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Voters in November will decide whether Anaheim Resort-area companies that receive city subsidies should be required to pay their employees $18 an hour by 2022, after a split Anaheim City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to place a union-backed initiative on the November general election ballot.
Council members Kris Murray, Lucille Kring and Stephen Faessel voted no, saying they want to ask for an economic impact report before placing the item on the ballot.
If approved by voters, the initiative would require any company within the Anaheim Resort district receiving a city subsidy – and potentially businesses with contractual relationships with those companies – to pay at least $18 an hour by 2022, with the minimum wage increasing each year after that based on cost of living increases.
A coalition of worker unions supporting the ballot measure gathered more than 21,000 signatures in less than three weeks for the initiative, with the county Registrar of Voters confirming at least 13,185 of those signatures are registered voters in Anaheim, the qualifying threshold to appear on the ballot. Verification of signatures stopped once that threshold was reached.
After the Registrar confirmed the ballot initiative qualified, the council Tuesday had the choice of immediately adopting the initiative as law, placing it on the ballot or delaying their vote for another 30 days to wait for an economic impact report.
The report is optional, but opponents of the initiative – who have funded their own campaign called No on the Anaheim Job Killer Initiative — called for the council to commission a comprehensive report on the initiative’s impact on the local economy.
“We have no idea, nor do our voters, what the economic impacts will be,” said Murray. “So we’re just going to roll the dice, tell them to vote for something, and deal…with it after the fact?”
Proponents of the measure have pointed to homelessness and economic insecurity among employees at Disneyland, the largest company to likely be affected by the initiative. They point to Disneyland’s profit margins and pending park expansion as evidence the company could easily afford to increase employee wages.
Armando Gonzalez, a Disneyland Hotel employee, said after five years he makes $11.41 an hour. He told the City Council he is currently homeless, although he has received temporary assistance from a friend.
“[Disney], it’s not a bad company, but it does have to take care of its people,” Gonzalez said.
Murray criticized how proponents of the initiative have focused on Disney, accusing them of selling the initiative to voters as only affecting Disneyland.
“We have zero understanding of how far and wide it would affect small businesses in this city,” Murray said. “We are not talking about one company or four companies, we are talking about hundreds of companies.”
Opponents of the measure argue it will drive away future investment, result in the cancellation of two major luxury hotel projects and potentially affect not only big businesses like Disney but small businesses in the Anaheim Resort district that have contractual relationships with subsidy recipients.
Mayor Tom Tait argued a fair and thorough impact report cannot be done within the thirty days and said the report could be used as a weapon by opponents or proponents of the initiative in misleading campaign ads.
“We would spend $30,000 on a rushed, inaccurate and wrong report that people…on either side of the campaign could take bits and pieces of,” said Tait. “I think we are better off doing no report than a wrong report.
Acting City Manager Linda Andal estimated the report would cost about $30,000.
Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia said a comprehensive report about the specific effects of the initiative on Anaheim would take six to twelve months. Because the council would need to receive the report by their July 17 regular meeting, a consultant would have closer to 22 days to complete the impact study, once you account for weekends and holidays.
“I think the report could include a collection of studies that have already been done and do a high-level analysis of the initiative language and how that could impact our local area,” Garcia said. “But again, it would be more of a discussion of possibilities.”
The council ultimately voted 4-3 against ordering the economic impact report.
In addition to the minimum wage initiative, a separate ballot initiative sponsored by a hotel workers’ union will appear on the ballot. That initiative seeks to invalidate development agreements for two luxury hotel projects that received city subsidies.
Contact Thy Vo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.