Unions at Disneyland say they have enough signatures to put living wage ordinance on Anaheim ballot

Visitors walk toward Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland in Anaheim.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

A coalition of unions representing Disneyland workers say they have collected enough signatures to put a ballot measure before Anaheim voters that would require Walt Disney Co. to pay the resort workers a “living wage.”

The coalition of 11 labor unions that have been pushing for higher wages at Disneyland Resort, which includes the California Adventure Park and nearby hotels, says it plans to present a petition with about 20,000 signatures to the Anaheim city clerk’s office Tuesday morning.

If enough signatures are verified, the measure on the November ballot would ask voters to require Disney and other large Anaheim employers that accept city subsidies to pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2019, with salaries rising $1 an hour every Jan. 1 through 2022. Once the wages reach $18 an hour, annual raises would then be tied to the cost of living.


A Disneyland representative deferred comment to a coalition of business groups in Anaheim that opposes the ordinance. In the past, Disney officials have said that the average annual pay for hourly workers at the resort is $37,000, which calculates to about $17.80 an hour.

Todd Ament, chief executive of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which is part of the coalition, called the proposed living wage ordinance a “job killer” that would deter developers from building hotels in the city for fear of having to pay higher wages.

“It definitely will kill some construction projects already planned,” said Ament, who added that if the ordinance appears on the ballot, the chamber plans to campaign against it.

The unions say they are primarily targeting the Disneyland Resort, the city’s largest employer with about 30,000 workers, because they say Disney is profiting from millions in taxpayer subsidies while employees struggle to pay their bills.

In 2016, the Anaheim City Council voted to give Disneyland a tax break of about $267 million over the next 20 years to build a luxury hotel in the resort. Construction of the 700-room hotel is expected to be completed in 2021.

In February, several unions filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Disney, alleging that the company was withholding $1,000 bonuses from the Republican corporate tax cut from workers until they agreed to settle their contract.


“Companies that profit off of our hard-earned tax dollars should pay us decent wages so we don’t have to choose between feeding our families and taking them to the doctor,” Veronica Chavez, a housekeeper at the Grand Californian Hotel, said in a statement.

The coalition of employee unions launched the petition drive shortly after a survey was released in February, finding that 73% of Disney employees who were questioned said they don’t earn enough to pay for such basic expenses as rent, food and gas.

The online survey, underwritten by the same coalition of Disneyland labor groups, also said that 11% of resort employees have been homeless or have not had a place of their own in the last two years.

The survey was conducted by the Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research organization in Los Angeles, and the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College.

To qualify for the November ballot, the unions needed to collect the signatures of 10%, or 13,150, of the voters in Anaheim. The coalition of unions says it deployed at least 50 volunteers each day since April 12 to collect the 20,000 signatures.


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