A ballot initiative to require Anaheim Resort-area businesses receiving city subsidies to pay workers a minimum $18 an hour by 2022 has met a signature requirement to qualify for the November general election ballot and goes before the City Council Tuesday.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters notified the city late Wednesday, June 13, that the ballot initiative, sponsored by a coalition of Disney worker and hotel worker unions, gathered enough verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. The Anaheim City Council will vote June 19 on whether to adopt the initiative as law or place it on the ballot to go before voters in November.

The city council also can ask for an economic impact report and delay that decision for another thirty days. If they ask for a report – which City Manager Linda Andal estimated would cost $50,000 to $75,000 – the council vote would be pushed to the July 17 meeting.

The report would not be printed in ballot materials for voters and is only intend to inform the city council of the initiative’s impact before they take a vote.

If passed, beginning in January 2019, businesses receiving subsidies must pay a minimum $15 an hour. That minimum wage would increase by $1 an hour each year until 2022.

Beginning on January 2023, the initiative requires wages increase annually based on cost of living increases.

The ballot initiative is at the center of an ongoing citywide debate over what businesses that have benefited from taxpayer subsidies and economic incentives owe to their workers and Anaheim residents.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) participated in a rally with Disneyland workers where he blamed “corporate greed” for economic inequality and poverty among the working poor.

In 2016, the Anaheim City Council approved $200 million in subsidies for a luxury hotel proposed by Disney and another $300 million in subsidies for two luxury hotel projects proposed by the Wincome Group.

Both Disney and the Wincome Group have said they may consider cancelling the hotel projects if the initiative passes.

A coalition of Disney worker unions recently paid for an economic study which found nearly three quarters of the Disneyland workers surveyed don’t earn enough to pay for basic expenses, with one in ten having experienced homelessness.

Ada Briceno, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, a union representing hotel and hospitality industry workers, said the fact that it took the unions less than three weeks to gather more than 21,000 signatures of city registered voters suggests Anaheim voters are “ready” for such a law.

“[Anaheim residents] understand that subsidies have been allotted and these corporations have a responsibility to give their workers a dignified life,” said Briceno.  “And they should not be adding to the deep poverty and homelessness in these communities because of these detrimental low wages.”

Briceno said there is no legal requirement that the city council ask for an economic impact report and they should vote Tuesday to adopt the initiative as law.

Opponents of the ballot measure have accused the union of introducing the initiative after failing to negotiate union contracts with Disney and the hotel developers.

Since the initiative began gathering signatures, a coalition of resort business interests have launched a campaign, called No on the Anaheim Job Killer Initiative, arguing the initiative would result in the “immediate loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue” for the city of Anaheim, according to a statement from Todd Ament, CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

Ament called on the city council to “conduct a thorough analysis of this dangerous measure before allowing it to appear on the ballot.”

The latest economic impact report commissioned by Disneyland, released in 2015 and based on 2013 data, estimated the resort generates $5.7 billion annually in economic activity for Southern California.

The same study found Disneyland drives 80 percent of hotel occupancy in Anaheim, and accounts for one-third of all transit occupancy tax revenue for the city. The resort accounts for nearly a third of Orange County’s $9.6 billion tourism market and generates $370 million in state and local tax revenues, according to the report.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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