Disney Cosmetologists Win $17-Per-Hour Minimum Wage [Alt-Disney]

Photo illustration by Mercedes del Real

For licensed cosmetologists at the Disneyland Resort, hair and makeup is how they work their magic. But up until this month, making sure no Disney princess had a bad hair day really didn’t pay. That’s why cosmetologist Rebekah Pedersen became one of the most outspoken workers during last year’s living-wage campaign, sharing with reporters the travails of living life out of her car. 

These days, media outlets seem to stop caring about cast members altogether. But here at Alt-Disney, every raise is worth praise! 

And that’s what the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild, IATSE Local 706 recently won for about 100 backstage workers at the Disneyland Resort—including Deserea Parrish. A Disney worker profiled in my “Caste Members” cover story last year, she wondered if living her dream at the Mouse House would ever allow her to make a living. 

With Disney exempted from Anaheim’s living-wage law, Parrish started the year making $13.70 per hour despite counting seven years with the company, the past four in cosmetology. A union steward, she joined the negotiating team for the first time. “It was a little nerve-wracking,” she admits. “But it was a very good experience.” 

On Oct. 1, union members ratified a new three-year contract boosting minimum wages to $17 per hour. Since Parrish is in a higher skill classification, she now makes $20 per hour. “It’s life-changing because I can think about the future now instead of feeling like I have to live paycheck to paycheck,” she says. “I can live within my means.”

As with other locals, the union conceded to “Management Rights” allowing the company to alter or end—without any negotiation—cherished perks such as sign-ins, holiday passes and special enamel pins. But cosmetologists also won the right to proudly wear their IATSE pins on the job. 

Overall, Parrish feels higher wages bring more respect to the work she and others do at the park, such as prepping Tinkerbell, Cinderella and Prince Charming for the recently wrapped Main Street Electrical Parade. 

“It feels like a special moment in time, a change in history,” says Parrish. “I still love what I do, bringing the magic.” 

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