UPDATED with statement from Anaheim Chamber of Commerce chairman: Disneyland workers have been fighting a battle for higher wages for years, and now it appears that voters could decide the issue. Orange County has certified a petition to require employers who get subsidies from the city of Anaheim to pay a “living wage” –next stop: the November ballot.
That is, unless the City Council either adopts a municipal ordinance at its meeting Tuesday or orders an environmental impact report be done before any plan is implemented.
The petition, which was certified by the OC Registrar of Voters after it amassed valid signatures from at least 10% of Anaheim voters, calls for affected employers to pay their workers $15 an hour starting January 1. After that, salaries would go up by $1 an hour every New Year’s Day through 2022. When the pay rate hits $18 an hour, the annual raises would be tied to the cost of living.
Deadline has reached out to Disneyland officials for comment. Todd Ament, the President and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce & Chairman of the “No on the Anaheim Job Killer Initiative” coalition, said in a statememt:
“On behalf of a coalition of concerned Anaheim residents, community groups and job creators, we strongly urge the Anaheim City Council to conduct a thorough analysis of this dangerous measure before allowing it to appear on the ballot.
“If a proposal like this that creates such a wide disparity between Anaheim’s wage mandate and surrounding communities becomes law, it will have severe negative consequences for Anaheim. We’d see the immediate loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. It is vital that the facts about this job-killing measure come to light. Voters should not be fooled!”
Protests have popped up at the Happiest Place on Earth as its “cast members” decry what they believe are unfairly low wages. Another one took place there Thursday, supported by the hashtag #StopDisneyPoverty.
Democratic presidential runner-up Bernie Sanders was in Anaheim last week to address a rally attended by hundreds of Disneyland workers who were gathering signatures. “The struggle that you are waging here in Anaheim is not just for you,” the Vermont senator told the crowd. “It is a struggle for millions of workers all across this country who are sick and tired of working longer hours for lower wages.”
Sanders’ involvement in “the struggle” for Disneyland Resort workers isn’t new: Back in May 2016, as he was challenging Hillary Clinton for the Dem nomination for president, the pugnacious senator raised his criticisms at a rally in Anaheim.
Disney in recent months has been in contract negotiations with 9,500 union workers at its resorts (not including hotel staffers). The company last month offered to raise the starting salaries of its California park employees to $15 an hour over the next three years, a 36% increase. Entry-level employees under that setup would have their wages boosted to $13.25 an hour from the current $11.
As justification for their push for wage increases beyond what Disney has offered, workers have cited a study released in February that presented some damning statistics. It found that 73% of Disney employees reported not being able to pay for such basic expenses as rent, food and gas.
Disney maintains that the study is flawed. Company spokeswoman Suzi Brown furnished a statement to Deadline last week insisting that the company is treating employees fairly. “We are proud of our commitment to our cast, and the fact that more people choose to work at Disneyland Resort than anywhere else in Orange County,” the statement said. “While Mr. Sanders continues to criticize Disney to keep himself in the headlines, we continue to support our cast members through investments in wages and education.”
Dade Hayes contributed to this report.