Jun 11, 2009

Why Labor Celebrates GLBT Pride Month

As you may or may not know, June is LGBT Pride Month (not to be confused with LGBT History Month, which is in October). As the President has "proclaimed" it so, there has been an upswing of activism, remembrance of the Stonewall Riots and heroes like Harvey Milk, and increased media coverage of the debate about marriage for same-sex couples.

But what does LGBT right have to do workers? Why does labor celebrate Pride Month?

Labor's mission is to give workers a voice in their place of business, a collective voice that is stronger than the sum of its individual parts in order to level the playing field between workers and management. We can negotiate pay and benefits, increase safety in the work place, ensure job security, and protect one another from unfair treatment. Protecting one another from unfair treatment is the particular tie that binds Labor to the LGBT movement.

Labor has always been involved in making sure that those who are discriminated against in our society are protected in their workplace. Protected from harassment, protected from unfair firings because of who they are, and guaranteed the same rights and benefits as those around them.

This was true in the Jim Crow South, where minorities were often the first to sign on to unions. This has always been true of women in the workplace.

And it is true of LGBT individuals. Unions push for partner benefits, for anti-discrimination language in contracts, for equal opportunity in the workplace. We lobby for legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Action, which would ban discrimination in the workplace places upon sexual orientation or gender identity/gender expression. Because at the end of the day, that's what it's about: protecting one another. We raise our collective voice when our work schedules are too overbearing, when we have to decide between wages and health care benefits, when our job security is threatened--and when our co-workers are treated unfairly, for any reason.

This need for justice extends beyond the walls of the grocery store or the meat packing plant. This is why unions representing over 10 million workers have voiced their support for marriage equality. This is why unions donated more than $2 million in the fight against prop. 8 in California.

This is why we share this fight, and this is why LGBT Pride Month is important to us.

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