What comes to your mind when I say Disney?
Happily ever after? Fantastical forests? A place where all dreams come true?
Unfortunately, the place where all this magic is concocted — Disneyland — is far from utopia. The struggle with minimum wage is crushing Disney employees.
What is the minimum wage?
Minimum wage came into existence in 1894, in New Zealand. The law specified a certain amount of money that every employer had to pay employees for one hour of work. The law was eventually extended to the rest of the world and was hailed as an important step toward preventing worker exploitation, especially among children and women.
What is the current minimum wage in the USA?
The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour — definitely not enough to live off of in America. Workers being paid minimum wage find it nearly impossible to afford housing and a basic livelihood there. To put it into perspective, the poverty line in America is set at an income of $23,050 per year . Minimum wage workers earn $15,080 working full time, all year round!
Changing the minimum wage is a thorny subject. Modern-day economists can’t agree on whether the minimum wage is a good thing or not — or whether it should exist at all! For example, the government doesn’t decide the price of a banana or a fidget spinner — the prices are decided by how desirable and available the product is (supply and demand). In the same way, why should the government dictate how much an hour of work is minimally worth?
On the other hand, economists argue that increasing the minimum wage will prompt unemployment as low-skilled workers will lose their jobs.
What does Disney have to do with this?
The people dressed up as Cinderella and Mickey Mouse work long hours for low pay. Disney workers’ pay has decreased from $15.80 in 2000 to $13.36 in 2017, while Disney corporation profits skyrocketed to $9 billion last year. Disney workers are leading protests to stop powerful corporations from exploiting the common worker, sounding the alarm for the 40% of Americans with low-income jobs to fight for their rights to an adequate livelihood.
Has the plight of Disney workers been recognized?
In late July this year, Disney agreed to pay their employees $15 an hour — setting a precedent for other corporations. But Disney’s concessions to their employees is just the first step. America has a long way to go before the system starts fairly treating the working class.
Written and illustrated by Rya Sara Jetha. Rya lives in Mumbai, India with her family. She enjoys writing, playing the piano, running and baking.