In Orlando, crowds flock to Disney for … the food bank

In Orlando (Florida), July 11.

When we left around 10 a.m. on Saturday September 5th, the line of cars was still 4 kilometers long. Hundreds of cars waited in the Orlando heatwave to receive food aid distributed by the Disney union. A package with some zucchini, apples, cheddar in plastic. But also loose eggs, and milk.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Virginia Chapelle, 63, awaits the distribution which is due to begin shortly. “I arrived at 5.30 am I was working for Marriott, but I was laid off. I watch their call to rework “, she hopes. In the meantime, this woman receives only 245 dollars (207 euros) of unemployment per week from the State of Florida, since the weekly flat-rate allowance of 600 dollars, paid, she, by the federal State has reached expires at the end of July. So, for the fourth week in a row, she came.

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The authorizing officer of this distribution is Jeremy Haicken, 43, head of the union section Unite Here! Local 737, with 18,000 members employed in the hotel and catering sector.

It all started in May. After closing its doors at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Disney paid its 70,000 Disney World employees until April 19. Then put more than 40,000 out of work.

In mid-May, Mr. Haicken then organized a food bank for his members. “The first week, 200 cars came, and we ran out of food. The second was double, and we did not have enough food ”, he says, red union t-shirt, hat and mask on his face. Since the end of August, it is the explosion, with the end of federal allowances. “We are in the seventeenth week. Look at the line. It is truly an act of desperation. “

80 million food packages

Disney is the bastion of local unionism: Universal and Waterworld amusement parks have banned unions, like most Florida companies, and it is Disney, historically unionized, who leads social demands and teaches employees of other companies: “We are the ones who set the standards of the profession”, explains Mr. Haicken.

In the beginning, traditionally, he drew on the union’s reserves to buy food products from its members. And then, we had to move up a gear, collect food and donations. Only problem, legally, a union does not have the right to do it. It was then that Mr. Haicken met Kelly Stainner, 46, patron of the Glaner les champs de Florida association. This association goes after the harvest to collect fruit and vegetables that farmers do not want, to distribute them to the needy. It is she who legally ensures the distribution, and not the union.

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