Union Push for Anaheim “Living Wage” Already Hurting Workers at Happiest Place on Earth


Last week, I celebrated my 42nd birthday in style – taking a few days off following our Baroness Thatcher Gala to enjoy some of the sites of Southern California.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Downtown Disney, which is an entertainment district right in between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.  I enjoyed some fancy bowling ($90 for 3 people for an hour and a half!) and then had a great shrimp and grits dinner followed by bananas foster at a restaurant owned by the famous New Orleans restaurant family, the Brennans.

One really can escape the world’s problems by spending an afternoon at a Disney resort.  But it turns out even the Happiest Place on Earth is not immune from the push toward socialism.

Rather than celebrate Disneyland, union bosses and political activists in Anaheim are targeting them.

They qualified a city measure for the November ballot that would impose a so-called “living wage” on large Anaheim employers that have accepted city subsidies over the years – namely Disney.  Under the measure, wages would increase incrementally to $18 an hour, and then rise annually for cost of living increases.

Keep in mind that the Disneyland Resort hotels just reached a new contract agreement to pay its workers a $15-an-hour minimum wage – which I thought was a rallying cry for so-called progressives everywhere – and also a $1,000 bonus thanks to the Republican tax plan.  Disney says that the average annual pay for all hourly workers is even higher – $17.80 an hour or $37,000 a year.

Never mind the fact that Disneyland generates more than $5.7 billion in economic activity, employs more than 28,000 people, and generates more than $370 million in local and state tax revenue.

That’s not enough for union bosses and left-wing activists.  But they may already be securing defeat from the jaws of victory, no matter what happens in November.

To get around the ballot measure, Disney voluntarily agreed to give back a $267 million subsidy from the City of Anaheim to build a new 700-room luxury hotel at Downtown Disney.

As a result, the new luxury hotel project is on hold and may never be built.  The Orange County Register says Disney would have spent roughly $500 million to build it, and that now the company is rethinking their entire hotel strategy in Anaheim.  If the hotel is never built, Anaheim stands to lose $113 million in tax revenue over 20 years.

Union leaders say the ballot measure would still apply to Disney because of a 1996 public-private partnership to build a new parking garage, but Variety notes that the past arrangement is not a “tax rebate.”  Expect years of litigation if the ballot measure passes.

The ballot measure push, of course, ignores the documented, negative impact that higher minimum wages have on workers and job opportunities.  Kerry Jackson wrote on this blog in January about an Employment Policies Institute study on California’s minimum wage increases, which concluded that California’s higher minimum wage push has “caused a measurable decrease in employment among affected employees.”

With plans for the new Disney luxury resort hotel on hold, looks like the project’s prospective construction and resort workers are already seeing a measurable decrease in employment opportunities – even before voters weigh in this November.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

Scroll to Top