Four labor unions and the Disneyland Resort reached a tentative contract settlement, according to a joint statement released Monday night, after months of union campaigning for a controversial ballot initiative that would require Disneyland and other city-subsidized businesses to pay workers a higher minimum wage.
“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 theme park and the council that represents 9,700 Disney workers said in the statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “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.”
The statement did not include details of the settlement, which union members will vote on Thursday.
A controversial ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage for Disney and other Anaheim businesses that receive city subsidies still will go before voters in November.
Ada Briceno, co-president of the hotel workers’ union UNITE-HERE Local 11, congratulated the Master Services Council on its agreement and said in a telephone interview Tuesday UNITE-HERE will continue to push for the living wage initiative.
She estimated the roughly 9,700 workers included in the settlement are 39 percent of the Disneyland Resort’s employees.
“I think [voters are] going to understand this agreement reaches only more than a third of all the workers,” Briceno said. “And they will understand the right thing to do is memorialize this and put it as the law of the land.”
Aside from the joint statement they released, Disney representatives would not comment on the deal.
Artemis Bell, a Disneyland janitor and member of the organizing committee for the SEIU-USWW, one of the unions included in the settlement agreement, said in a telephone interview Tuesday the unions will not release the details of the agreement until members vote on it Thursday.
For months Disneyland workers have staged a public campaign highlighting economic struggles faced by the company’s employees, organized protests in front of the theme park and drew the support of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally in June.
The unions collected over 21,000 signatures in less than three weeks to place their initiative on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, which would require any company receiving a tax rebate from the city to pay $18 an hour by 2022, with salaries increasing each year thereafter based on cost of living increases.
Workers had planned a week-long fasting protest starting July 24, including a rest area resembling a homeless encampement for people who are fasting dubbed “Shantyland,” although the protest was cancelled before the announcement of the settlement agreement.
The unions also commissioned a study, “Working for the Mouse,” which found almost three-quarters of surveyed Disneyland Resort employees don’t earn enough to cover basic expenses each month. One in ten said they were homeless at least once over the past two years, and more than two-thirds said they are food insecure.
The wage initiative still will appear on the November ballot, although it’s unclear what groups will continue to back the ballot measure. The initiative, if passed by voters, would affect all Disney employees, regardless of their union representation, and other businesses that receive tax rebates from the city. One of those companies, the Wincome Group, is under pressure by a hotel workers union to reach an agreement.
The City Council at its July 31 meeting will consider several items proposed for the November general election ballot. It is the last city council meeting before an August 10 deadline to submit ballot items to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, including the deadline for candidates to submit paperwork to run for office.
Councilwoman Kris Murray has proposed changing the ballot question – the 75-word summary that voters see on their ballot – for the union wage initiative. Changing the ballot question would not affect the content of the proposed ordinance, but it would affect what voters see when they go to vote “yes” or “no” on Nov. 6.
The City Council approved the ballot question at a June 19 meeting.
In an interview Monday, Murray said she is working with the city attorney to include language about “what our minimum wage is today, what it is proposed to go to, and who it will apply to.”
“My greatest objection to the initiative and the way it’s developed is that it has been marketed – and I’ve heard from dozens of residents – that when those petitioners came to their door, they said nothing other than, ‘should Disney pay a fair wage?’” Murray said.
“My goal in asking for this is that the residents have as much factual information as possible so they can make an informed decision,” Murray added.
Murray has argued that the ballot measure has much broader implications and could negatively affect small businesses and the local economy. Union advocates say, however, that the language of the bill was written broadly to avoid loopholes where companies hire outside contractors to avoid paying higher wages to their own employees.
Murray also proposed two separate amendments to the city charter, which would need to be approved by a majority of voters.
One amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the electorate for any local tax increase. Currently, creating or increasing a special use tax – revenues which go toward a special purpose, such as utilities – requires a two-thirds vote of the Anaheim electorate. Taxes proposed for the general fund require a majority vote, a threshold Murray wants to increase to two-thirds of the electorate.
The other amendment would require a public vote to “change, overturn or diminish” the city’s anti-camping ordinance.
The anti-camping ordinance allows police to ticket homeless people found sleeping and camping in public places. Advocates for the homeless have pushed the council for years to repeal it, arguing the law criminalizes homelessness by punishing people who otherwise have no place to sleep, store their belongings or take care of basic needs.
The city currently is being sued by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County over enforcement of its anti-camping law.
In addition to Murray’s proposal, Councilwoman Denise Barnes has also asked for a report at next week’s meeting on enforcement of trespassing laws and criminal enforcement around city parks.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring also requested a charter amendment be placed on the November ballot to ban fireworks citywide.
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