Fastpass to Hunger: The Final Days
The Disney magic is dead for these young activists.
The Disney workers from UNITE HERE Local 11 union haven't taken a rest. They haven't eaten either so it's hard to tell exactly how eight of the original 10 fasters are still standing, let alone marching in picket lines. You read right; we lost another one.
Elpy Escobar had to call it quits over the weekend, after feeling pain and pressure in her arm. She was taken away in an ambulance, leaving her fellow fasters feeling uneasy about their commitment to continue until 5 p.m. tonight.
The workers of Local 11 have been fasting for a week to bring attention to their fight for reasonable health care. They want to keep their own free, union-controlled plan, and Disney wants them to sign up for their corporate plan with monthly fees. The rising costs of heath care could make the Disney option unaffordable for the more than 2,000 union workers.
Disney stated in a press release preempting the fast that the proposed plan was "high-quality, affordable and stable health care for Cast Members and their families."
But Disney spokeswoman Suzie Brown admits, "we don't have a crystal ball, we don't know what rates will be." Which is not very reassuring at a time when health insurer Anthem Blue Cross can threaten to raise rates by 39 percent.
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Union leaders, rock stars, preachers, and politicians have all come out to show their support over the week-long fast. On Friday afternoon, approximately 50 students and religious leaders from Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) staged their own supportive action by filling the tables at the Grand Californian Hotel's café, while ordering nothing but water (Yes, they tipped their servers).
The following afternoon, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello played for the fasters and their supporters from the back of a flat-bed truck.
"People ask, why a concert?" said Morello. "Music can be a very important weapon in these struggles, steeling the backbone of the strikers, and spreading the word beyond the picket line."
Morello, a union man himself with Musicians' Union Local 47, doesn't believe that Disney has the workers' best interests in mind.
"I feel bad that someone is paid a wage to think up reasons why workers should have poor heath care and less safety on the job," said Morello. "People used to have reasons why people should work in coal mines all night, and why we shouldn't have weekends. . . . The struggle will continue. Change comes from below not from above, it always has."
Tonight's final rally at 5 p.m. will conclude a full week of fasting for the final eight. They are scheduled to gather at 1150 Magic Way, along with speakers Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Labor Federation; Tefere Gabre, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation; and John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE.
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