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GC2009: TEC Pickets Mickey Mouse at Disneyland

GC2009: TEC Pickets Mickey Mouse at Disneyland

Mary Ann Mueller in Anaheim
Special Correspondent
July 15, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA---Mickey Mouse may be a good host, but apparently he is not a good employer. So The Episcopal Church did what it does best. It got socially involved. General Convention bishops and deputies joined hundreds of service employees in a well-orchestrated march of protest winding from the front of the Anaheim Convention Center down to the Disneyland entrance. It is a trek of about a half a mile.

Riding his motorized scooter, Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno led the march. He is one of several bishops using scooters during the Convention to help facilitate their mobility. Other bishops spied zipping around Convention grounds include: James Waggoner, Henry Parsley and Alfred Marble, who has a rear view mirror on his four-wheeled motorized cart.

March organizers says that the demonstration was organized to point out the fact that the Walt Disney Corporation is trying to cut much-needed health care benefits for their thousands of employees. The premiums will reportedly be jacked up to $500 a month driving the cost of health care out of reach for the average Disney worker. Most are single Hispanic women trying to raise their large families on $11 an hour.

Many of the 2,300 Disney service employees are low-end service workers who laboriously work behind-the-scenes to keep everything shipshape for the millions of out-of-town guests Disneyland draws to southern California every year. These include hotel housekeepers, food service workers, dishwashers, bellmen, and front desk personnel. Three Disney hotels were particularly targeted: the Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand California.

However, employees from the other immediate Anaheim Convention Center-area hotels joined in the demonstration as well as service employees from as far away as Angel Stadium and the Los Angeles International Airport. In all, more than 1,000 souls marched hoping and praying that the powers-that-be in the corporate boardroom of the Walt Disney Corporation will take notice and somehow show some compassion in making executive decisions that closely affect the quality of their employee's lives.

Following a short pep rally, where such familiar faces such as Bishop V. Gene Robinson spoke, Episcopal General Convention marchers streamed across Katella Avenue and marched down the sidewalk towards Harbor Blvd. Other familiar bishops who were also seen included: Barbara Harris, Greg Rickel, and Sergio Carranza as well as others. In all, 13 Episcopal bishops signed a letter of support for the Disney workers. The Episcopalian marchers were met en route by hundreds of embattled Disney workers who marched from the Paradise Pier Hotel. The Disney workers have been without a working contract since February 2008.

Marchers carried red, white and blue picket signs which proclaimed, "Disney is Unfaithful" waving them in the air as they trekked along their predetermined route. The blaring of automobile horns could be heard as the flow of the late afternoon rush hour traffic breezed by.

Turning onto Harbor Blvd, the stream of General Convention marchers were met by the river of Disney hotel workers. The entire march spilled over from the overflowing sidewalks into the wide street.

The sound of beating drums, whistles, clacking castanets, pot lid cymbals and horns, all competing for attention, as the marchers cheered, sang, shouted and chanted, many times in Spanish, while helicopters hovered in the cloudless blue sky overhead. A marching Mariachi band added a Mexican flavor to the event.

Their distinctive hotel uniforms could identify the hotel workers. Some were dressed in blue and white with burgundy, others in red or tan with white full-length aprons. They marched along side Episcopal clergy, many of whom were in their dress black clerical suits. Some had brightly colored stoles around their necks. Their fuchsia-colored shirts could easily identify the bishops.

In addition to the many signs and some sandwich boards that many of the marchers carried or wore, there were several banners being displayed, too. "SOLIDARITY" proclaimed the bright orange letters on a white banner that a group from the Orange County Labor Federation carried. "The Sheraton Supports Disney Employees" said another Local 11 hand-drawn banner carried by a cluster of red-shirted Unite Here supporters.

Balloons, American flags, Integrity flags were all seen attached to strollers, bikes, wheelchairs and motorized scooters as the marchers made their way past incoming Disneyland enthusiasts, visitors and guests. Meanwhile, the Disney employees and their Episcopalian friends made their way to plead to Mickey Mouse.

---Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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