For immediate release
February 17, 2010
Hundreds march in Disneyland streets, as eight hunger strikers pass the FAST to five new hotel workers
ANAHEIM – Eight hunger strikers ended their fast Tuesday evening after seven days without food. In an 700-person march and ceremony that shut down Disneyland Drive, workers "passed the fast" on to five hotel workers who will carry the hunger strike to Walt Disney Corporate headquarters in Burbank.
"Workers have engaged in this fast to bring attention to the unethical, irresponsible and short-sided behavior of one of Orange County’s largest employers," said Ada Briceno, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11. "For the past two years, workers have been fighting Disney’s greedy attempts to make healthcare unaffordable for many and to "reclassify" hundreds of hotel workers, stripping them of their healthcare benefits."
For seven nights, fasters set up camp and remained 24 hours a day in front of the Grand Californian Hotel.
Tefere Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, said the outpouring of support from non-Disney workers, the community, clergy and labor has proven that Disney hotel workers are not alone in this fight.
Since the fast began on Tuesday, Feb. 9, workers have staged daily events from picket lines and rallies to a meet-and-greet with elected leaders and a performance by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.
Disney hotel workers have also reached out to Disney guests, informing visitors of the workers’ struggle with the company and collecting more than 200 guest e-mail addresses to keep them abreast of the labor dispute.
"It’s the people who vacuum the carpets, make the beds, scrub the bathrooms, greet the guests and carry the bags, you, who make the magic happen here at Disneyland, and you deserve to be treated with respect," said John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE, who visited fasters Monday night.
On Monday, elected officials offered their fasters their support.
"I’m proud to stand with you today in this fight," said Speaker-Elect John A. Pérez said. "I am optimistic and hopeful that the workers and Disney can find a solution to provide affordable, on-going healthcare for the workers here today."
New fasters set up camp in front of the Disney Corporate Headquarters in Burbank (500 S. Buena Vista Street). The camp will be at the Alameda Ave. entrance on the corner of Alameda Ave. and Lincoln Street.
"I work for Disney to help bring the magic of Disney to life," said Whitney Rupp, a new faster and bartender at the Disneyland Hotel. "But it is hard to create magic when you are worrying about whether or not you’re going to have health insurance next month, or having to work while you are sick because you don’t have anymore sick days."
Since workers’ contract expired about two years ago, hotel workers and the company have disagreed over the issue of healthcare. The workers’ struggle to maintain affordable health benefits is central to this disagreement.
Hotel workers want the company to 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 healthcare. But now Disney is calling for workers to shoulder the costs of an unaffordable monthly premium that could reach $500 for a family of four. For the majority of workers whom Disney pays around $13 an hour, a monthly premium of $500 is simply unaffordable.
For more information, please visit www.disneyisunfaithful.org.