Disneyland Resort hotel workers begin week-long hunger strike with candlelight vigil
by, 02-10-2010 at 01:23 PM (4688 Views)
10 protesters, including seven Disneyland Resort Hotel cast members, began a week-long hunger strike Tuesday night. The demonstration is the latest in a series of protests that have marked the two-year-long labor dispute between the Disneyland Resort and Unite Here Local 11, which represents workers at the three Disneyland Resort Hotels*.
A winter storm deterred most of the expected 500 protesters from attending Tuesday's demonstration.
Ada Briceno, secretary/treasurer of Local 11 says the fast is being held for several reasons - not only to mark 2 years since the previous contract expired, but also to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of death of a Musa Sharaf, a Disney hotel cook who died at work. Briceno said the purpose of the fast is to "continue to bring light to the ongoing struggle. We're hoping that Disney will see that their cast members are willing to do a fast. We haven't given up - this is our strongest action."
Picket signs and banners are piled outside the Paradise Pier Hotel.
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel worker Kristi Richards tells the crowd that she is fasting in memory of a coworker who died at work.
The fast began with an informational picket outside the Paradise Pier Hotel, and continued with a candlelight vigil in an adjacent parking lot. Local 11 originally estimated that 500 workers and supporters would join the demonstration, but fewer than 80 turned out in the face of a fierce rainstorm. Workers and community activists crowded under tents and huddled under umbrellas to listen as union officials and the fasting workers spoke about the ongoing contract dispute with the Disneyland Resort, and gave their personal reasons for joining the dispute.
Local clergy members gather around the fasting workers for prayer.
Unite Here Local 11 secretary/treasurer Ada Briceno (left) and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, address the crowd.
The fasting Disneyland workers, who will consume only water for the duration of the demonstration, are joined by the son of another Disney hotel worker, and two union members from LAX. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, also addressed the crowd, and announced that she will join their fast as an expression of solidarity for their plight. Also present at the vigil was Basema Sharaf, widow of Musa, who claims that her husband worked off the clock and skipped breaks in order to keep up with the demands at his understaffed location. Sharaf suffered a fatal heart attack while at work. A memorial to Musa Sharaf was displayed at the vigil, and participants placed candles and carnations in front of his photo at the end of the ceremony.
Union members and community supporters gather at a candlelight vigil for the fasting workers.
Throughout the week-long protest, fasters will camp in tents outside the Grand Californian Hotel. Due to the rain, the fasters spent Tuesday night at the union hall instead of outside the hotel, but planned to set up their camp once the rain cleared Wednesday morning. The union has arranged for volunteer medical personnel to monitor the health of the participants, who will remain on site 24/7 throughout the duration of the demonstration. The memorial sign for Musa Sharaf, along with a second featuring Disney workers injured on the job, will be displayed near the protesters.
Disney hotel worker Narciso Guevara (right) adds a candle to a memorial for coworker Musa Sharaf.
In addition to a daily prayer vigil at 7am, Local 11 has announced a schedule of daily events and protests. On Wednesday, workers will hold a "make-a-bed" rally outside the Paradise Pier Hotel at 5pm. A union spokesperson says that the purpose of the demonstration is to show that new bedding at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel can cause injuries to housekeepers. On Saturday, Tom Morello of the group Rage Against the Machine will perform at the union's "Day of Music" protest. If you want to attend or avoid these or other events, a full schedule is posted on the union Web site (link).
An hour before Tuesday's protest began, union officials responded to Disney's renewed request for both parties to sit down with a Federal mediator. Local 11 has agreed to meet with the mediator, but did not set a date. A Disney spokesperson says that the company is ready to meet immediately, but the union's Briceno said that the talks will take place after the fast.
*Additional coverage of this labor dispute and past demonstrations is available on MousePlanet: