California’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Disneyland Resort has illegally evaded a minimum wage law, which means Cast Members could see a wage increase to nearly $20 an hour.
Disneyland Resort & Measure L
Measure L was approved by voters in 2018 and required businesses that receive subsidies from the City of Anaheim to raise their minimum wage to at least $15/hour in 2019, and then by one dollar each year, leading to $18 in 2022. Cast Members sued in 2019, claiming that Disney was subject to the measure but hadn’t complied with it. The question was whether or not Disney had received subsidies that Measure L covered.
In August 2018, Disney canceled tax incentive agreements with Anaheim which would’ve used hotel taxes to help pay for a luxury hotel at the resort. The project was canceled as a result of a dispute between the two parties. Disney benefited from a 1996 agreement that used hotel taxes to pay for an expansion but in 2021, Judge William D. Claster ruled that those agreements didn’t qualify as a subsidy or tax rebate as defined in the measure.
Claster wrote in a tentative ruling, “Whether the city of Anaheim ‘subsidized’ the Disney Defendants in a colloquial sense is not an issue.”
This week, the three judges of the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned Claster’s decision, stating the 1996 deal actually did count.
“We are pleased the court focused on the economic reality of Disney’s agreements with Anaheim and concluded that Disney is obligated to comply with the living wage law,” Sarah Grossman-Swenson, an attorney representing Cast Members, said.
The court’s decision will have a real impact on thousands of Disney employees who work so hard but struggle to provide for their families.
Anaheim city spokesperson Mike Lyster said, “We respectfully question the interpretation but need to analyze the decision in the days ahead to determine what it means.”
A Disney spokesperson was not immediately available for comment to the Los Angeles Times.
Disney could appeal the latest ruling to the California Supreme Court but Grossman-Swenson urges “Disney to do the right thing and start complying with the law.”
We know from talking to several of the named plaintiffs in the litigation, that they had at least a shortfall of several dollars per hour for some time.
Recent Minimum Wage Struggles
Over a year ago, before returning as CEO, Bob Iger said he had regrets about not raising Cast Member minimum wages sooner on an episode of “Who’s Talking To Chris Wallace?” on CNN+.
“You were making that year 1,000 times what the average Disney employee was making,” Wallace said at the time. “Do you have any misgivings about that?”
“If I have regrets,” he went on, “it would be one, and that is that, we were one of the first companies, by the way, to go to $10 an hour as the starting wage. We were being pushed to go to $15. There was some hesitation in that regard because of the cost associated with it. We should have done that right away. My opinion.”
Earlier this year, Walt Disney World Cast Members “rallied for a raise” as negotiations with Disney broke down. A new pay plan was finally approved, with the minimum wage increasing to $17/hour and a plan in place for it to increase further over the coming months and years.
Throughout May and June 2023, Disneyland Paris Cast Members went on strike, also demanding higher wages. Because of different strike laws in France, Cast Members were actually able to march through the parks and cancel parades.