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Union Mounts Effort Against Subcontracting Plans at Disney : Labor: 100 food-service workers would lose jobs at theme park, Local 681 says in public appeal signaling tough bargaining ahead.

August 19, 1994|DON LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Signaling acrimonious labor negotiations ahead for Disneyland, the union that represents more than 700 food-service workers at the amusement park has mounted a campaign to fend off what it says are company plans to subcontract out work.

Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 681 has sent letters of appeal to state officials and has distributed leaflets at the park saying that Disneyland has decided to farm out the employees' cafeteria-service work. Such a move, the union says, would cost its membership 100 jobs.

"Disney management is on an aggressive campaign to subcontract good union jobs," states the letter, signed by more than 200 union members and sent to Gov. Pete Wilson and others. "The net effect will be to turn good jobs, with full health benefits, into minimum-wage, part-time and temporary employment."

Disneyland spokesman John McClintock said no decision has been made on subcontracting, though he confirmed that the company has asked for bids from food-service operators. "I don't expect it will happen at all in the near term," he said. "There really isn't anything there right now."

Some food vendors, though, said their understanding is that the work at Disneyland would begin soon.

Stephen Gambrell, director of marketing and sales at the Los Angeles office of Canteen Corp., said his company put in a bid earlier this summer. "We expected to hear by now," he said. Though he would not reveal the value of the contract, he said, "Believe me, it would be great."

The union contends that Disneyland is weighing outsourcing as a way to reduce its labor costs significantly. Most of the union food-service employees at Disneyland make between $9.15 and $11.05 an hour, with some earning as much as $15 an hour, said Angela Keefe, president of Local 681, which is based in Santa Ana.

McClintock would say only that "we're always looking at ways to make business more efficient."

Some union members also say that part of Disneyland's motivation is to reduce the risk of running afoul of immigration laws. If food services went to subcontractors, then they, not Disneyland, would be responsible for employee hiring. In April, Disneyland agreed to pay $260,000 to settle allegations of poor record-keeping that violated federal immigration laws. About half of Local 681's members who work at Disneyland are Latino.

McClintock would not comment on that assertion by the union.

Subcontracting has become an increasingly contentious issue between some unions and Disneyland, and the latest dispute comes as Local 681 and Disneyland are girding up for contract talks. Local 681's bargaining agreement with Disneyland expires Oct. 30, and negotiations are expected to begin in early September.

"I think it's going to be rough," Keefe said, adding that subcontracting was a big sticking point in contract talks earlier this year at the Disneyland Hotel.

Disneyland, one of Orange County's largest employers, has long used union labor, and the specter of subcontracting has put other unions on guard.

"It's pretty ominous," said Dave Stilwell, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 399, which represents about 600 maintenance and other service workers at Disneyland.

Stilwell said Disneyland subcontracted out some custodial work last year. Expressing concern that the company will try to subcontract more maintenance jobs in the future, Stilwell said, "Disney has been the biggest and best union employer, and if they start subcontracting out work, that's going to mean that a bunch of good jobs in Anaheim are going to be sweatshop jobs."

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