A while ago I wrote a small sentimental post on facebook about an old friend and, co worker of mine about my time working for Disney. I got a lot of positive, and negative feedback on something that was hard for me to write about. It was even harder for me to read the negative stuff, and take it all in without starting some kind of key board war. So today, I decided to write about my personal experience.
Now let’s go back to 2012. I was a young wife of a 1 and, 2 year old. My husband was barely making enough to put a roof over our head. yet alone put some food on our table. As a kid, watching Cinderella ride away with prince charming, became some kind of future dream. That was my dream. You think one day you’ll live in a castle but, you end up paying 975 a month for a 1 bedroom, in a somewhat decent part of California. Living in a economy where applying for government assistance feels like pulling teeth without any of the numbing. While the ones that need it feel too ashamed, because the ones that dont abuse the system.
I applied to work for the mouse in December of 2011 and I was hired in February 2012.
I sat for 2 days in a room with a bunch of strangers. All of us in business dress, suits and ties. we listened to them talk about a man, and his dream. His dream about a theme park and imagination. Pixie dust and A Mouse, Mickey Mouse. I was excited. Growing up, my family could only afford to take us to Disney around once a year. So being able to work somewhere every day, that I always visited once a year, was pretty exciting.
I can’t remember exactly how much I was making, but it was around 9 or 9.50 an hour. I started as a day custodian. When I was being trained on my role, I thought being a custodian was pretty much going to be only a 3 month thing. I was planning on transferring once my probation period was over. I wasn’t planning on cleaning toilets forever.
Here’s the thing, I wanna make it clear to everyone that EVERY role that everyone plays. Whether its custodial, attractions, stores, foods, entertaiment, electricians, painters, ect. It’s important! You have to understand unemployment is not an option to ANYONE. No one asks to be unemployed and, no one wants to be. So before you start to preach to me about how these things are NOT a career, dont bother. Of course some of us dont want to sweep trash for a living, BUT here’s the thing when you work for a billion dollar company, you would think you might get treated better than working at a fast food restaurant. Not all of us can work our dream job. Some of us have mouths to feed, and a roof over our heads to try and keep. This was my case.
I spent my sons 3rd birthday at work. My first missing out on birthdays. I later made it up to him by of course, bringing him to Disneyland. I didn’t notice much at first, but Disney started to cusome me. I worked almost every day, weekends and holidays. It started to become a problem at home, and with that said I became a single mother of 2. That never really stopped me, and I never really blamed Disney for it until I heard “you work too much” come out of his mouth. That and other things aside but this job put a good roof over my head, and some food on the table so to me it was enough.
My life was turned upside down. I moved in with my parents, and they helped me out with as much as they could. My mother worked for the Disneyland resort as a house keeper and came home every day after an 8 hour shift to help me take care of my children. She had just done around 16 rooms a day, and still had energy to help me out. (I thank god for her every day, without her I wouldn’t be the strong person I am today) I took off everyday to catch a bus 2 hours before my shift would start.
All my shifts where now switched over to day shifts, and the summer had just started. Carsland and Buena vista street was about to open. I remember that June 15 so well. I spent all my summers stuck in paradise pier. Which now will be some kind of Pixar pier. I started at 9 am which meant I had to leave my house at 7am to catch 2 buses and make it on time to my area by 9am. I spent my summer dumping trash. Rolling big six liner cans across a them park in 90 to 103 degree weather. Heat index 1 to 3.
I would sometimes see people looking at me because of course I was sweating up a storm while dumping full cans of Turkey legs, churros and sodas. I can tell you people can stare and, people can be super rude about it. I get it. I’m a big girl no one needs to remind me of my weigh because I can do that perfectly fine myself. I’m okay with who I am, and how I look. But some people can be extremely rude about it.
Theirs times when I would have to go inside que lines (the line you wait in to get on a ride) to pull out trash or sweep. How I hated those shifts. People can be extremely rude. You get the usual people who see you sweeping, and normally dont move after saying excuse me 300 times. You get the ones who let their kids keep dropping the popcorn/chips on the floor, and as a extra let them step on it. You get the ones who try to be funny and block your path. You then get the pretty cool ones who thank you for what you are doing, and maybe ask to see if you have pins to trade.
I learned a lot about people and certain cultures while working as a custodian Co workers, and guest alike. I learned some people are just gonna be rude, because that’s just the way they where raised. I learned some people are gonna go that extra mile, because that was just also, the way they where raised.
I met a lot of amazing people working the day custodial team. Many of them I still keep in touch with to this day, and because of them I survived my first summer working at the Disneyland resort. So, with that said of course I decided to stay with the day custodial team.
It wasn’t about the free ice cream or hot dogs they would give us. Or the way Disney sometimes made you feel important by “giving you first look” at something coming out. To me it was probably something more.
I would constantly hear co workers complain about the pay. All I knew was that if I worked more than 25 hours my check was gonna be a little over 200, and I was okay with a 200 to 230 check a week. My kids where little, and they didn’t ask for much.
Everyday that I came into work it was something different. From finding a missing child to cleaning someone’s vomit on a ride. I have stories for days, from my first star struck moment to one of my favorites. Like the times I helped out a dad and his daughters. He wanted to pay me for what I did, and I refused to take his money. Even though I was hungry, broke, and past my lunch time.
A whole year went by and I decided to part ways with my day custodial team, and join the roughest team their was. Third shift (grave yard) custodial. This is probably the most un recognized team Disney could have. Not custodial In general but grave yard.
These people dont deal with the guest but, they are a huge part of what keeps the day going. And people coming in every morning. Yet they only get celebrated once a year and disney makes sure to call the press so they can write about it the next day 🙄
We got the left over cupcakes, ice cream, and popcorn. Occasionally we would get a free habit burger with cookies. And every month we would have a pot luck, but that was only our department, because our manager was extremely thoughtful of us. Probably the only one that care about us was Dave sakuri our manager. That man was, and is a blessing to night shift, and it sucked when we were told he was leaving.
Well I was now part of “the red headed Step child” of disney careers. I spent my nights washing down the park pulling around a 150LB hose. Hosing down 32 restrooms stalls and scrubbing 32 toilets by hand. Putting my hands down kitchen drains for 10.50 an hour plus the 75 cents for some graveyard law. And after 5 years I left making 12.85 this including the 75 cents.
I spent most of my time working grave yard and most of my closest friends are people I met working grave yard. I spent my birthday, my kid’s birthday and holidays working. I spent new year’s face timing my children from break rooms shouting over disney fireworks in the background.
After a while it got easy, and I started to find myself blending in. I watched people come and go. Lives lost and new ones begin. Just like any other job anyone has, except this felt more like family to me. These co workers not only where co workers, some of them where like family to me, and losing one I was close to made me open my eyes. I realized the reality that is working for Disney.
Working this shift was no joke.Working any Disney shift is no joke. Half of the time when people see us leaving they think we where the grumpy’s of Disney But, if they could wear our Cinderella slippers for a night they’d understand.
It’s not all pixie dust. It’s not all perfect weather. Rain or shine you see us. every day 365 days a week 24 hours. Please understand that this fight is not about cast memebers being greedy. It’s about how much we put in to get so little back. Not to mention that when we got to the parks, and pay anything with our own money it’s like giving our check back to someone who can only give us 20% to 35% off on food and merch.
It’s been almost a year since I moved and quit Disney. Yet I still can’t believe things havent changed one bit. This post or any others wasn’t meant to bash Disney, But to speak from my personal experience. I’ve read alot of comments with stories about working for Disney, and some stories hurt more than others. But we are all the same. We are working hard to survive in this economy, yet we are being eaten alive by the bigger people, and used over, and over again for their gain.
The time has come, and the people being used need to rise up. Its time to shout, and Be heard.