Considering the Disney Corporation’s past year revenue and projected earnings for 2010, the Disney’s management still found it appropriate to deny health coverage to over 2,150 hotel workers in California.
During our country’s worst economic recession since 1930, Disneyland managed to generate $36 trillion in profits. This astronomical figure is enough to pay off California’s debt with $16 billion to spare. With these figures wouldn’t someone with a heart continue to provide healthcare premiums without burdening their already suffering employees? Disney’s answer is a resounding no.
Many unions have caved-in to pressure from Disney officials and from economic constraints completely out of their control (recessions, financial sector meltdowns…little things like that). However one union has decided to stick to their guns, and so have the 2,150 workers who are members.
Unite Here! Local 11 has been waging a public battle with Disneyland Hotel for over two years. The Union along with a handful of its members has protested with hunger strikes only consuming water for days at a time.
The first hunger strike took place Feb. 9 in front of Disney’s Grand California Hotel & Spa. Eight individuals shouldering the challenge by only consuming water for a week.
The topical issues of health care was/is at the center of the grudge.
Health care up until two years ago was virtually free for all employees working for the hotel, however, that is all changing without any type of negotiation with Disneyland forcing its workers to pay up to $500 a month for health insurance.
Just a few months ago in December, Unite Here! Local 11 organized two separate walkouts.
The walkouts were aimed at an issue apart from health care premiums.
Non-negotiated additional workloads have been forced onto hotel workers. Larger beds, and heavier sheets have resulted in more and more reported on-the-job injuries.
Kirill Penteshin an attorney for Unite Here! clarified the new working conditions saying that the original bedding was 3 pounds and are now 9 pounds and stretches a yard further in each direction.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports have illustrated the point that since the installation of new amenities workers have reported over 53 injuries.
The hunger strike has generated interest in many people from different walks of life. Anaheim City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta, and even Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine played a short concert at the rallies in front of Disney’s Grand California Hotel.
Community religious leaders have held vigils and have given words of support to the strikers. Shakeel Syed director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California said, “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…human society driven by the business and industrial machine has the lethal capacity to deaden our spirits.” The strike has ended in Anaheim but has plans to continue at Disney’s Burbank headquarters.
A common and misguided rant against the hotel workers is that they have applied at these jobs and that they have the freedom to leave at anytime if they chose to. This is completely meaningless rhetoric is one that tries to enforce the myth of “endless social mobility”.
In fact it is a contradictory and self-defeating philosophy, one could also say why doesn’t the company just choose to be more decent? People have jobs to provide for themselves and their families.
One could only be ‘free’ to walk away from a job if they are willing to jeopardize their family and financial security.