Thousands of Unite Here Disney Workers and Clergy March on Disneyland

disneyworkersIn a further sign that the nation’s workers are living far from Fantasyland, thousands took to the streets this week to protest Disney’s attempt to make health insurance unaffordable for its hotel employees. The three Disneyland Hotels employ 2300 UNITE HERE Local 11 workers, whose cause was joined this week by over one thousand delegates attending the National Episcopal Convention.

Disney’s proposal would soon require hotel workers to pay up to $500 a month for health coverage, which would force most to rely on publicly funded options such as the Healthy Families program. And while Disney shifts its health care obligations to the already cash-starved public health system, the company just got a $40 million subsidy from the city of Anaheim for a new GardenWalk hotel project.

No wonder the workers are considering a boycott or strike.

Working for Disney no Fantasyland
While The Disney Corp. offers a rich fantasy world through its movies, television shows and theme parks, it takes a less friendly approach when dealing with its workers. The corporation has frequently been sued for imposing work requirements that infringe on civil liberties, and now it is trying to make life harder for the already pressed UNITE HERE Local 11 employees at its three Disneyland Hotels (the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and Grand California Hotel).

Disney seeks to require hotel workers to pay as much as $500 a month for health benefits, an obviously unaffordable cost for the bellmen, dishwashers, housekeepers, restaurant servers and front desk agents impacted. The tourist industry has been hit hard by the recession, and gratuities to hotel staff have even declined precipitously in free spending areas like Las Vegas.

That’s why over one thousand delegates to the National Episcopal Convention who are staying at the three Disneyland hotels this week pledged to not return to Disney hotels if Local 11 workers call for a strike or boycott over the health care issue. The delegates also pledged to ask members of their congregations to back Local 11’s struggle.

“We are asking our delegates to pledge not to return to the three Disney hotels and to ask members of their congregations around the country to honor a boycott if the workers ask us to do so. We will continue to pray for justice for the Disney hotel workers and for the larger Anaheim community,” said The Rev. Canon Dr. Henry L. Atkins Jr. of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice.

Anaheim Subsidizes Disney
Anaheim’s GardenWalk project began in 2006, and consists of 440,000 square feet of lifestyle retail, a 3,200 car parking structure, 400 timeshare units and 866 hotel rooms. Disney is reportedly negotiating to manage the hotels, and the GardenWalk project just got a $40 million subsidy from the city of Anaheim.

Many are now wondering why Anaheim is potentially subsidizing Disney just as the mega-corporation seeks to steeply increase employee health costs.

“Taxpayers will pay tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies for two hotel projects that Disney is reportedly in negotiations to manage, and now Disney is trying to force us to pay for the cost of health insurance for their workers’ families, who might be forced to use publicly funded health insurance,” said Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway.

As Disney knows, It’s a Small World. And if the company undermines the health coverage for 2300 UNITE HERE Local 11 workers, they may find their parks resembling a modern day FrontierLand.

In related news … An interesting twist emerged during a July 16 Federal court hearing in New York City before Judge George Daniels in the case involving Bruce Raynor’s alleged conspiring to disrupt UNITE HERE: it was revealed that Raynor’s attorney, Tom Kennedy, was billing Unite Here for his work advising Raynor and SEIU how to secede from the union, and remove the union’s assets.

Judge Daniels gave Kennedy twenty days to file papers explaining why he should not be removed from the case. If the judge’s pointed questions are any indication, Raynor should start seeking new legal counsel.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the author of the new book, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press). Randy discusses how to keep politicians accountable in The Activist’s Handbook

Republished with permission from Beyond Chron

LA Progressive

Published by the LA Progressive on July 20, 2009
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About Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Director of San Francisco's Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Editor-in-Chief of the online daily newspaper "Beyond Chron." He is the author of three books, "Beyond the Fields", "The Activist's Handbook", and "Reclaiming America".