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Disney strikers set up camp

Workers use their hunger strike to call attention to contract dispute.

February 17, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

Five Orange County hotel workers continued their hunger strike in front of the Walt Disney Co. headquarters in Burbank Wednesday as they sought to bring attention to a two-year contract dispute.

The demonstration comes after eight workers from Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier Hotel and Grand Californian Hotel & Spa held a weeklong hunger strike over a proposal they said requires Unite Here Local 11 members to pay for their healthcare plans.

Union officials contend that some employees would eventually be slapped with $500 monthly payments under the plan proposed by Disney, a figure the company refutes.

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“We decided to come to Burbank and roll the fast as an escalation of our campaign and as a sign to Disney that they’re not getting the message,” said union spokeswoman Leigh Shelton. “We will not accept these healthcare proposals because they’re unaffordable for our members and will leave a lot of them without health benefits.”

The third-largest union at the Disneyland Resort, Unite Here Local 11 represents 2,150 hotel, food and housekeeping employees who are now working on an expired contract.

The company has sought to shift the workers to its Signature plan, providing them a choice of seven health options, the premium for which Disney covers roughly 75%. The employee share would be phased in over five years, according to Disney.

Nearly all of the 31 unions represented at the resort participate in the Signature plan, and both sides have agreed to meet before an independent federal mediator, said Suzi Brown, a Disney spokeswoman.

The union agreed to mediation shortly before launching into its weeklong hunger strike, she said.

“That calls into question their commitment to the mediation process,” Brown said.

The demonstration at West Alameda Avenue between South Brighton and South Lincoln streets kicked off at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as employees dotted the sidewalk with tents, signs and banners exclaiming: “Shame on Walt Disney Co.” and “Work Shouldn’t Hurt.”

The union has planned speeches, marches and demonstrations beginning at 5 p.m. today, including an appearance by Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

Five fasters this morning looked on as Pastor Bridie Roberts, program director for the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles, presented a blessing.

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