When crowds descend upon the Disneyland Resort, the first workers they often encounter are security guards. Before heading into the House of the Mouse, park goers have to pass through baggage checks, metal detectors and wand scanning to ensure that the Happiest Place on Earth is also the safest. With such an important job, the Independent Employee Service Association (IESA), a union that represents about 1,200 security workers, won a new contract that boosts base pay to $16.60 an hour starting today.
“Everything was done with such good faith with the company,” a Disneyland security guard tells the Weekly, though not wanting to be named. “The way they approached this was so much better than ever before.”
Indeed, the Mouse made haste. Disney came to IESA in November to kick start negotiations months before the union’s contract with the company was set to expire in April. After just a few weeks of negotiations, members ratified the new contract back on Dec. 10 that earned them significant pay raises. The new starting salary for a security “host” at the Disneyland Resort amounts to a 25 percent increase for a job where being bilingual and having previous security, law enforcement or military experience is preferred.
“From implementing the largest wage increases in the resort’s history to rolling out our groundbreaking Disney Aspire education program, we are proud of the work we’ve accomplished [together] to further enhance the experience for our cast,” says Liz Jaeger, Disneyland Resort spokeswoman, in a provided statement.
The four-year contract guarantees pay raises that top out at $18.10 an hour in 2022, a dime higher than the wage scale proposed by Measure L, a living wage law championed by the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions that Anaheim voters passed in November. Belonging to the 11-union coalition, IESA represents about 1,200 security staffers. “I felt I was underpaid, we all did,” says the anonymous security guard. “That’s why we pushed this contract hard. That’s why we joined the coalition and pushed Measure L.”
Disney now reports that about 75 percent of its 30,000 workforce will make $15 an hour or more by the end of this month, a tacit admission that it’s continuing to address issues of pay at the negotiating table irrespective of the living wage law.
In late July, four major unions comprising the Master Services Council approved a contract raising pay for thousands of Disney workers to $15 an hour at the start of the new year. Shortly after, the corporation also pledged to boost the wages of non-union employees to $15.75 an hour by Jan. 1. Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents hotel workers in the Disneyland Resort, won a new contract in September that promises $15 an hour base pay starting on Jan. 31.
The living wage law holds that resort-area corporations that have tax rebate agreements with Anaheim must pay all workers $15 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2019. At Disney’s behest, Anaheim city council cancelled two such agreements–a decades-long entertainment tax ban and tax breaks for a now-scrapped luxury hotel project–ahead of the November election. With the Disneyland Resort paying the ordinance no mind in the new year while continuing to raise wages, it remains to be seen if any litigation looms.
Richard McCracken, the principal author of Measure L, previously argued that the law would apply to the corporation because of a 1996 Disneyland expansion deal, a public-private partnership with the city involving ongoing, massive bond payments that the veteran attorney says amounts to a tax rebate agreement. But in the lead up to the election, Robert Fabela, Anaheim’s city attorney, offered a non-binding legal opinion that the bond financing of the ’96 deal didn’t amount to a tax rebate as defined by the ordinance.
Whatever the fate of thousands of Disney employees making less than $15 an hour is going forward–most of whom are food service workers whose union will start bargaining later this month–the pay raise security guards enjoy today will hopefully stem high turnover rates experienced by the department in the past few years. “We’ve had so many people quit,” says the security guard. “It is demanding in the morning, especially on the weekends. You can be on that bag check line for two to three hours without rotating.”
The union made concessions on workplace issues like random drug testing. They also set out to gain higher wages but settled on a contract that ultimately provides a good pay raise–something becoming more commonplace at the House of the Mouse.
“It’s a big moment in our time,” says the security guard. “We’re recognized that we do an important job here.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!