Subcontracting Called Key Issue : Landscapers Walk Off at Disneyland Hotel

Times Staff Writer

The Disneyland Hotel was hit Wednesday by strike of its landscape workers, whose three-year contract expired Sept. 1.

The strikers, 17 workers represented by Laborers International Union Local 652, did not report to work Wednesday and union representatives say the group plans to picket the hotel today. At issue is a management proposal to subcontract some landscaping work, union spokesmen say.

The Disneyland Hotel’s work force is among the most heavily organized in Orange County. Nearly 1,300 of the estimated 1,500 employees are union members, according to Ric Morris, the hotel’s director of personnel and labor relations. Five separate unions represent the hotel’s workers, but the four non-striking unions have not publicly said if they will honor the laborers union picket line.

Marcelino Duarte, a laborers union official, said Wednesday that he expects a long strike. “It could go the rest of the year, or longer,” he predicted.

The last strike at the hotel was in 1978, when a wage dispute prompted an 11-day walkout by service employees.


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The present strike could not come at a worse time for the 1,124-room hotel, which is celebrating its 30th birthday in conjunction with the world-famed theme park next door. The hotel is reporting almost 100% occupancy. Much of the crush is caused by tourists drawn by Disneyland’s birthday bash.

The Disneyland Hotel, although connected to the entertainment park by monorail, is not owned by Disney but by Beverly Hills-based Wrather Corp., which also owns the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose in Long Beach. But just as Disneyland is widely recognized for its immaculate landscaping, so is the Disneyland hotel. The exotic grounds around the hotel’s 67-acre site is one of its major draws for tourists. Hotel officials said they already have hired an outside firm to take care of the grounds during the strike.

The walkout comes just a few days after the hotel’s 92 front desk and office workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, overwhelmingly approved a new contract. Details of that pact were not immediately available.

But Laborers International Union workers Wednesday soundly rejected a contract proposal by management that would allow the hotel to subcontract landscaping work, said Duarte, business manager of the Santa Ana union local. He said that if work was subcontracted, some employees would likely be laid off. “We can’t give away the only security these men have,” Duarte said.

He added that union members are prepared to make other concessions, such as accepting the hotel’s request for a two-year wage freeze and a two-tier wage scale. “We just want the hotel to withdraw its subcontractors clause,” Duarte said. “We’re giving everything else away.”

Morris said the hotel will temporarily subcontract the work--including lawn, garden and pool maintenance--until the workers return to the job. “At some time, we may take the position of replacing them, but only after all hope is gone,” he said.