An Orange County Superior Court dismissed a class action wage lawsuit that was filed against the Walt Disney Company by over 25,000 of its park employees, accusing the company of failing to comply with an Anaheim ordinance and not paying a living wage on Nov. 3.
The lawsuit accused Disney of violating Measure L, a wage ordinance passed by Anaheim voters and backed by Unite Here Local 11 — a workers union representing over 32,000 workers employed in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas and convention centers. The measure requires the hospitality businesses that receive city subsidies to raise workers’ minimum wage. When Measure L was passed in 2018, the minimum hourly wage was required to be $15, with an incremental increase of $1 each year until 2022. The measure also stated that starting in 2023, the minimum wage would continue to increase to reflect the cost of living.
According to Measure L, Disney should now be paying its workers a minimum wage of $17. However, according to the suing workers, over 25,000 of them were being paid less than that.
“It is frustrating that Disney has taken more than $300 million from the City of Anaheim and at the same time refuses to pay over 25,000 workers a living wage,” Randy Renick, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview with Insider.
Judge William Claster dismissed the accusation with the finding that Disney is not receiving a city subsidy. Disney received massive benefits from the city of Anaheim in the form of municipal bonds at the time of construction..
“The finance agreement has the apparent effect of giving the Disney Defendants a 100% abatement on debt service payments, not taxes.” Claster said in his tentative ruling. “This is a significant benefit to the Disney Defendants, but again, there is no evidence that the finance agreement somehow lessens their tax obligations.”
According to Claster’s ruling, the central question of the case was whether the benefits Disney had received from the City of Anaheim were qualified for tax rebates. Since these benefits did not qualify, they cannot be considered a “city subsidy” by definition.
“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,” a Disneyland spokesperson said. “We are pleased the court has confirmed that position.”
Renick stated his frustration with the case and that the Disney workers are likely to appeal.
“Anaheim voters went to the polls and voted that the companies who take subsidies from the city must pay their workers a living wage,” Renick said. “The judge’s hyper-technical ruling that the hundreds of millions received by Disney don’t qualify as a subsidy disregards the clear intent of the voters… Measure L is super clear. You take a subsidy, you have to pay a living wage. It’s frustrating to say the least that Disney’s dodging that.”
Ellie Zhang is a City News Staff Writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.