A judge has ruled that Disney and its contractors aren’t bound by guidelines set forth by a ballot measure from 2018 that would have made the House of Mouse increase Cast Members’ pay to a minimum of $18 per hour by next year.
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The ruling comes amid outcry from Disneyland Cast Members and their unions demanding higher pay and a “living wage,” in addition to better benefits. The unions representing Cast Members at Disney’s first theme park have backed an initiative that required businesses who receive subsidies from the City of Anaheim, California, to raise the minimum wage of their workers to a minimum of $15 per hour by two years ago, and then to increase that pay by at least $1 per hour to $18 per hour by the year 2022.
That initiative was voted on and passed in November three years ago. But in 2019, because Disney didn’t adhere to the new measure, Cast Members sued the entertainment giant for failure to comply with the approved measure.
Last Friday, Judge William D. Claster, an Orange County Superior Court magistrate ruled that even though Disney had benefitted from arrangements made in 1996 with the City of Anaheim, those particular arrangements aren’t the equivalent of a tax rebate or a subsidy from the City of Anaheim, such as the ones described in the approved ballot measure. The 1996 arrangements called for hotel taxes to be used to pay the debt owed on a parking structure that is used by Guests of the Disneyland Resort.
It’s no secret that just before the ballot measure was to be voted on, Disney canceled incentive agreements it had with the City of Anaheim. Those incentives would have amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in hotel room taxes that would have been used to build an upscale hotel.
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Mike Lyster, spokesman for the City of Anaheim said, “While we never want to see a dispute like this play out in court, we appreciate the judge’s determination. It validates what we already knew and have said: [that] the City of Anaheim does not provide any rebate or subsidy to Disney.”