Disney labor unions seek ‘Living Wage’ with new ballot measure

In Local News, News
An illustration of a disgruntled disney princess, holding a sign that reads "Living wages!"
(Amanda Tran / Daily Titan)

An unprecedented movement by labor unions to raise Disney park and resort worker wages, through city legislation, is facing opposition by the company itself.

The Disneyland living wage ballot measure, which would raise the minimum wage in Anaheim to an eventual $18 an hour in 2022, aims to primarily benefit people who work at the Disney-owned parks and resorts. It was drafted by the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions.

Petitioners for the measure have gained more than 20,000 signatures, and the initiative will be on the November ballot, according to a May 1 Facebook post by the Anaheim Resort Workers for a Living Wage, a campaign supporting the measure.

If passed, the measure would apply the minimum wage requirement to “larger hospitality employers,” which the measure defines as hotels, motels, theme parks and adjacent restaurants and retail stores.

The coalition has been met with an entire  website dedicated to discrediting and denouncing the measure proposal, calling it a “job killer.” The website was put up by a counter-coalition of city interests and associations, including Lucille Kring and Kris Murray, Disneyland Resort and Anaheim city council members

A large crowd of people at Disneyland with the castle in the background
(Tracy Hoang / Daily Titan)

“While the proponents of this measure want you to believe that it targets only certain businesses, the reality is that it is drafted in a way that would allow it to expand to many more businesses in the resort district and eventually be expanded to all employers in Anaheim,” the Anaheim Job Killer website reads.

On April 10, the Anaheim city council received and filed a report titled “Working for the Mouse,” which was presented by the coalition at the council meeting and serves as the foundation of the ballot measure.

In the report, which was funded by the coalition, approximately 75 percent of surveyed employees said they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month.

The report also claims it found that the average hourly wage for Disneyland Resort workers dropped 15 percent from 2000 to 2017, from $15.80 to $13.36.

In an email statement to the Daily Titan, Disneyland Resort said: “The Disneyland Resort is proud to offer market competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, and training and education programs for our cast members to develop valuable skills necessary to open doors to future career opportunities.”

Glynn Dana Shevlin, a Disneyland employee, said she makes $15.70, too much to qualify for the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments rent subsidy program, but too little to get an apartment.

Disneyland Hotel hostess Maria Villalpando said that while her rent is going up, her pay has stagnated.

“That’s not enough to support a family,” Villalpando said.

Jose Alatorre, a business agent for one of the unions in the coalition, said he’s often heard people outside of the situation ask why unhappy Disney employees don’t simply find another job.

“These people are invested in the company they work for. They love the company. They just don’t love the conditions in which they’re working,” Alatorre said.

In the email statement, Disney said that when they surveyed employees, “the overwhelming majority say they are proud to work for the company.”

“I smile, I give them the magical dream, but there’s no dream for me when I clock out and get in my car,” Shevlin said.

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