On Wednesday March 10, two bellmen, a housekeeper and I attended Disney's annual shareholder meeting in San Antonio. We made the decision to take this trip because we knew that Disney's Board of Directors and CEO Bob Iger where going to be present. As I wrote in my last blog post for Labor’s Edge, we, the workers at the Disneyland Resort hotels have been without a contract for two years and been deadlocked with the company over access to affordable healthcare.
It's not often that we – the workers – have the opportunity to address corporate executives directly. In fact, we weren't sure if they were even aware of the injustices that are taking place at the three Disney hotels in Anaheim. Injustices like the dramatic workload increases and the injuries that result because of them, or the fact that the proposals on which Disney is insisting will push health care coverage out of reach for hundreds of workers and their families. So, instead of allowing this doubt to linger in our minds, we made sure that the highest-ranking Disney executives know about this two-year long struggle that has overshadowed all the “magic” at Disneyland.
I was fortunate enough to be the first one to speak during the question-and-answer part of the meeting, and I spoke directly to Disney's CEO, Bob Iger. I told him that my co-workers and I are proud of what we do — whether we are bellman, dishwashers, room attendants, or any other position. I made it clear that we do our jobs with dignity, and that it is our pleasure to make the guests’ vacations at the Disneyland hotels unforgettable and magical. Mr. Iger acknowledged that Disney's workers are what make the company a success, not the attractions or shows.
But I also informed Mr. Iger that other Orange County hotels who have contracts with our union have peacefully agreed to contribute the money necessary to keep our health care affordable for workers and their families. All of them, that is, except for Disney. I explained that we understand they are running a business and trying to make a profit, but at what cost? At the cost of children staying at home alone without parental support when the Disney parents have to take second jobs to be able to make ends meet? Or at the cost of people’s health?
Lastly, I told Iger that I pray everyday that God will touch his heart. The whole room, composed of mostly shareholders and die-hard Disney fans, broke out in applause. I have to admit, a little chill ran down my spine. And for that short moment, I felt like we were all equal, like everyone in this room was without a title. Instead, we were all just human beings.
Check out some media coverage from the annual meeting.