Since our contract expired more than two years ago, some 2,000 Disneyland hotel employees have been fighting to maintain affordable health benefits. Disney wants hotel workers to move into a different Disney-run health plan, which, by the end of our contact, is projected to cost an employee $500 a month for family coverage. For many workers who earn around $11 an hour, that’s more than a week’s worth of wages, and simply impossible.
One of the most frustrating parts is that in past contract negotiations, we’ve given up significant wages raises in order to maintain these affordable benefits. Now, we’re on the verge of losing them. Because of this struggle, we decided to risk our own health to protect that of our co-workers and families and engage in a water-only fast. For seven days and nights, seven fasters and I refused food and slept in tents outside the Grand Californian Hotel.
It has been almost three days that I’ve been back in the comfort of my home, and within the embrace of my family since we broke our hunger strike in Anaheim. Since I’ve been back, my family, friends and co-workers have been asking me what it felt like not to eat, and sleep on the street for a week. But to be honest, I’m not sure how to reply. I feel like my mind and body are barely starting to digest the magnitude of this past week’s events.
But the details are starting to sink in. Details like when the Anaheim Fire Fighters would drive by our “camp site” and wave at us; the kindness and genuine concern of our Anaheim Police Officers who stopped by each day to see how we where doing; the warm smiles that we would get from the N.U.H.W. volunteer nurses that would check on us twice a day. All these memories fill me with comfort. Reports, e-mails, and thank you messages have been pouring in from different parts of the country from people who had either lost hope, or had felt it dwindling, telling us we have inspired them to keep fighting for what is right. It has been in these last three days that it hit me.
Reflecting on our experience, I think what we did is bigger than just the fight with Disney. Fasting allowed us to remind others and ourselves that it is possible to counter greed and oppression with a gesture of sacrifice, resolve, and unity. Showing once again, that ordinary people can fight back, without lifting a finger to inflict physical pain or injury on the oppressor.
Further, the fast was a way for us to show that the love that we have for our children and their future gives us a tremendous power to keep fighting. And that is something that I’ll carry with me until the end of my days.