The Disneyland Resort will set a minimum wage for its non-union workers at $15.75 an hour Dec. 30, just above the $15 recently negotiated for four of the companys unions.
“We regularly evaluate the market,” Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown wrote in an email. “The dynamics in the SoCal market warrant the increase. They normally get an increase at that time of year (merit) and the planned increase is inclusive of that, plus market.”
Disney had raised the minimum for non-union workers to $13.90 from $11 an hour in July. The new increase amounts to a 36 percent jump in six months.
About 7,000 of Disneys 30,000 employees are not represented by unions, including some 300 at the Walt Disney Travel Company Reservations Call Center, as well as photographers who work across the park, administrative support workers in Disney office buildings, employees at the Partners Federal Credit Union and at the companys workforce management division, a branch of payroll.
Character actors, workers who dress like Disneys animated figures, are non-unionized too, as are employees who work in front desk and concierge roles at Disney hotels.
Brown declined to say how many of the 7,000 non-union employees work hourly jobs, or how many currently earn less than $15.75.
Disneyland, the countys largest employer, has been under public pressure for months to raise pay with growing attention on Orange Countys high cost of living. The companys entry-level wage was pegged to $11 an hour — the minimum for California — although research shows it takes a wage of $28 an hour to afford a median-priced, one-bedroom apartment in the county.
In a February survey by researchers at Occidental College and the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable, commissioned by a dozen Disney unions, 74 percent of Disney workers said they could not afford basic necessities and 11 percent said they had been homeless or living in their cars over the previous two years.
Disney dismissed the report as “unscientific,” but it fueled public protests by unions seeking higher pay, as well as a national campaign by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who excoriated Disney and CEO Robert Iger for fostering poverty and inequality.
Disney workers gathered enough signatures to place an initiative on the November Anaheim ballot to raise minimum pay to $15 an hour in January and $18 an hour by 2022, for companies that accept city tax breaks. Disney and the Wincome Group gained $550 million in tax breaks in 2016 to build new luxury hotels.
Last month, Disneyland agreed to raise the hourly minimum pay of more than 8,600 workers to $15 in January as part of a new contract with unions representing ride operators, ticket takers, retail sales clerks, janitors and parking attendants among others.
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That left the minimum wage for several other unions, including Unite Here, the hotel workers union, and Workers United Local 50, which represents culinary workers, at $11 an hour. Unite Here and Disney remain engaged in contentious negotiations, while Local 50s contract is not yet up for renewal.
But last months boost to $15 for four unions meant many of Disneys non-union workers would have made less than some union workers in January — a situation which the company may have found to be untenable.
“Whenever the unions get something good, the company tends to bump up the non-union workers as well because it keeps them from wanting to unionize,” said Artemis Bell, a Disneyland janitor who served as an SEIU United Service Workers West contract negotiator. “They essentially ride our coattails.”
Market forces are also at work: the countys low unemployment, at 3.3 percent last month, is shrinking the available pool of workers, creating the conditions for wage competition among companies.