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Unions at the Disneyland Resort propose ballot measure to raise wages for workers

Unions at the Disneyland Resort propose ballot measure to raise wages for workers
Disneyland patrons exit the park under the Disneyland sign at a shuttle area in Anaheim in 2017. A proposed city ordinance would require the resort to raise hourly wages for its workers. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A coalition of unions that represent workers at the Disneyland Resort is proposing a ballot measure that would force the theme park and other Anaheim employers that receive city subsidies to pay workers a living wage.

The measure, submitted Thursday to the Anaheim City Clerk, would require the resort and other large employers to pay a minimum of $15 an hour, starting Jan. 1, 2019, with hourly salaries rising $1 an hour every year through Jan. 1, 2022. Annual raises would then be tied to the cost of living.

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The state's minimum wage for businesses with 26 or more employees is $11.00 an hour and is set to increase each year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2022.

The proposal was unveiled at a crowded town hall meeting in Anaheim on Wednesday night, when Disney workers discussed a survey that concluded that 73% of union workers questioned said they don't earn enough to pay for basic necessities, such as rent and food.

"I feel like I am missing my kids' lives because I need to pick up all the shifts I can just to make ends meet, and I still can barely buy them food," said Veronica Chavez, a housekeeper at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa at the Disneyland Resort. "It's such a horrible feeling."

Although the measure would apply to several large hotels and restaurants that have received city subsidies, it targets the Disneyland Resort, the city's largest employer with about 30,000 workers. The measure includes an exemption for businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees.

The Times has reported how Anaheim has subsidized the Disneyland Resort in several ways, such as through the construction in 2000 of a parking garage that generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for Disney. The city in 2016 also approved a tax break worth $267 million over the next 20 years to build a luxury hotel near the parks.

A representative for Disney did not respond to requests for comment Friday. The company previously has said that the average hourly resort worker earns $37,000 a year, which calculates to nearly $18 per hour.

The California Restaurant Assn., a trade group for the restaurant industry, called the proposed measure "reckless" and "a careless use of taxpayer money."

"An $18 minimum wage would have a devastating impact on restaurants and lead to an untold amount of job loss and reduction in work hours among people who rely on jobs at many businesses in Anaheim," the trade group said in a statement Friday.

The survey of Disney workers, conducted by the Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research organization, and the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, was paid for by the same coalition of unions that is proposing the ordinance to raise hourly salaries at the resort.

Disney officials blasted the survey earlier this week, calling it inaccurate because it questioned only a limited number of union workers.

The Anaheim City Clerk has 15 days to review the measure. If it is approved, the labor coalition will have until June 1 to collect the signatures of about 21,000 registered city voters in order to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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