Gay labor activism

By |2006-08-31T09:00:00-04:00August 31st, 2006|News|

1930s-’40s
* Frank McCormick: In the 1930s, McCormick – an openly gay man – was elected vice president of the California Federation of Labor.
* Marine Cooks and Stewards Union: Represented a diverse membership that included a large number of gay men; credited with defending their membership from gay-baiting and harassment.
* Harry Hay: An organizer for the Department Store Workers Union in New York City, he founded the Mattachine Society, widely believed to be the first gay rights organization in the United States.
1950s-’70s
* Bayard Rustin: Principle organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Civil Rights, later became first president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.
* Tom Hahn: Speech writer and assistant to President George Meany of the AFL-CIO.
* Bill Olwell: Became vice president of the United Food and Commericial Workers in 1972.
(Note: All three of these gay men held influential positions in the labor movement at a time when it was not only uncommon, but dangerous to be a known homosexual. Despite the work of these men on behalf o the labor movement, unions did not speak out for equal rights for their gay members until years later.)
1970s
* In 1970, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution protesting personnel actions against teachers based on sexual orientation.
* In 1973, the National Education Association added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy.
* In 1974, gay leaders Howard Wallace, a union activist, and Harvey Milk, a gay political activist in San Francisco, led a successful boycott of Coors beer after the company administered lie detector tests to prospective employees to weed out union activists and homosexuals.
* In 1978, a coalition of gay and union activists successfully campaigned against the Briggs Initiative, which would have prevented gay teachers from being hired and caused the firing of gay teachers on the job.
* In 1986, gay labor activists joined forces to defeat Proposition 64, a California ballot initiative that would have required disclosure and quarantining of people with AIDS.

Source: Pride At Work, AFL-CIO

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.