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.
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I find this story particularly interesting in light of the spate of TV ads that we’ve been seeing about Disney’s Give a Day program, which is supposed to make them look like champions of grassroots volunteerism. But, in light of your post, it seems more that they’re interested in having as many people as possible work for free, employees and otherwise, while they rake in the cash and credit.
All that said, this pattern of employees losing health benefits is to be expected, and it is the result of a fundamentally flawed system that links such benefits to employment, which puts too much in the hands of private employers and leaves too many—the unemployed, the self-employed, small businesses, among them—in the lurch. Basic health is too important and too essential to depend on the good graces of one’s employer. Workers need to be free to change jobs, when necessary, without fear that their children won’t be able to go to the doctor.
I’ve quite taken pleasure in browsing all the posts here on Disney workers fast for health care / Waging Nonviolence. Highly enlightening plus very easy to understand.