by Jim DeLa
[Episcopal News Service -- Anaheim, California] Episcopalians attending General Convention linked arms with hotel workers July 14 to march to the gates of Disneyland to demand economic justice for 2,300 Disney employees protesting a planned hike in the cost of their health insurance.
"It seems to me, as our church has moved toward a position of justice for all its members, particularly in the area of health care, this is the perfect opportunity for the church to witness to the world about its convictions regarding economic justice," said the Rev. Lisa Hackney, from the Diocese of Ohio.
Ada Briceno, an official from Local 11 of UNITE HERE, a Los Angeles-based union that includes hotel and restaurant workers, said they have been working without a contract since February 2008. Disney wants to replace the union-funded health plan with a corporate plan, she said, which in time, will cost a minimum-wage worker about $500 a month for insurance for a family. "These are low-paid workers, making on average about $11 an hour," she said.
Several hundred people gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center to hear a prayer by Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, before joining more than 1,000 others already on the march to Disneyland.
"I cannot think of any reason more than the Gospel proclamation of ‘do justice' and ‘do God's work.' This is where I need to be," said the Rev. Yamily Bass-Choate, a deputy from the diocese of New York.
Lynn Tyler, a deputy from the Diocese of New Hampshire, was marching to support Disney workers, 75 percent of whom, she said, are women. "And of those women, many are single parents. They're pretty much living on the edge as it is."
A letter in support of Disney workers signed by 13 Episcopal bishops said they were taking seriously "our call to stand with the poor and those who are suffering from injustice." The protest included Episcopal bishops Greg Rickel (Olympia), Gene Robinson (New Hampshire) and Barbara Harris (retired of Massachusetts).
Henry Atkins Jr., of the Episcopal Church Peace and Justice Commission of the Diocese of Los Angeles, is asking Episcopalians to boycott Disney hotels if the workers ask.
"We're now marching with these people who are working for Disney for their rights, their privileges that they deserve as human beings," said Bishop Bruno. "We ask you to let us turn the eyes of Disney toward justice and mercy; toward benefits, and the things necessary for people to live a just and abundant life."