Sen. Bernie Sanders Meets With SoCal Workers Pushing for Wage Increases

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is meeting with workers and activists in Southern California on Saturday, just days prior to the state’s June 5 primary election.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, speaks to Disneyland resort workers in Anaheim on June 2, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, speaks to Disneyland Resort workers in Anaheim on June 2, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

The former Democratic presidential hopeful kicked off his tour at a rally and roundtable with Disneyland Resort employees in Anaheim, where unions are pushing legislation to increase wages for hospitality workers. The event got underway at 10 a.m. inside the River Church Arena.

Sanders lent his support to "union leaders pushing a ballot measure that would require businesses that have received subsidies from the city to raise wages to $15 an hour by 2019," a news release from his office read.

"We are talking about a company that has received huge tax breaks from the tax payers here in Anaheim, but in addition to that, received over $1 billion in tax breaks from Trump's tax giveaway to the wealthy," Sanders told the crowd Saturday morning. "The time is now to have an economy that works for everyone, not just a handful of billionaires."

The senator went on to tell attendees that Disney workers deserve more from their employer.

"Disney can not be a company which forces its employees into part-time work when they need and deserve a full-time job," he said. "Disney has got to understand that its employees are not teenagers; that the vast majority of employees here are workers, many with families."

In February, a union-funded survey found more than 10 percent of the theme park's employees had experienced homelessness at some point in the past two years.

A woman who said she works at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa told KTLA on Saturday morning that she has difficulty making ends meet with her present wage.

“I currently make $11 an hour. I currently don’t eat three meals a day on a regular basis, and when I can it’s cans of tuna or carrots and celery sticks because they’re cheap enough for me to be able to afford three meals a day that way,” she said.

The Disneyland Resort outlined an offer that would affect about one-third of its workers.

“The proposal on the table is a 36 percent increase over three years, so that brings our workers to $15 an hour two years before the state minimum,” resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown said. California's minimum wage will reach $15 in 2020.

While a step in the right direction, that's not enough, Sanders stated.

Some business groups in the area believe the ballot measure would make jobs disappear.

“In Anaheim, we’ve had great success in creating a lot of jobs through some great policies,” Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament said. “This policy, if passed by the voters in Anaheim, would actually kill jobs and chase away investment from this market.”

However, the Disney employee said union research shows it could help small businesses grow because workers will have more money to spend.

The senator headed to Carson for a town hall with port truck drivers and warehouse workers at 1 p.m. Employees there said they are calling on elected officials to “end the exploitative and illegal labor practices in the port trucking and warehouse industries,” the statement read.

At 4 p.m., Sanders arrived in downtown Los Angeles for a rally in support of criminal justice reform. He was joined by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and activist Shaun King.

Sanders said he hopes to bring attention to the proportionally high number of people incarcerated in the U.S. — 2.1 million people according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' most recent data — and the large amount of money spent to keep them there.

He wrapped up his day with an appearance at the Consumer Watchdog hosted Rage for Justice Awards in Beverly Hills.

KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this story.