Disney Proposes $15 Starting Wage by 2020 for Some Union Workers, But Not All

It’s a Mouse trap! Photo by Javier Castellanos

On the eve of United States Senator Bernie Sanders coming to Anaheim for a Disney Resort workers rally on Saturday, the Mouse is suddenly feeling generous. The Disneyland Resort decided to bargain in public by announcing a proposal yesterday that seeks to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 for 9,500 hourly “Master Services” workers represented by four unions. The corporation is also pledging to launch an education investment program for employees in the fall with an initial $50 million investment in news first reported in the local media by KABC-TV Channel 7, owned by Disney.

“Today’s investment in our cast—along with world-class training and development opportunities for both full- and part-time cast members—confirms that working at the Disneyland Resort is not only a good opportunity today, but a pathway to growth opportunities and career advancement tomorrow,” said Josh D’Amaro, Disneyland Resort president, in a press statement. “We look forward to productive negotiations with our unions as we set a foundation for our exciting future ahead.” 

First offered in April, the announced proposal comes as the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, comprised of 11 locals representing 17,000 workers, is pushing for a living wage ordinance in the Anaheim Resort that would raise starting pay for all Disney workers to $15 per hour next year. Annual increases in the proposed law set the wage floor at $18 per hour by 2022. Member unions helped collect more than 20,000 signatures from registered voters and filed them last month in hopes of qualifying the measure for the November ballot.

An Occidental College and Economic Roundtable study commissioned by the Coalition and released in February noted that 85 percent of Disney Resort workers made less than $15 per hour. The survey also found that seniority didn’t matter much with more than half of workers who’ve worked more than 15 years on the job still made under $15 per hour. 

The Coalition declined to comment about ongoing negotiations for some of its member unions when asked about the Disney offer. The Master Services Council’s collective bargaining agreement with Disney is set to expire June 16, around the same time the Orange County Registrar of Voters is expected to finish its task of verifying signatures for the living wage ordinance. 

A flyer obtained by the Weekly touts the Disney offer as a “clear path” to a $15 minimum wage. Upon ratification, wages would boost up to $13.25 per hour. Proposed annual increases over three years sets pay at $15 per hour by 2020, two years ahead of the state’s minimum wage law. The flyer claims full-time workers currently earning $11 per hour would stand to make $4,300 more annually by the end of the three-year contract offer. What concessions are embedded in the contract offer are, of course, not as readily available. 

There’s overlap between the Coalition and the Masters Services Council. Disney’s proposed wage increases would apply to workers represented by Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union Local 83 and Teamsters Automotive, Industrial, Theme Park, Service Sector, and Allied Workers Local 495. Of the four Master Services Council unions, only the Teamsters aren’t a part of the Coalition. 

The offer wouldn’t apply to hotel workers represented by Unite HERE Local 11. Other member unions, some still under contract, representing food service, security, musician, hair and makeup artist workers at the Disney Resort similarly don’t stand to benefit. By comparison, the living wage ordinance casts a wider net, also applying to other companies in the Anaheim Resort that receive city subsidies, like two non-union Wincome Group luxury hotels slated to be built–or are they?

Ahead of Senator Sanders scheduled roundtable discussion with Disney Resort workers tomorrow at the River Arena in Anaheim, Wincome is suggesting that the living wage, if passed, could imperil its planned hotel projects. The Westin Anaheim Resort is already under construction, but the revamp of the Anaheim Plaza Hotel across the street from Disneyland hasn’t begun. Both projects were approved by a previous council with 70 percent bed tax breaks over 20 years.

A new Disney luxury hotel received the same subsidy agreement and is slated to begin construction at the base of Downtown Disney. Citing an “increasingly hostile” business climate in Anaheim, the Disneyland Resort also cautioned that it may consider Garden Grove (really, now?) for future projects on account of the living wage ordinance at the same time it’s publicly offering a 36 percent pay increase for a third of its workforce.

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