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Disney workers fast for health care

minnie mouse

A Minnie Mouse lookalike outside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel striking with union local 681.

Eight Disneyland Hotel workers of UNITE HERE Local Union 11 in Anaheim, California, engaged in a week-long hunger strike to highlight their two-year dispute on health care and other labor issues with the Walt Disney Company.  The eight workers ended their hunger strike on Tuesday, as five more began fasting.

The workers want to keep the health plan that their union provides (paid for in lieu of pay raises), while Disney proposes deducting health care costs from workers’ wages. Disney maintains that their plan would cost $250 a month per family, while the union estimates $500.  Workers typically earn $11-13 an hour.

The Disney dispute mirrors an exacerbating national trend: Employment no longer guarantees satisfactory health care coverage.  Between 2001 and 2007, insurance premiums rose 78% while wages rose 19%. As health care costs rise, employers drop benefits, contributing to the number of uninsured Americans.

One in six full-time workers, or 21 million people, were uninsured for all 12 months of 2008.  Astoundingly, 45% of the nation’s 46 million uninsured actually worked full-time. And the percentage of Americans who receive health insurance through their employer has decreased from 64% in 2000 to 59% in 2008.

The Disney workers seem determined not to become another statistic.