Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Protesters Block Streets As First Disney Fast Ends

The Orange County Register

Eight union members broke a weeklong hunger strike tonight as about 500 supporters blocked streets to protest Disney’s stance on a two-year contract dispute.

The hotel union, Unite Here Local 11, planned to continue the hunger strike with four new fasters at Walt Disney Co.’s headquarters in Burbank late tonight.

Disney and the union have been in stuck in a contract dispute, mostly over health care costs. The union is fighting to keep its own health care plan with no employee contributions, while Disney wants hotel workers to pay for benefits. Both parties say they intend to meet with a federal mediator, but no dates have been set.

“While the fast was happening, we could have been meeting,” said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman.

Before the protest, a roadside marquee notified Katella Avenue drivers that Disneyland Drive would be closed from 5 to 7 p.m. For about an hour, police put up cones and directed traffic as picketers obstructed the northbound lanes between the Paradise Pier and Grand Californian hotels, near where fasters have camped all week.

Disney officials estimate that up to 200 protesters were Disney employees.

The eight hunger strikers ended their fast by eating bread and juice given by John Wilhelm, the international president of Unite Here. Before blocking the streets, the fasters were pushed in wheelchairs into the Grand Californian lobby to confront a Disney official.
We are never going to back off of our demands and we will never accept yours. We will fight for as long as it takes,” said Kristi Richards, a hotel cashier. Jim Doyle, Disneyland Resort operations manager of security who is not involved in negotiations, did not respond.

The new fasters who are going to Burbank are: Whitney Rupp, a bartender and server at the Disneyland Hotel, who started Sunday; Josh Stern, a bellman at the Disneyland Hotel, who began Monday; John Hughes, a bellman at Paradise Pier Hotel, who began Monday, and Salud Paz, a union member who works at Hilton Irvine, who started today. The Burbank hunger strike is set to end Thursday.

Photos by Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register

No comments: