On Friday, July 8th, six high school students that I recruited to help build our movement here in Los Angeles joined summer organizers, Local 11 organizers, and Disney workers to unite against budget cuts to the University of California system and against tax breaks for the Disney Corporation.
Disney Board Member Monica Lozano also sits as a Regent for the University of California system and is the CEO of the newspaper La Opinion. But while she sits on the Regents Board, which cut 23% of its budget this year from the University of California system, Disney is getting generous tax breaks from the same state government. How can Monica Lozano represent students as a UC Regent at the same time she is on the board of Disney?
This issue is personal for all of the high school volunteers, because it affects their access to an affordable higher education. For Giselle and Jocelyn, two volunteers I recruited from La Puente, California, this issue is particularly personal. Both of them have had to change their plans for college next year because of financial difficulties, and they were not afraid on Friday to raise their voices about this injustice not only on the streets but also to the public media.
On the morning of the Disney day of action, Giselle went of 90.7 FM KPFK’s “Uprising” show to tell her story. Before the interview, she talked with Leigh Shelton, Local 11’s communications director, about having to live at home and commute to Cal Poly Pomona instead of being able to attend her dream school, UC Santa Cruz, because she could not receive any money for financial aid. Giselle joined June Mekker, a long-time Disney worker, to talk on the radio about a new alliance between students and Disney workers, who have been in a contract fight with Disney for three and a half years to win affordable healthcare and a decent wage. You can watch their great interview here.
Then we went to downtown Los Angeles to the offices of the La Opinion newspaper, where Monica Lozano is on the board. We were all surprised at the number of cameras and reporters from radio, TV, and news agencies in at least three different languages. Jocelyn joined Giselle to talk to reporters. By the end of the action, Jocelyn and Giselle had told their stories about why they feel united with Disney workers, and they were quoted on the radio, on the evening news, and in La Opinion itself!
-Samuel, Summer Organizer
While the students gathered, about seven reporters interviewed them to gather reactions on how these cuts would affect the University of California system. Reporters came up to the busy students with cameras and microphones, ready with questions about why we were visiting Monica Lozano. We were excited to inform the press and the public about this issue. However, we wanted to assure that we took this message directly to Monica Lozano. We organized ourselves to enter the building and visit her in her office. As we walked into the building, and headed for the elevators, we were stopped by the security and they told that we were not allowed to enter because it was “private property.” With proud steps, we marched back outside to continue our actions.
-Francisco, Summer Organizer
Later in the day we went to Downtown Disney to pass out leaflets to customers. For the most part the customers took the leaflets, but there were a couple of people that voiced their negative opinions, one man swore at me; others told us to “get a job.” But there were some concerned customers and we even got some contact information.
Then the balloon war started. We started to pass out balloons with the words “Disney is Unfaithful” printed on them. Soon after, the company came out with their own balloons. The company people were standing across from us and they would take our balloons from the kids, pop them, and then give them their own half-deflated Mickey head balloons. Soon there were so many balloons all over Downtown Disney that even hours later, you could see little kids carrying around the “Disney is Unfaithful” and deflated Mickey balloons left over from the scene. After that we gathered up about 10 students and we prepared ourselves for a series of delegations to stores along the downtown that all are retail tenants of Disney. Some store managers were supportive, but some did not like us showing up there. We were all confident and calm and we kept doing delegations to more and more stores until we ran out of time. I was one of the leaders; I introduced the group and gave a run-down of what we wanted. Even when the managers didn’t support us I felt like all the delegations were successful because we got our message out.
-Jonathan, Summer Organizer
Check Out Some Media from the Action:
La Opinion – “Unidos en un solo reclamo”
KPCC – 89.3 FM – “Protesters object to university tuition increases at La Opinion’s offices”
KPFK 90.7 FM – “Uprising: Students and Workers Join Forces Against Disney and UC Corporate Interests”
On Wednesday July 13th and Thursday July 14th, one of the high school students I recruited joined five Los Angeles Summer Organizers, three Local 11 organizers, and 16 other student volunteers to unite against budget cuts to the UC system and tax breaks for the Disney Corporation at the UC regents’ board meeting in San Francisco. We continued to get our message out! – Sam, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles