Disneyland workers readied for a week-long “Shantyland” fast slated to begin this morning near the theme park’s entrance in an ongoing fight for fair wages. But in a sudden turn of events, four labor unions will be voting to ratify a contract on Thursday instead. Not to be confused with the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions’ living wage ballot campaign, the Master Services Council has been in contract negotiations with Disneyland for months and recently turned to protests to garner public support.
The Master Services Council represents nearly 10,000 workers, about a third of the theme park’s workforce. Among them are Disneyland’s store cashiers, custodians, bakers, and ride operators whose contract expired in mid-June. The four member unions are 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.
The three unions not named the Teamsters also belong to the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions which counts housekeepers, food service, security, musician, hair and makeup artists among its non-Master Services Council members. The coalition commissioned the Occidental College and Economic Roundtable study on Disney worker poverty that helped lead to an Anaheim Resort living wage ballot measure going before voters this November.
The study found, among other harrowing statistics, that more than two-thirds of union workers experience food insecurity and regularly skip meals in involuntary fasting due to poverty pay. The cleverly named “Shantyland” protests planned to dramatize the economic hardships experienced by Master Services Council members during a sweltering heatwave, but have been called off given the tentative agreement.
“It’s no coincidence that the agreement was reached on the day before a planned hunger fast by workers right outside the gates of Disneyland,” a statement from SEIU-USWW reads. “We congratulate all of our brave Disneyland members who had the courage to raise their voices and speak about the economic hardships they feel as a result of their working conditions. Now people all across the country know our struggle and are rooting for use to create a better future both through this agreement and in the months and years to come.
Neither Disney nor the Master Services Council have disclosed the terms of the tentative agreement. For its part, SEIU-USWW, whose purple-shirt wearing members took to the Disney esplanade in protest over the summer, is urging workers to ratify a contract that the union says will increase wages and benefits. The results of the vote will be announced on the union’s Facebook page on Thursday night.
Disneyland previously made public a proposal to raise wages to $15 an hour by 2020 for Master Services Council members on the eve of United States Senator Bernie Sanders’ visit to Anaheim last month to rally theme park workers. They also pledged $50 million in initial funding for an educational investment program. Disneyland originally offered the wage proposal in April, but union members criticized it for having no significant raises for workers with seniority already making more than $15 an hour. They also were wary of the fact that it would raise the wage floor to $15 an hour a year before the state’s minimum wage laws reaches that same threshold.
By comparison, voters will decide whether Anaheim Resort workers at taxpayer-subsidized corporations, like Disneyland, will gain an immediate minimum wage increase to $15 an hour next year with annual dollar-a-year raises until reaching $18 an hour by 2021.
Without much details, Disney and the Master Services Council released a joint statement about Monday night’s agreement. “The Disneyland Resort and Master Services Council are proud to have reached a tentative agreement, which we are hopeful will be ratified later this week,” the statement reads. “We have had a successful history of working together since Disneyland Park opened in 1955, and this contract continues that shared commitment to Cast Members.”
How the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions’ living wage campaign moves forward to November after Thursday’s vote remains to be seen.
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.