The lengthy dispute between Unite/HERE Local 11 and Disney over the health benefit program for employees at the Disney operated hotels in Anaheim has prompted a hunger strike. The union has resisted moving the employees from the union’s health benefit plan to a company plan, even though all of the other unions at Disney have agreed to the company plan in recent years.
The union won’t strike, probably because the majority of employees aren’t supportive. Instead, the union has held demonstrations, pickets, and other publicity stunts in an effort to pressure Disney. The mouse is not so easily intimidated, however, and the union’s efforts have had no impact. On the other hand, Disney has refrained from the pursuing a riskier strategy of implementing their proposal and moving the employees to the Disney plan. It has become a true stalemate.
This week, the union upped the ante by sponsoring a hunger strike by several union members and officials. While the effort has generated an initial burst of publicity, the tactic will likely fail to produce enough pressure to change Disney’s position. Given the sky high unemployment in California, it will be difficult for the union to generate public outrage over a plan to switch employees from one benefit plan to another.
Union leaders undoubtedly realize this, so they are attempting to shift the narrative of the story. An employee recently died on the job as the result of a heart attack. At the press conference announcing the hunger strike, the union and the family claimed the employee was overworked and stressed, essentially blaming Disney for his death. It is impossible not to empathize with the family for their loss. Whether the union’s strategy will break the stalemate, however, is questionable.