City Council Members in Anaheim – home to the Disneyland Resort – have to decide tomorrow if they’re going to adopt an ordinance that would bump the minimum wage for hotel workers to $25 an hour or kick the question to voters.

The expected decision comes after Unite Here 11, a union representing 32,000 hotel workers in Southern California and Arizona, gathered more than enough signatures earlier this year to force city officials to debate the ordinance also aimed at granting workers greater protections.

But questions remain on whether officials are willing to do that in Anaheim – a city which was rocked when an FBI corruption probe surfaced last year, with federal agents alleging the resort industry, through the chamber of commerce, had undue influence over city hall.

[Read: FBI Reveals What Many Anaheim Residents Felt For Years, City Hall is Run By The Chamber of Commerce]

“Are you going to stand with the workers of Anaheim tonight or those who profit from their labor?” resident Carolina Mendez asked Anaheim City Councilmembers at their May 16 meeting.

Mendez, a member of the Santa Ana-based nonprofit activist group, Chispa, said the tourism-dependent economy relies on the very workers the ordinance is geared for – employees who struggle to pay rent while facing sexual harassment from guests at their hotel jobs. 

“We deserve elected officials who will prioritize our needs and fight for our interests year round, not just when it’s politically expedient. It’s easy to side with those with money,” she said.

“You know what’s not easy, living in fear, being humiliated at work every day coming up here and having to ask you for the bare minimum time and time again.”

Resort interests and hoteliers – some of whom run family owned hotels – are pushing back on Unite Here’s ordinance raising concerns that the pay increase would be detrimental to their industry.

They urged officials at the May 16 city council meeting to study the ordinance instead.

Judy Pao, whose family has owned the Alpine Inn since 1975, said at the meeting that as immigrants they have worked hard to keep their hotel running successfully and that the ordinance would impact that success.

“The increased labor cost will mean higher room rates for our guests,” she said. “Not only will we feel the impact, but our hard working employees will suffer too less revenue and fewer guests will mean reduced working hours and even possible layoffs.”

The Anaheim/Orange County Hotel and Lodging Association did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, hotel workers in Anaheim argue that while their employers profit, they struggle to afford the rent and some find themselves on the brink of homelessness as the cost of living shoots up in Orange County.

They called on elected officials to pass the ordinance outright.

Tereza Garcia Sharon, a housekeeper at the Sheraton Park Hotel, told city councilmembers at a meeting last month that removal of daily room cleaning amid the COVID pandemic left her worried she wouldn’t be able to handle her workload.

“The large suites were extremely dirty and took a very long time to clean. To make things worse, they only paid $17 an hour to do all of this work. I wasn’t able to afford my rent of $2,000 a month and I was forced to move to a smaller apartment,” she said.

Housing costs have led workers to vote to authorize a strike ahead of the summer season amid contract negotiations at hotels across Southern California.

[Read: Southern California Hotel Workers Authorize Strike]

Both union and resort interests have separately boosted the campaigns of nearly every Anaheim City Council Members’ campaign through independent expenditures on things like political mailers and digital advertising. 

The resort interests heavily outspent union interests on their preferred candidates. 

Anaheim City Council members sided with the hoteliers last month unanimously voting to study the proposed ordinance before either sending it to next year’s ballot or outright adopting it.

[Read: Anaheim Council Refuses Minimum Wage Increase For Hotel Workers]

Ada Briceño, co-president of Unite Here 11, said in a Friday phone interview that there has been a history of Anaheim being swayed by developers and hoteliers.

“It’s no surprise what kind of a council we have had and how they have voted unscrupulously towards the developers and hotel industry,” she said.

According to the study that was completed in less than a month, the ordinance would negatively impact the Anaheim Convention Center’s finances and the city’s budget.

“We estimate a negative impact on (the Anaheim Convention Center) operations ranging from $7.3 to $8.6 million per year,” reads a city staff report. “The City’s General Fund is expected to face a negative impact of approximately $8.6 million for the initial fiscal year, with costs increasing annually.”

Pete Hillan, a spokesman for the California Hotel and Lodging Association, said Unite Here’s ordinance will have a negative impact on family run hotels and the workers the ordinance is aimed at helping.

“The study shows this is a bad policy that will have impacts beyond the hotel industry,” he said in a Friday phone call.

Officials also voted to craft their own hospitality workers protection ordinance which does not include any wage increase for hotel workers at the request of Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava.

Rubalcava received nearly $380,000 in campaign support from Disney through a local political action committee – Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR).

Her requested ordinance will also come before the council at Tuesday’s meeting.

According to City Spokesman Mike Lyster, the council must decide by June 13 on Unite Here’s ordinance or kick it to voters to decide in an election next year.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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