Senator Bernie Sanders Set to Appear at Anaheim Rally for Disney Resort Workers

Sanders in Irvine. Photo by Brian Feinzimer

UPDATE, MAY 22, 9:00 A.M.: The Walt Disney Company will “Feel the Bern” when United States Senator Bernie Sanders arrives in Anaheim on June 2 on behalf of Disney Resort workers. All the details are finally set for the rally and roundtable ahead of a proposed $15 Anaheim Resort living wage ballot initiative hoping to qualify for the November ballot. On the morning of June 2, thousands of Disney workers and Sanderistas are expected to fill the River Church Arena (which used to be the famed Celebrity Theatre) behind Anaheim city hall. 

The democratic socialist senator from Vermont will speak directly with workers who would stand to benefit from the ballot measure in a roundtable setting. Sanders, who recently announced his senate reelection bid, criticized the Walt Disney Company for its poverty pay during his popular 2016 presidential campaign and will hone in on similar themes next month. He’s since championed the call for a federal jobs program that would give unemployed Americans a $15 an hour wage with health care benefits. If passed, the local Anaheim living wage ordinance will raise the wage floor of taxpayer subsidized companies in the resort to $15 an hour in 2019 with annual dollar increases to $18 an hour in 2022. 

Presented by the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions and Good Jobs Nation, the roundtable is free and open to the public with doors opening at 9 a.m. The rally begins at 10 a.m. See you there! 

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 10, 8:30 A.M.: United States Senator Bernie Sanders is coming to Anaheim next month but isn’t planning on visiting the Happiest Place on Earth during his stay. The former presidential candidate will be rallying the cause of Disney and Anaheim Resort workers, instead, who stand to have their minimum wages raised to $15 per hour next year should a measure proposing such qualify and pass on the November ballot. The big announcement came yesterday afternoon from Workers United Local 50, a member of the newly formed Coalition of Resort Labor Unions. 

“We are proud to announce that Senator Sanders is coming to Anaheim to support Local 50, its members and the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions in our fight to improve wages at the resort,” reads a quote from Local 50 president Chris Duarte on a rally flyer. The location of the Sanders rally is to be determined, but excitement is already building for the June 2 event.

As a presidential candidate, Sanders came to Anaheim before on May 24, 2016 and tough talked the Mouse. “Anybody here work for Disney?” he asked. Cheers came from the crowd. “Anybody here making a living wage from Disney?” Rally goers responded “No!” in unison. He held the corporation up as an example of a “rigged economy” he criticized throughout his campaign. 

When a report on the poverty wages and living conditions of Disney Resort workers came out in late February, Sanders championed their cause on social media firing critical tweets about Disney and posting articles related to the study. “If Disney can afford to lavish its CEO with over $100 million, it can and it must pay all of its workers a living wage,” Sanders tweeted last month. He’ll bring a similar message to Anaheim in rallying resort workers. 

The announcement comes at an interesting time. The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions submitted more than 20,000 signatures from registered voters petitioning the ballot measure be put before Anaheim voters in November. While those signatures are being certified, the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council recently voted unanimously to oppose the living wage initiative.

“The proposal unfairly targets construction projects that our members fought hard to ensure would be built with only union, trade labor under a Project Labor Agreement,” stated Ron Miller, Executive Secretary for the Council, in a press release. “These projects give local Anaheim and Orange County residents and veterans who are members of the building trades the opportunity to make a good wage while working close to home.” 

On Tuesday, members of Ironworkers Local 433 packed Anaheim city council chambers and echoed the opposition at public comments. Sporting orange shirts and black suspenders, they joined with other trade union members in claiming the living wage initiative imperiled subsidized resort area luxury hotel developments with negotiated Project Labor Agreements–a favored talking point of the corporate “No on the Job-Killer” coalition. 

Can Sanders, who gained endorsements from a number of trade union locals during his presidential campaign, bring a unifying message to a divided house of labor that the resort elite gleefully pits against each other? If that happens, an animatronics attraction “Great Moments with Bernie Sanders” on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. is in order!

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