Disney and labor unions step up campaign donations in Anaheim elections

The Disneyland Monorail passes by as people walk under the Disneyland sign in Anaheim. A campaign for a living wage measure in Anaheim has drawn huge donations from unions and the Walt Disney Co. The two sides dispute whether the measure applies to the resort.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

With a week to go before voters decide the fate of a controversial “living wage” initiative and a majority of seats on the Anaheim City Council, Walt Disney Co. and labor unions are spending heavily in the final push before the Nov. 6 election.

Next week’s election has drawn a combined total of more than $7 million in contributions, an increase of $2.7 million in the last month alone, according to campaign reports for donations made before Oct. 25.

The Burbank multimedia giant and unions representing workers at the Disneyland Resort have donated a total of more than $1 million in the last month, with most spent on direct mail literature, postage and consultants.


The unions, led by Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel workers in Anaheim, have contributed $1.9 million to candidates and to support Measure L, the initiative to require hospitality businesses to pay higher wages if they accept a city tax break. The unions led the petition drive to put Measure L on the ballot.

The Walt Disney Co., through Disney Worldwide Services, has donated $1.6 million to candidates and independent committees, including a committee opposed to Measure L, called No on the Anaheim Job Killer Initiative. Disney’s donations to fight the measure were made before it qualified for the ballot in June.

The measure would require hospitality businesses that get a city tax break to pay workers an hourly wage of at least $15 starting in January, increasing $1 an hour each year until 2022, when the wage would then be tied to the cost of living.

Anaheim City Atty. Robert Fabela has said that two hotels under construction, two other hotels in the planning phase and a shopping district in the city are receiving a tax break and would be obligated to pay the higher wages if Measure L passes.

Fabela said Measure L does not appear to apply to the Disneyland Resort.

But the unions supporting the measure disagree, saying they believe the measure applies to the resort because the city agreed in 1996 to sell bonds that were used to build a $108-million parking structure for the resort. The bonds are being paid off with bed taxes from Disneyland Resort hotels as well as hotels outside the resort. The unions argue that the bond deal is a tax break.

Opponents of the measure have adopted a campaign slogan, saying Measure L will “help a few … hurt a lot.” The campaign says that only 150 workers who live in Anaheim would get a raise under the measure, but the measure would scare off new hotel projects because developers wouldn’t want to be saddled with paying higher wages.


Labor unions say that the measure would ensure that workers, including those at Disneyland Resort, would earn enough to pay for housing, groceries and other essentials.

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