By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
FERNDALE – On June 3, the Michigan chapter of Pride at Work showed their commitment to the wider community with donations of $250 to Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center and One United Michigan, the coalition of organizations formed to stop the anti-affirmative action proposal that will appear on Michigan’s ballot this November.
The donations were made during a meeting that also featured the election of new officers, an update on the organization’s efforts to ensure domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples, and plans for a membership recruitment drive.
The Michigan chapter of Pride at Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO, currently has seven members, according to new Co-President Dan Sturgis. Pride at Work exists to promote the interests of LGBT workers both within their local unions and in the workplace. Despite the organization’s current small size, they have been on the front lines of protecting domestic partner benefits for all same-sex headed families. Pride at Work is one of the co-defendants in National Pride at Work v. Granholm, which seeks to limit the scope of the anti-family Proposal 2.
Because of their effectiveness, the Michigan group recently received a grant from the Office and Professional Employees International Union, part of which went to Affirmations and One United Michigan.
Pride at Work is using the grant “to get the word out on domestic partner benefits and to promote more of our hands-on commitment by funding other arenas,” said Sturgis.
Cheryl Bollinger, who was also elected co-President on June 3, said of her new role, “My goal is to increase our membership and educate people about Pride at Work and hopefully increase visibility.”
Other new board members are Joe Darby and Cynthia Post, co-vice presidents, and Treasurer Cynthia Paul.
In addition to their work locally, Pride at Work’s Michigan activists are gearing up for “No Turning Back 2006: The National Pride At Work Convention,” which is scheduled for this September in San Diego.
Sturgis said that at this point at least ten people from Michigan have committed to go.
“We’re trying to push the issue really big,” he said.
Electing a new board isn’t the only recent change that the organization has made. In March, Michigan Pride at Work adopted gender identity and expression language into their bylaws.
According to Sturgis, “We try to be pro-active, and we’re trying to set a precedent in our bylaws so other unions will see that.” Sturgis said that there are currently four transgender individuals he knows of who are members of the national organization, and two locally.
Sturgis said that people who wish to join Pride at Work don’t need to be current union members. “We are open to anybody. We like union people, but we don’t prefer union people,” he said.
Sturgis noted that, just as the union movement as a whole has benefited workers who aren’t union members, the work his group is doing has benefits for non-union LGBT workers as well.
“When we negotiate domestic partner benefits in a union, it usually helps in the non-union arena too,” he said.
Pride at Work membership dues are $25 per year for regular membership, $10 per year for students and $100 per year for organizational sponsors. For more information contact Dan Sturgis at 248-622-8981 or [email protected] or visit the national Pride at Work Web site at http://prideatwork.org