A group of workers from the Disneyland Resort waved signs, chanted and demonstrated outside of Walt Disney Co.’s shareholders meeting in Houston on Thursday, demanding the company provide a “living wage.”
The demonstration was the latest effort by a coalition of unions at the Anaheim, Calif., theme parks that is pushing Disney executives to raise wages for the resort’s 30,000 workers during a profitable period for the Burbank media giant.
Three of those unions are negotiating contracts.
Standing in front of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the demonstrators held up signs reading “ Stop Disney poverty” among other slogans.
As part of its initiative, the labor groups released an online survey last month that found that 73 percent of employees questioned don’t earn enough to pay for such expenses as rent, food and gas.
In addition, 11 percent of employees at Disneyland and California Adventure Park who responded to the survey said they have been homeless or have not had a place of their own in the past two years.
The online study was paid for by the coalition and conducted by the Economic Roundtable, a not-for-profit research organization in Los Angeles, and the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College.
Disney officials have blasted the survey, saying it is inaccurate because it was answered by only a limited number of union workers. The company also said that the average hourly resort worker earns $37,000 a year, which calculates to nearly $18 per hour.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The unions have submitted a proposed ballot measure to the Anaheim city clerk, which would require the resort and other large employers that receive city subsidies to pay a minimum of $15 an hour, starting Jan. 1, 2019, with salaries rising $1 an hour each year through Jan. 1, 2022.
Annual raises would then be tied to the cost of living.
The Times has reported how Anaheim has subsidized the Disneyland Resort in several ways, such as through the construction in 2000 of a parking garage that generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for Disney. The city in 2016 also approved a tax break worth $267 million over the next 20 years to build a luxury hotel near the parks.
The demand for higher wages comes only a month after Disney raised ticket prices as much as 18 percent despite a highly profitable 2017, with one of its most expensive annual passes selling for $1,149 for its two Anaheim parks.
In its most recent earnings report, the Burbank media and entertainment company reported net income of $4.42 billion for the quarter that ended Dec. 30, thanks partly to a federal tax cut. The profit represented a 78 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.
Park workers also are unhappy because Disney promised $1,000 bonuses to each of its 125,000 employees after the approval of the federal tax overhaul. But the company is holding back the bonuses for hotel workers at theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando, pending the resolution of contract negotiations that have been going on for more than a year.
The unions representing the hotel workers have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Disney of using the promised bonuses as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.
The annual shareholders meeting is typically a scripted, noncontroversial affair. That was not the case last year when Disney CEO Bob Iger faced calls to step down from President Donald Trump’s business policy forum, which since has been disbanded.