Vice President, Labor Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 01, 2018
A union-backed minimum wage initiative in Anaheim, Calif., is on the verge of being placed on the November ballot in that city. If approved by voters, the measure would unleash a hyper-inflated minimum wage at Disneyland Resort hotels and theme parks as well as other large employers in the vicinity. This could in turn jeopardize the city’s economic engine, not to mention thousands of jobs.
The proposed initiative would raise the city’s current minimum wage by $1 per hour each year until it reaches $18 per hour in 2022, after which further increases would be indexed to inflation or a minimum 2% increase. That increase would put Anaheim’s minimum wage at more than 63% over California’s current minimum wage of $11 per hour and almost 150% above the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
The initiative also requires employers to disburse any service fees it collects to non-managerial employees and stipulates that “[t]ips or gratuities…, service charges or commissions and extra pay…shall not be credited as being any part of or offset against the wage rates required.”
A coalition of 11 Disney unions known as the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions (CRLU), led by UNITE-HERE Local 11, is behind the ballot initiative. The unions have been in contract negotiations with Disney, and the effort to enact the increased minimum wage appears to be part of a well-orchestrated pressure campaign against the company as the parties seek an agreement.
The coalition embarked on its crusade months ago and as its first salvo released a dubious report titled “Working for the Mouse” in February 2018. The report claimed to have sought responses from over 17,000 Disney employees, with a response rate of approximately 22 percent. The report’s conclusions amounted to little more than smears against the company, with outlandish statements like “[a]lmost three-quarters [of Disney employees] say that they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month...Disneyland employees worry about keeping a roof over their heads…Over half of Disneyland Resort employees report concerns about being evicted from their homes or apartments.”
In April, CRLU started gathering signatures to place the proposal on the November ballot, and on May 1, it turned in over 22,000 signatures to the Anaheim City Clerk. The Orange County Registrar of Voters is tasked with counting and verifying the signatures, with 13,185 valid signatures being the threshold to qualify for the ballot.
The effort to enact such a fanciful minimum wage also has garnered the support of Senator Bernie Sanders, a frequent Disney antagonist, who is planning to hold a rally touting it in Anaheim on June 2.
The minimum wage campaign in Anaheim reflects a now well-worn trend within organized labor of using the ballot box to achieve what cannot be accomplished through negotiations. Unfortunately, as many jurisdictions—like Los Angeles and Seattle— have seen first-hand, using government to artificially increase wages does not usually achieve the desired results.
One would think the whole initiative is unnecessary, since Disney has already offered to raise wages to a full $15 an hour by 2020, two years ahead of California state law. Unfortunately, that hasn’t satisfied the demands of UNITE-HERE, who may bring a big dose of sorrow to the happiest place on Earth.