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Disney Not Bound by Anaheim’s Living Wage Measure Judge Rules

A judge has ruled that Disney is not bound by Anaheim’s 2018 ballot measure that would have required an increase of workers’ wages to $18 an hour.

The initiative was passed in 2018 and required any businesses that receive subsidies from Anaheim to have wages of at least $15 an hour in 2019. This was to be followed by $1 increases in subsequent years through 2022 followed by cost of living increases.

In 2019, a lawsuit was brought by workers who contended that Disney was bound by this measure and Disney had not complied. However, Orange County Superior Court Judge William D. Claster said that this is not the case. He acknowledged that Disney does have agreements with Anaheim from 1996 that utilize hotel taxes to pay debt on a parking structure but also stated that this does not constitute a tax rebate or subsidy as defined by the 2018 measure.

The Disneyland Resort is Orange County’s largest employer. In a 2021 Disneyland employment fact sheet, Disney shares that it provides “a starting wage that exceeds California minimum wage,” childcare, and educational assistance for its cast members. Randy Renick, who is the attorney for the workers who brought forth the suit disagrees. He says that they will appeal the ruling.

Anaheim was not a part of this lawsuit but spokesperson Mike Lyster released a statement that said, “While we never want to see a dispute like this play out in court, we appreciate the judge’s determination. It validates what we already knew and have said – the city of Anaheim does not provide any rebate or subsidy to Disney.”

Lyster continued that the agreements between Disney and Anaheim that are being debated in the lawsuit were part of a $1.9 billion investment in the resort area that continues to pay dividends for the community.

“The expansion was a public-private partnership reflecting shared interests in Anaheim’s visitor economy,” Lyster said. “It has been a great return on investment for our city, residents and neighborhoods.

“Since the 1990s expansion, Anaheim’s hotel revenue has more than tripled to a pre-pandemic high of $163 million in 2019. That money has gone to public safety, community centers, libraries, parks and meeting city obligations.”

This judgement does not mean that cast members’ wages will not increase at all. Currently, California’s minimum wage is $14 an hour and is set to go up by $1 at the beginning of 2022. This is not the raise that was hoped for by workers, however and this debate will continue as this lawsuit is appealed in the court and in the court of public opinion.