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Anaheim City Council Puts Living Wage On November Ballot

It will be up to Anaheim residents to decide whether companies that receive city subsidies for new hotels will be required to pay their employees a minimum wage starting at $15/hour.

The Anaheim City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday in favor of placing an ordinance proposed by a coalition of unions that represent hospitality and Disneyland workers on the city’s November ballot. 

An attendee holds up a sign during a meeting held by the Coalition of Labor Resorts Union.

Under the proposed measure, Disneyland Resort, Wincome Group, a JV of Prospera Group and developer Bill O’Connell, and other companies that have a tax rebate agreement with the city would be required to pay their workers a $15/hour minimum wage starting in 2019, $18/hour by 2022 and cost-of-living increases beyond that.

“The people asked for it to be placed on the ballot and that’s what we should do,” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said during the discussion of the initiative. 

The council’s decision comes as Disney and Wincome are under fire by a coalition of unions during tense labor negotiations that have targeted the city's dealings with those companies. 

The city of Anaheim in 2013 and 2015 awarded an estimated total of $700M in transient occupancy tax subsidy over 20 years to Disney, Wincome and the JV to develop five four-diamond luxury hotels in the Anaheim Resort District in an attempt to lure high-end visitors. 

The unions representing Disneyland employees and hospitality workers contend that their members are underpaid and cannot meet their basic needs with their current salaries, especially living in high-cost Orange County. The city’s minimum wage is $11/hour. 

Over the past couple of months, the unions collected more than 20,000 signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, Disney and Wincome Group officials said increasing the minimum wage would hurt their businesses and they could look elsewhere to develop future projects.

Westin Anaheim Resort

Wincome recently broke ground on a $250M Westin Anaheim Resort, one of two luxury hotels the company is developing in Anaheim thanks to the city's tax rebate program.

Wincome CEO Paul Sanford said his company is thinking about putting its other planned development, a 700-room hotel across the street from Disneyland, on hold to see if the measure passes.

An official from Disney, which is building another Disney-themed hotel at the Disneyland Resort, said the company may look to nearby Garden Grove for future expansion projects.

As required by law, upon the verification of the signatures on the petition by the Orange County Registrar of Voters, the Anaheim City Council had the option to either adopt the minimum wage ordinance, send it to voters or order a report from city agencies on the its fiscal impact or other analysis.

Councilwoman Kris Murray, who voted against the measure, urged her colleagues to vote in favor of ordering a fiscal impact report, saying that the measure would impact not only Disneyland, the city's largest employer, and the developers of luxury hotels but also harm small businesses and other businesses in the city.

She said the way the measure is written, any businesses working with those targeted companies might be required to pay workers $15/hour and more.

Tait said there was no time for a comprehensive fiscal impact report and called such a report a waste of city money.  

“Our job up here is to place it on the ballot,” Tait said, adding that is what the residents of Anaheim wanted.