UPDATE, SEPT., 24, 10:05 A.M.: Hotel workers at the Disneyland Resort voted over the weekend to overwhelmingly approve a four-year union contract securing significant wage increases. With Unite Here Local 11 members returning 96 percent support for the agreement, the minimum wage for those employed at Paradise Pier, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel will rise to $15 an hour next January. Housekeepers on staff get an immediate boost to $15.80 an hour, a wage that raises up to $16.35 in January and reaches $18.05 by January 2021.
“I’m proud that all of us cast members stuck together and stayed strong to win the money we deserve for the value we create,” says Glynndana Shevlin-Sanchez, a concierge at Disneyland Hotel who recently celebrated her 30th year with the company, in a press release.
The Disneyland Resort hailed the contract as one that offers a $15 an hour minimum wage three years ahead of state law and is one of the highest in the nation. Both sides also tout an agreement on more affordable health insurance options that will be offered to many cast members starting next month, including a plan with an employee contribution as low as $6 a week for single participants.
Together with Disney Aspire, an educational investment program the company rolled out last month for hourly workers, the Mouse House declares a new commitment to its workers. “The strides we have made to implement $15 an hour minimum wages will have an immediate and lasting impact on the quality of life of our cast members and their families,” says Josh D’Amaro, president of the Disneyland Resort, in a press release. “Additionally, we are very proud to offer our cast peace of mind through affordable healthcare options and free educational opportunities with our groundbreaking new program called Disney Aspire.”
Unite Here Local 11 proposed new health insurance options during negotiations that now will save $3,000 a year for a worker who currently has family coverage. The contract settlement also frees up $1,000 Trump tax cut bonuses previously withheld from union employees by Disney during negotiations.
Other unions representing food service workers, security guards, variety artists, musicians, hair and makeup artists at the Disneyland Resort are still under contract through 2019 and 2020. Workers United Local 50 represents 6,600 workers alone. Unite Here Local 11 maintains support for Measure L, a November ballot initiative proposing a wage scale in the Anaheim Resort topping at $18 an hour by 2022 for corporations that have subsidy agreements with Anaheim. The union insists that, if passed, the measure applies to the Disneyland Resort.
“We fought hard for our contract and the raises we need and we’ll keep fighting to pass Measure L,” Shevlin-Sanchez adds. “We won’t leave anyone behind.”
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT., 18, 4:39 P.M.: The Disneyland Resort came closer to ending a long contract fight with its hotel workers by reaching a tentative agreement early this morning. Represented by Unite Here Local 11, members will vote this weekend on whether to approve a contract raising starting pay from $13.25 to $15 an hour on Jan. 31, 2019. Ahead of a living wage measure before Anaheim voters in November, the proposed settlement follows a similar agreement reached with four unions this summer that also lifts the wage floor to $15 an hour for their membership in January.
“My heart is so filled with emotion,” Lupita Ortiz, a Disneyland Hotel housekeeper, tells the Weekly in Spanish. “It’s a big victory. The heavy workloads will lessen. We’ll have a dignified salary and our health insurance will be better, too.”
The union, which represents 2,700 Disney workers, deems the proposed raises “historic” in announcing the four-year tentative agreement. Ortiz stayed at the Anaheim Sheraton Park where negotiations continued until both sides finally found common ground around 2 a.m. after more than a year-and-a-half of disputes. The housekeeper felt compelled to get involved with all she has experienced since working at the Disneyland Hotel’s Fantasy Tower in 2005, including suffering a stroke aggravated by stress. “All of this time, it’s been a struggle,” she says. “I’ve also had to endure many economic difficulties like losing my home and struggling to feed my children.”
With the proposed raises, workers at the Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian and Paradise Pier will come closer to pay parity with other union hotel employers in the Anaheim Resort like the Hilton and Sheraton Park. “We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with Unite Here! Local 11 that provides a 40 percent increase in minimum wages for our Cast Members over the next two years,” says Liz Jaeger, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman, in a statement to the Weekly. “Upon ratification, housekeepers immediately will receive $15.80 an hour, with other minimum rate Cast Members moving to $15 in January, three years ahead of California’s minimum wage.”
But wages aren’t the only early victory being touted by the union.
“Disney created a new affordable health care option based on a union proposal,” says Austin Lynch, Unite Here Local 11’s organizing director in Orange County. “We’re very proud of that. That’s going to be transformative for families.” The health care plan will be available to all Disney employees and is half the cost of existing options. Ortiz, who put off dental work because she hasn’t been able to afford the cost, is excited about not having to do so in the near future. Housekeepers also complained about having to lug around a heavier cart to the detriment of their health. “We could not accept it and Disney, thankfully, yanked it,” Lynch says of the cart. “We had to have a reduction in the workload to offset the remodeling that made every room harder to clean.”
The Disneyland Resort calls the proposed settlement its “second significant contract agreement” reached over the summer, one that displays a continuing commitment to valuing its cast members.
Before that, critics of the living wage measure used the Master Services Council contract reached with four unions in July to bludgeon Unite Here Local 11. A local conservative blog bashed union leadership for supposedly failing its workers. Anaheim councilwoman Kris Murray took digs from the dais suggesting the union relied on the prospects of the living wage measure passing rather than effectively bargaining on behalf of its membership. She also pointed out that Disney offered $15 an hour to Unite Here Local 11 in earlier negotiations when housekeepers spoke against poverty pay during a recent council meeting. “They improved their wage offer considerably,” Lynch counters. “Many classifications will go way over $15 an hour.”
The proposed contract improving the lot of hotel workers doesn’t signal an abandonment of the living wage ballot initiative, which would boost pay to $18 an hour by 2020 for workers at resort area corporations that have tax rebate subsidy agreements with the city. Earlier this month, the Measure L campaign held its kickoff at the Anaheim offices of Workers United Local 50, a union that represents 6,600 employees who are under contract until 2020. A sense of optimism accompanied precinct walkers even after Anaheim city council recently voted to cancel two subsidy agreements at Disney’s behest. The living wage measure’s principal author argues that a 1996 Disneyland expansion deal qualifies as a tax rebate making the corporation subject to its wage scale provisions if passed by voters.
“We are passionate about bringing everyone along,” Lynch says. “The members of Workers United Local 50 work just as hard as we do and they need to be paid fairly.”
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.