“The Employer and the Union jointly recognize the importance of maintaining a safe environment. The Employer agrees to comply with all State and Federal OSHA requirements. The Employer agrees to continue present practices regarding floor slats and mats, and to review all new facilities with regard to such present practices.”
A Local 681 member complained for over a year to the union’s President, Ada F. Torres, about the presence of rats, worms, cockroaches, toxic mold and sewage soaked floors at her workplace, Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. She also reported to Torres that Disney management had harassed workers and illegally threatened to fire them or shut down the restaurant if they insisted on upholding the Health and Safety section of their union contract.
After the member became seriously ill and had to stop working, she demanded that the Union file a grievance to get reports Disney had on mold samples taken from the kitchen area so that her doctors could properly evaluate her illness. The member was also concerned about the health and job security of other members who had reported similar illnesses or had been harassed for complaining about the mold and vermin at Goofy’s.
Despite the member’s repeated requests, Torres refused to file a grievance, stating, incredulously, “I don’t now what to file a grievance under.” On several occasions Torres told the member that a grievance had been filed, but refused to give the member a copy. It seemed clear that, in fact, no grievance had been filed. Finally, in desperation, the member went to John Earl, a former Local 681 organizer, for help.
Earl, a former investigative journalist, examined extensive documentation provided by the member and spoke with other former and current Disney cast members. While researching the potentially severe effects of toxic mold and rat infestation on human health, he learned of a similar case at a HERE Local 5 union hotel in Hawaii. Instead of appeasing management by ignoring overwhelming evidence and risking the health of their union members as President Torres had done, Local 5 forced the hotel owners to clean up the mold and insisted that hundreds of hotel workers be examined by physicians for toxic mold related illnesses. In order to protect against further negligence by President Torres, and acting to protect the health of our members, Earl contacted an award winning investigative reporter who writes for the Orange County Weekly. The Weekly published an article on the case in its September 12, 2002 edition.
After Torres learned of their meeting, and after a year of stalling while the member’s health declined and the health of scores of other union members was threatened, a grievance was finally filed. A meeting was held with the member and her union representative, but some vital materials that she had requested the union to acquire from Disney were still missing. During that meeting the member found that President Torres, who had assumed primary jurisdiction over the case during the past year, had withheld vital information from the member’s union representative. The member also discovered that during that time the Union had also withheld what her workers compensation attorney called important corroborative evidence.
The conduct of President Ada F. Torres begs this question: Is the responsibility of a union president to protect management or the rights of union members?
Vice President Urges End To Bylaws Delay By President Torres. “It is Torres and Torres alone who is responsible,” says VP Luis Sanchez.
For information on how Local 5 protected their members from toxic mold visit:
For additional information on indoor air quality, visit https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq