liz Jaeger told the Los Angeles Times, “We have yet to see the lawsuit, but the union coalition is well aware that the city attorney has previously looked at the issue and clearly stated that Measure L does not apply to the Disneyland Resort.”
Walt Disney Company held approximately $193 billion worth of assets in 2019 and generated global revenue totaling $69.2 billion, according to macrotrends.net.