Judge Rules in Disney’s Favor Over “Living Wage” Case With Disneyland Employees


This article is going to start off as reporting on what happened and it will end with opinion.

Disneyland resort area workers and unions have been fighting for higher pay from the Walt Disney Company since 2018, when a ballot measure in Anaheim, called “Measure L”, was approved to increase payment to ‘living wages’ if a company takes subsidies from the city.

The measure required any business that receives subsidies from the city of Anaheim to raise wages to at least $15 per hour back in 2019 and then increase wages $1 per year until 2022 at $18 per hour. They would also be required to give cost-of-living increases in the years that follow.

When 2019 came, Disney did not follow the measure and workers sued stating that the rules would apply to the Walt Disney Company. Back when “Measure L” was approved the Anaheim City Attorney, Robert Fabela, had stated that Disney would be exempt from this due to the cancellation of tax incentive deals that were to go to the construction of a luxury hotel.

However, it was argued by employees and the union that another deal made in 1996 for the “Mickey & Friends parking garage” should count as a subsidy and would make Disney responsible for following “Measure L.”

The parking structure led to the city borrowing money for the improvements and the Disney hotel taxes paid it back. But that money could have gone to the city’s general fund for jobs and benefits for the city. Instead Anaheim borrowed money to help out Disney.

Orange County Superior Court Judge, William D. Claster ruled on October 29, that Disney does not have to follow “Measure L.”

According to SiliconValley.com:

In an Oct. 29 decision that became final this week, Orange County Superior Court Judge William D. Claster said while Disney benefited from 1996 agreements with Anaheim that use hotel taxes to pay debt on a parking structure for Disneyland visitors, those agreements don’t constitute a tax rebate or a subsidy as described in the ballot measure.

The judge even noted that Disney did benefit from the 1996 agreement, that is still not paid off.

“In his ruling, Judge Claster notes that no one disputes whether Disney has benefited from the 1996 city agreements (the company has been paying $1 a year to use the parking structure and will own it outright once the debt is paid off around 2036),  but the suit appears to boil down to semantics.

The ballot measure defines a subsidy as an agreement in which a business or other party has “a right to receive a rebate” of various kinds of taxes, including hotel and sales tax. Claster concluded that, although the complicated structure of the agreements provides for reimbursement to Disney under certain conditions,  the plaintiffs didn’t show that Disney had its taxes reduced or refunded.

The attorney representing the Disneyland employees, Randy Renick indicated that Disney’s behavior is “shameful” after they have gotten millions in benefits from the city yet refuse to voluntarily pay the “living wage.”

Disney argues that they are paying fairly and released this statement:

We have always been committed to fair and equitable pay for our cast members, but have always agreed with the Anaheim City Attorney’s conclusion that Measure L does not apply to the Disneyland Resort. We are pleased the court has confirmed that position.”

To be fair, Disney did give new contracts and a wage increase to $15 per hour back in early 2019, which lined up with “Measure L” but they did not increase it to keep up with it after that.

Now we’re going into opinion territory:

For a company that leverages “family” and “community” as buzzwords for their brand they don’t always act like it when it comes to their own employees. They have no problems raising prices and pushing the limits of pricing out the customers, or giving millions in bonuses to C-level employees, but they draw the line at paying their employees more after taking assistance from the city.

How much money did they spend on this case and others to make sure they didn’t pay higher wages, or property taxes in Orlando?

I understand that the parks shut down and Disneyland was shuttered far longer that Walt Disney World, but the executives get millions in bonuses a year and some complained about taking a pay cut from their large salaries, while many Cast Members got laid off with no money. The unions and Cast Members took care of each other and started food pantries to try and survive.

If Disney is going to gouge the consumer while going about “the Disney Difference” and “family” maybe they should start acting like they actually believe it when it comes to their employees.

I’m for businesses and I get that they need to survive, but sometimes they can meet in the middle and Disney could do that if they wished.

What do you think? Comment and let us know!

Source: SiliconValley.com

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.