For immediate release
February 10, 2010
Disney Worker Fast Underway, Workers Hold Candlelight Vigil Calling for Solutions
By giving up food and remaining 24-hours-a-day at the doorstep of Disney, fasters hope to bring attention to health and safety problems occurring inside Disneyland hotels.
Anaheim, CA – Disneyland Hotel Workers began a water-only fast Tuesday evening, February 10, 2010, in a spiritual effort to communicate their health and safety concerns with the Walt Disney Corporation.
United Farm Workers of American co-founder Dolores Huerta and Anahiem City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway joined the fasters in kicking off the fast with a candlelight vigil and religious blessing of the fasters.
Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, extended blessings to the fasters and offered support on behalf of the Muslim community.
"Workers here are upholding the timeless and universal call for justice by fasting and praying to heal the hearts of those who hear not – of the silent cries of the workers, their children and their grandparents," Syed said. "Human society driven by the business and industrial machine has the lethal capacity to deaden our spirits. Fasting has the capacity to revive our spirits."
From proposals for healthcare they cannot afford, to unilateral, un-negotiated workload changes that have housekeepers running ragged, Disney hotel workers for months have been trying to show Disney that they are facing serious health and safety problems on the job.
Since the hotel workers’ contract expired about two years ago, workers and the company have disagreed over the issue of healthcare. The workers’ struggle to maintain affordable health benefits is central to this disagreement.
"We embark on this fast to call into question Disney’s continued ability to make billions in profits, but all the while claim that they cannot afford to pay for workers’ heath insurance," said Ada Briceno, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11. "Instead, this company which pays the majority of its hotel workers’ less than $13 an hour, would rather the workers fend for themselves in the face of $500 per month premiums for family health coverage."
Instead, hotel workers have asked that the company continue contributing to their current healthcare plan, which covers workers and their family members. Over the years workers have forgone significant wage raises in order to maintain their quality, affordable health care.
Maria Navarro, a Disney housekeeper, who injured herself just shortly after Disney introduced new, longer and heavier sheets, bigger and additional pillows, and heavier duvet covers in its Grand Californian Hotel, said she is fasting to bring attention to the injuries she and several of her co-workers have suffered.
"The managers put a lot of pressure on us," Navarro said. "And since the changes were implemented at the Grand Californian, things have gotten worse. There are many people in my department who are hurt, but work through the pain because they are afraid of losing their jobs. So much pressure creates an unsafe place. We must make it stop."
Remodeled rooms at the three resort hotels and the new villas at the Grand Californian Hotel have created more work for housekeepers. Longer and heavier sheets, thicker and heavier mattresses, heavier duvet covers, bigger and additional pillows and longer pillowcases have made the work harder and more time-consuming for housekeepers who are still expected to clean 14 rooms (and change up to 28 beds) or turndown 50 rooms (and turndown up to 100 beds) in the same amount of time. Since these changes were implemented, the number of work-place injuries by reported housekeeping employees has increased.
Throughout the fast, community and religious leaders, unions, musicians, students and residents will call on Disney to address the health and safety issues at the hotels to by participating in daily actions, rallies and concerts.
For more information on daily events and profiles of the fasters, please visit www.disneyisunfaithful.org.