The Disney hotel workers' fast and protest, organized by the UniteHere Local 11 union, brought out the big guns Thursday night. Anaheim Councilwoman Lorri Galloway spoke, again pledging her support to their cause. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez also put in an appearance, not missing the opportunity to connect with her voter base. A crowd of more than 100 picketers and protesters stood behind the fasters--who were sitting in a row in front of the podium, red ribbons around their right arms to signify their efforts.
Standing back from the scene was a small group of Disney security guards and press people who've been watching since Tuesday with their earpieces and walkie-talkies. Nestor Valle, security area manager for Disney, has been there every night, smiling his wan smile and insisting he only wants to keep things safe.
The crowd chanted, "¡Sí se puede!" before the speeches began, the sound amplified across the parking lot by the two towering speakers.
"This demonstration and fast is about one core issue: the issue of health care," Sanchez said.
"In Washington, D.C., I was one of the people who said, 'Let's make health care for everybody in the country. I was the only vote in Orange County for health care for all people.'"
In the case of the Disney workers, stable health care represents the Holy Grail for a union whose 2,000-plus members have gone to work without a contract for two years, rather than accept Disney's pricey pay plan over their free, union-controlled plan.
"Unfortunately, those who are against health care for all have stopped the process on us in Washington, DC."
Still, Sanchez has high hopes that federal mediation will move the Disney debacle along.
"I have faith now that Disney has agreed and your very able negotiators have agreed to go to federal mediation. . . . That is why I am out here today: to send a message to Disney that we need to clear the table and we need them to understand how important this issue of health care is."
Some union leaders aren't as confident, suggesting federal mediation is merely a way for Disney to move the spotlight off the fasters currently camping in front of the Grand Californian Hotel.
There is one less faster, however, as Eddie Carrington, a laundry worker at the Disneyland Hotel, had to drop out because of long-standing heath problems. The remaining fasters report similar problems: dizziness, stomach pains, headaches. Seven of them slumped in chairs, two in wheelchairs, while the union leaders and politions spoke. Their eyes were red and puffy, looking as though they haven't been sleeping well in their tents on the sidewalk.
Richard Silva--who is fasting on behalf of his father, who was injuried while working shipping and receiving in Disneyland--tried to stave off the hunger by drinking more than four liters of Smart Water throughout Thursday. Kristi Richards' method is to avoid thinking about the hunger by simply keeping busy.
Also showing their support Thursday night were leaders and members of at least a dozen unions. Among them were the Orange County Federation of Labor, Teamsters Local 396 and 952, the American Federation of Teachers, the United Health Care Workers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the LA County Federation of Labor.
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Tefere Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Federation of Labor, declared that support for the protest went even farther than that.
"We are saying at the United Labor Movement, enough is enough, and we're 100 percent behind you," said Gebre. "We're going join you in the fight and continue to fight with you."