Just last week, Disneyland Resort cast members took a monumental step by voting to unionize, joining their peers at Walt Disney World under the Actors’ Equity Association. This decision marks a significant moment for the costumed workforce at Disneyland, as they seek better working conditions and pay, following the footsteps of their counterparts in Florida who achieved a new contract last year after numerous protests.

What lies at the heart of their struggle? While financial compensation is a driving factor, the reality is far more complex. Each cast member has a unique story about their experiences working for The Walt Disney Company and their hopes from the union, fittingly named Magic United. These sentiments were laid bare in a video released by Magic United during the union election campaign, showing the duality of cast members’ love for their jobs and the challenges they face, including injuries and struggles to make ends meet.

One poignant moment in the video features a cast member who expressed how the magic they create is overshadowed by the hardships of paying rent and dealing with permanent injuries. Despite these challenges, many cast members stay because of the joy they find in making guests happy, like parade performer Courtney Griffin, who has experienced both the wonders and physical demands of performing at Disneyland since 2015. Sadly, her mother, a former cast member, was forced to leave due to injuries caused by her costume.

Wages remain a critical concern. Disneyland cast members earn an average of $22 an hour, which is far below the $68,814 needed for a modest living in Anaheim. This financial gap forces some to endure lengthy commutes, take on multiple jobs, or even sleep in their cars between shifts. While their Florida counterparts face extreme weather and similar financial challenges, the newly won agreement for $20 an hour still falls short of meeting the cost of living in Central Florida.

As both Disneyland and Disney World cast members continue to strive for better conditions, it’s clear that incremental improvements are essential. While simply raising wages may not solve every issue, it’s a hopeful step forward in this ongoing journey.

Next time you visit a Disney Park, consider the tireless efforts of the cast members who make your experience magical, and perhaps share your thoughts in the comments. By engaging in this dialogue, we can all contribute to a brighter future for those who bring the Disney magic to life.

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