A coalition of businesses, community groups and residents, under the banner of “No On The Anaheim Job Killer Initiative,” held a press conference on Friday to announce their commitment to fight a measure beign pushed by Anaheim Resort unions to hike the minimum wage at targeted Resort businesses to $18 an hour. That would be a 63% minimum wage increase over just four years, and would give Anaheim the dubious distinction of having the highest minimum wage in the nation.
Speaking at the press conference were Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament, Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, Ruben Gonzalez from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Ruben Franco, President and CEO of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Jill Kanzler, executive director of Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR).
They were flanked by a group of civic and business leaders and activists, including Councilmembers Lucille Kring and Steve Faessel; and former Councilman Harry Sidhu, now a leading candidate for Mayor of Anaheim; District 6 council candidates Sergio Gonzalez and Trevor O’Neil; Ross McCune, Chairman of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce; Fred Brown, Chairman of the OC Hotel and Lodging Association; Jim Kane of the Anaheim Hills Community Council, and Michelle Lieberman, chair of the Anaheim Neighborhood Association.
“This initiative is bad for business, bad for workers and bad for our community,” said Ament, who kicked off the press conference. Noting that while the Chamber routinely opposes job-killing policies, he said the Resort unions’ $18 minimum wage initiative “is extreme in a category all its own.”
“While it may sound good to some, the long-term consequences of this measure are disastrous for Anaheim,” Ament continued. “Changing the terms of a contract through the ballot box is unfair and would leave many more Anaheim businesses vulnerable to this kind of attack.”
Ament said passage of the initiative would drive investment dollars from Anaheim and toward more affordable communities – hurting workers by jeopardizing their jobs, hurting residents by jeopardizing tax revenue generated in the Resort, and having a chilling effect on the business community.
Ament noted that the union’s drive to increase the minimum wage to $18 per hour has caused developers of the GardenWalk hotels project to re-consider plans for a second 4-Diamond hotel. Cancelling the second hotel would kill 2,000 construction jobs, 1000 permanent jobs and the loss of $145 million in city tax revenues over the next 25 years.
Councilwoman Murray also inveighed against the Resort unions’ proposal as a job destroyer, saying it would “kill jobs for employees who are represented at the Disneyland hotel that is being proposed.”
Murray said this fight is not “labor versus business,” noting that the building trades unions supported the hotel projects being targeted by the Resort unions initiative – which could torpedo those projects is approved by the voters. She zeroed in on union leaders, saying “this is about one group who make significantly more than the people they represent, not even picking up a phone to try and represent them before these [4-Diamond hotel agreements] were adopted.”
Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said he came as “the Ghost of Christmas Future,” noting the wage increase the Anaheim Resort unions are pushing has been imposed in Los Angeles. A special district was created requiring a much higher wage at 13 hotels than anywhere else in the region.
Gonzalez said that according to a study commissioned six years after passage of this mandatory wage hike, “throughout the LA region the tourism and hospitality industry grew 12% – employment grew 12% – everywhere but within” the aforementioned special wage district – “where employment actually declined 10%.”
“So the reality, straight facts and data, is that you had a 22% swing in employment because this type of policy is truly, by the facts, a job killer,” said Gonzalez.
The resort unions coalition, led by the radical hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11, have until the end of April to gather the estimated 20,000 signatures necessary to ensure they can present 13,000-plus valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot.