Disneyland hotel workers began a water-only fast Tuesday to protest what they describe as life-threatening safety issues on the job. The more than 2,000 bellmen, dishwashers, room attendants, and cooks, members of Unite Here! Local 11, have been working without a contract since February 2008. They say new work requirements at three resort hotels and the villas at the Grand Californian Hotel have led to serious health problems among workers, including heart attack, stroke and musculoskeletal injuries.
Disney management also is demanding to make drastic cuts in workers’ health insurance.
During the fast, eight Disneyland hotel workers, two Los Angeles International Airport food service employees–who also are members of the local–and one adult son of a Disneyland hotel worker will refrain from eating and consume only water. Fast participants will remain, 24-hours a day, in front of the Grand Californian Hotel, sleeping in tents on the sidewalk and surrounded by a large shrine to injured workers.
Part of the shrine will pay tribute to Grand Californian housekeeper Rosario Casas, who is out of work on disability after suffering a heart attack on the job in October. Casas said her doctor said the heart attack was due to stress.
Narciso Guevara, a houseman at the Grand Californian Hotel, who plans to fast, said:
We’re fighting for our health. We need better, safer conditions on the job, healthcare we can afford, and even more importantly, we need the company to respect us.
Maria Navarro, a housekeeper at the Grand Californian, who was injured at work just three days after Disney remodeled the hotel, said she is fasting to bring attention to the injuries she and several of her co-workers have suffered.
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.
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.
The fasting workers are blogging about the action at: http://www.disneyisunfaithful.org/work-shouldnt-hurt and more information also is available here.
*This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on February 9, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris