A Handbook of the Sociology of Religion

By Michele Dillon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
Religion, Faith-Based CommunityOrganizing,
and the Struggle for Justice,
Richard L. Wood

On May 2, 2000, three thousand people converged on the State Capitol in Sacramento, California.1 But this was not the usual frenzy of lobbyists serving the interests of the well-off, using the tools of well-oiled political action committees. Rather, these were working poor, working-class, and lower-middle income people lately referred to as “working families” and they went to Sacramento because they were tired of living on the verge of financial ruin or physical debility. Attendees were demanding adequate health coverage for people left out by current health care arrangements and they were angry about that, at a time when remarkable wealth was being accumulated all around them and California was running a $10 billion budget surplus.

The occasion was an “action” entitled “Healthcare for All Californians: Reweaving the Fabric of American Communities, ” sponsored by the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO). The day's event drew on recent academic research showing 1.5 million California children formally eligible for subsidized health coverage but still uninsured because of onerous inscription procedures, and a total of 7.3 million Californians uninsured, most relying on community clinics or emergency rooms for their medical care. The same research showed 82 percent of the uninsured to be members of working families, with nearly half headed by a family member working full time for all of 1999.2

They packed the hall with a crowd approximately 40 percent Latino, 40 percent white, and 20 percent African American and Hmong. And they were loud: They believed they had to be to turn around a state government that had so far rejected any

____________________
1
The author attended the action as a researcher/observer and verified the actual attendance figures through a count of the seating capacity at the Sacramento Community Center Theater plus a large overflow room filled when chairs ran out at the main venue. The large crowd made it impossible to calculate a precise ethnic breakdown of attendees; the figures cited later are approximations done by the author by counting the “apparent ethnicity” of those seated in a representative set of floor sectors.
2
The key research groups on which PICO leadership relied for their health care campaign were the Health Insurance Policy Program, based out of the Center for Health and Public Policy Studies at UC – Berkeley and the Center for Health Policy Research at UCLA; and the Insure the Uninsured Project based in Santa Monica, California. The data quoted in this political event came from “The State of Health Insurance in California, 1999” report by the UCB/UCLA group (Schauffler and Brown 2000).

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