Judge grants class-action status in workers’ lawsuit against Disneyland

A lawsuit alleging Disneyland employees do not earn a living wage may continue following a ruling by the Orange County Superior Court upholding them as a class action lawsuit.

The 2019 lawsuit filed on behalf of five resort employees alleges that Walt Disney Co. has violated Measure L, which requires Anaheim resort companies that receive tax subsidies and their subcontractors to pay their employees a living wage. Back then it was $ 15 an hour; today it’s $ 17. Unite Here Local 11 and other unions representing Disneyland employees supported the measure.

It took a year and a half for the judge to admit the case as a class action. Many of the workers are employed by Disney. Others work for contractors like Sodexo and SodexoMagic who run restaurants and cafes on the resort.

Attorney Randy Renick, who represents the workers, said Monday he couldn’t say exactly how many employees the class included, but he figured it was thousands.

“I think the problems here are simple: voters wanted companies like Disney that take public handouts to pay their workers a living wage,” Renick said. “Disney shouldn’t get a passport.”

Voters approved Measure L in 2018, which obliges resort companies that receive a city grant to pay at least $ 15 an hour. According to the ordinance, the minimum will increase by $ 1 an hour each year through 2022 when it hits $ 18. The increases are then based on the cost of living index.

In the lawsuit, Disney employees allege Anaheim used tax dollars to pay off construction debts for the Mickey and Friends parking garage. Most of the taxes come from Disney, the rest from hotel bed taxes. The lawsuit alleges that Disney will keep the proceeds from the parking garage and will own it once the construction costs are paid back.

“All of this was paid for with what Disney would have otherwise paid in taxes,” the lawsuit said. “The money Anaheim gave Disney was raised by issuing municipal bonds. The bonds are repaid with and secured by Disney taxes.

“Rather than going to town for general purposes, almost all of Disney’s temporary occupancy, sales, and property taxes go into payments on the bonds that won’t be paid off until 2036. Disney got the best kind of discount: its taxes back before it pays them. “

Disney and Anaheim contend that the parking agreement is not a Measure L subsidy.

Anaheim City Atty. Robert Fabela said in 2018, “While there are many moving parts of the bond transaction, it does not appear to involve a direct city subsidy.”

A Disney spokesperson said the company agreed with Fabela.

“We continue to believe that the 1990s public-private partnership with the City and Disney does not fall under the tax refund language of Action L,” said Anaheim city spokesman Mike Lyster on Tuesday.

Disneyland workers have been fighting for better wages and working conditions for several years.

In a February 2018 report, Disneyland employees cited high incidents of homelessness, low wages and food insecurity. The report was prepared by researchers from Occidental College and the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable for the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions.

According to the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, more than 85% of union workers in Disneyland were making less than $ 15 an hour at the time of the 2018 report, which was released before Measure L was approved.

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