Gay, labor rights walk the same path

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

{ITAL Workers of the world, awaken!
Break your chains, demand your rights.}
These lyrics, written by labor organizer Joe Hill in the early 1900s, are just as relevant as the day he wrote them.
This plea for protection easily applies to the workplace issues LGBT folk face today as well as the ongoing union struggles Hill wrote of.
As Labor Day approaches, union members and leaders across America will join together to celebrate the victories, and to learn from the defeats.
This is also a time to look forward and search for ways to promote unity in the workplace.
Unions have the opportunity to set the course for change. Workplace benefits and job protections based on sexual orientation are two such issues, and unions have stepped forward to provide a voice for those who have been silenced for too long.
Organizations like Pride At Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO, and countless other labor organizations across the United States are now integrating LGBT rights and protections into contract language.
As we wait for the government to dance through gay rights issues, organized labor can take the lead. While job protections for LGBT folk are not guaranteed across the nation, unions are beginning to see our issues as labor issues.
This also means taking our gay brothers and sisters to task, as the AFL-CIO recently did with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for forging a partnership with anti-union employer Wal-Mart.
The face of labor is quickly changing as more LGBT people live comfortably outside of the closet. But this coming out progress is not without growing pains. It is impossible to have a cohesive workforce if employees are fearful of losing their jobs because of who they date or how they dress.
It was not until recently that many labor organizations made conscious efforts to recognize and reach out to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Unions are wisely reorganizing, embracing the tapestry of their membership. They are listening to The Next Generation, and finding ways to ensure all union members have equal protection.
Taking direction from Pride At Work’s motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All,” unions are a solid vehicle to promote workplace safety and equality for all employees regardless of sexual orientation.
A union is only as good as its weakest link, and recognizing workplace rights for LGBT employees will take our country’s solidarity to a new level.

About the Author:

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