The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions (CRLU) has arranged for a class-action lawsuit in hopes of convincing a judge to essentially re-write a 2018 minimum wage ballot initiative it sponsored so it would apply to the Disneyland Resort . The lawsuit, announced yesterday at a press conference in front of Anaheim City Hall, names the Disneyland Resort and SodexoMagic – a partnership between French food services company Sodexo and basketball legend Magic Johnson that operates two Starbucks in the Resort.

The CRLU, a union group led by militant UNITE-HERE Local 11, placed Measure L on the November 2018 ballot to impose dramatic minimum wage increases on Anaheim Resort business with economic assistance agreements with the City of Anaheim – all the way to $18 an hour by 2022. The union coalition spent more than $1 million on a deceptive campaign for the initiative, which passed in November 2018 with 54% of the vote.

Measure L applies to businesses and employers with more than 25 employees that have an agreement with the city to “receive a rebate of transient occupancy tax, sales tax, entertainment tax, property tax or other taxes.”  According to Measure L, this also includes contractors, subcontractors, lessees, sublessees, tenants and subtenants of the business that directly receives the tax rebate.

And this is the crux of the matter: the Disneyland Resort does not receive any tax rebates from Anaheim. The class action lawsuit is an attempt by the resort unions to convince the court to re-write the ballot measure they wrote.

The Plain Language of Measure L Doesn’t Apply To Disney
After Measure L qualified for the ballot but several weeks before its passage, the Disneyland Resort cancelled a planned $1 billion luxury hotel project that included a Transient Occupancy Tax rebate agreement with the city. It also asked the city to cancel the gate tax moratorium extension that was part of its agreement to invest up to $2 billion in the Resort (which Disney carried through on despite relinquishing the tax moratorium).

As a result, Measure L, if enacted, would not apply to the Disneyland Resort.

Disney’s action caught the UNITE-HERE Local 11 and the other CRLU unions flatfooted, their campaign messaging was entirely based forcing the Disneyland Resort to pay cast members “a living wage,” Disney decision threw the Measure L campaign for a loop. The union coalition responded by ignoring the language of their own initiative and claiming Measure L does apply to Disney based on the convoluted theory that the 1996 bonds that funded the creation of the Anaheim Resort – including the Mickey and Friends parking structure – constitute tax rebates to Disney.

The class action lawsuit is a continuation of that spin in the form of a lawsuit.

It’s worth remembering that until Disneyland withdrew from its tax rebate agreements, Measure L proponents never advanced this claim. Their campaign was entirely focused on the gate tax moratorium and the TOT rebate for the 4-diamond hotel project.

If the CRLU had intended for Measure L to include the 1996 bonds in the definition of a “tax rebate,” they would have spelled that in the initiative of the language. They didn’t.

A month before the November 2018 election, Anaheim City Attorney Roger Fabela affirmed that Disneyland was not subject to Measure L because it had cancelled its tax incentive agreements with the city.

Disneyland spokesperson Liz Jaeger echoed that reality: “The union coalition is well aware that the City Attorney has previously looked at this issue and clearly stated that Measure L does not apply to the Disneyland Resort.”

At yesterday’s press conference sign, union members held signs saying “Uphold The Will Of Anaheim Voters.”

In reality, they are seeking the opposite by asking a judge to re-write the language of an initiative after is has been approved by the voters. They care less about “the will of the voters” than about the political agenda of their unions.

Litigation Deja Vu
This isn’t the first time UNITE-HERE Local 11 has used lawsuits as a political club. In 2013, the Anaheim City Council approved a TOT rebate for the two luxury hotel projects adjacent to the GardenWalk Mall. The hotels employees

Afterward, the left-wing advocacy group OCCORD – founded and funded by Local 11 – filed a lawsuit to have the approval thrown out. Although the lawsuit was baseless on its face and was ultimately thrown out by the courts, it nonetheless delayed the hotels for several years – driving up their costs, depriving the city of $33 million in TOT tax revenue and throwing into question whether the second hotel would ever be built.

Indeed, an OCCORD staffer emceed yesterday’s press conference. Also on hand were members of Clergy & Laity United For Economic Justice (CLUE) – another progressive political group funded by Resort unions.

The timing is interesting, because it is apparent from the lawsuit that is was written months ago.  For example, it states that the hourly wage of plaintiff Regina Delgado “is $12.00 until October 1, 2019” and that of plaintiff Alicia Grijalva “is $12.00 until July 1, 2019” – talking about those dates as if they are in the future when they have already come and gone.

Not much has been said thus far about the plaintiffs, The lawsuit gives their names, ages, work site, length of employment and hourly wage.

One, Thomas Bray, has been a bell man at the Disneyland Hotel since 1988. The lawsuit states his hourly wage as $12.25 – however, bell hops make most of their money in tips – especially those who work at a luxury property like the Disneyland Hotel. Bray is also a long-time UNITE-HERE activist: in 2011 he traveled to the Disney shareholders meeting in Salt Lake City to protest

One of the press conference speakers was plaintiff Kathleen Grace, a barista at the HarborPoint Starbucks inside Disneyland, which is owned by SodexoMagic. She complained that “with the high cost of living, mortgage, food, gas, it’s really difficult to manage all those items.”

Here is Grace’s Facebook profile photo updated in September 2019, showing her at what looks like Waikiki Beach in Hawaii:

This drama is just beginning. Stay tuned.