Many Disneyland employees do not earn a living wage. The City of Anaheim sought to change this dismal fact by passing Measure L, which requires all employers who receive subsidies from the city to pay their employees a living wage of $17 per hour. In passing Measure L, voters were clear that corporations who receive public benefits should pay their employees a living wage.
Disney flaunted its obligations under Measure L and refused to comply. Employees who earn $15 per hour brought a class action lawsuit against the company for violating the measure. Disney’s response? That it does not receive “subsidies” from or have an explicit subsidy arrangement with the city. The company characterized its relationship with Anaheim as a “private-public partnership.”
On behalf of the employees, Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP argued that Disney accepted a subsidy from the city when Anaheim took out a $550 million municipal bond to finance the construction of the “Mickey and Friends” parking garage. Anaheim collects taxes from Disneyland and uses those tax payments to pay off the bond. Once the bond is repaid, Disney will own the parking structure in full.
An Orange County judge ruled against the Disneyland employees, finding that the financial arrangement involving the city’s $550 million municipal bond did not qualify as a subsidy. Our very own Randy Renick calls the ruling “hyper-technical” and argues that the intent of the voters is “super clear” when it comes to Measure L. “Disney got a rebate of the best kind,” Renick explains to Voice of OC, “it got its taxes back before it paid them.”
The decision is indefensible and completely disregards the measure’s purpose as well as the intention of the voters who passed it. Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP intends to appeal. As Renick explains to The Los Angeles Times:
“We disagree with the court’s narrow reading of Measure L and believe Monday’s ruling eviscerates the 2018 vote to adopt a living wage in Anaheim…The plaintiffs are considering all their options, including appeal. It’s disappointing that Disney can take hundreds of millions of dollars from the city of Anaheim and yet refuse to pay over 25,000 workers a living wage.”
To make matters worse, it is clear from Disney’s conduct that it understood the ramifications of Measure L. Shortly before the measure was passed, Disney cancelled 2 tax rebate agreements with the Anaheim City Council, making clear that it did not intend or desire to be bound by Measure L despite receiving over $1 billion worth of “subsidies, incentives, rebates, and tax breaks” from the city over the past 20 years.
Renick told Yahoo! Finance that it is “frustrating to say the least” to see Disney “dodging” its obligations under the measure. He revealed to Insider, "We're evaluating our options, we're likely to appeal, if not certain to appeal. This is one of those issues that is often time corrected on appeal."
We will continue fighting for Disneyland employees and taking on the civil rights and employment issues of today. If you need help in a similar case, please do not hesitate to call us at (626) 775-7870 or contact us online.