Friday, November 20, 2009
The Pride Agenda's Upstate Director of Pride In Action Sheilah Sable reports back from our recent Pride in Our Union event:
The Pride in Our Union program held an educational forum for LGBT union members, staff and leaders and their allies on Saturday, November 14th at the CUNY Murphy Center in New York. The forum was called “Pride and Solidarity in Action.”
There were over 40 LGBT union activists and allies from a dozen different unions: CSEA, UFT, 1199 SEIU UHWE, 32BJ, Local 375 DC 37 AFSCME, UUP, CWA Local 1180, NYCDCC Local 157 and Local 926, RWDSU, NYSUT, Local 2110 UAW and SSA/1199 SEIU.
The first panel covered Best Practices for Union Benefits, and included a discussion about marriage recognition, domestic partnerships and trans health care led by James Staley of CSEA Local 010 and Chair of CSEA’s New York City LGBT Committee, Nicole Aniello of the Brooklyn Local 926 of the New York City Carpenter’s Union, and Pride Agenda Program Director Desma Holcomb.
Mid-day, there were small group conversations around how to navigate challenging discussions among union members, where issues of religion, race, homophobia, transphobia and other areas of cultural competency can be a challenge. Kevin McGruder, a lay leader member of Pride in the Pulpit and Kele Nkhereanye, an activist from Less AIDS Lesotho and a member of TWU 100, were instrumental in keeping the conversation productive and on point. Danny Jimenez of the Education and Development Department of 1199 SEIU and Pride Agenda Foundation Board member, Jeff Oshins of DC 37/Local 375’s Labor and Political Activity Committee and Co-Chair and Secretary of LAGIC (Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee), and Neil Kirby of CSEA Local 010 and Chair of the Political Action Committee, lead these discussions.
Finally, we heard about solidarity: how the LGBT movement can support union folks in campaigns for fair wages and social justice and how unions have supported the LGBT movement for marriage equality, transgender non-discrimination and an end to bullying in schools. Rona Freiser, Queens Borough Representative of UFT, described how support for LGBT issues starts with classroom teachers interrupting bullying and extends through resolutions in support of legislation right up to direct lobbying by the NYC and now national union President Randi Weingarten. Phil Andrews, Coordinator of the Retail Action Project of RWDSU, demonstrated how a campaign for fair wages and decent treatment at a downtown retailer forged mutual respect between young LGBT retail clerks and older Muslim African immigrant stock workers. Pride Agenda and LGBT movement support for this kind of campaign builds a stronger labor movement that can give more powerful support to LGBT issues as well.
Pride in Our Union encourages unions in all sectors of the labor movement in New York State to be free of discrimination and to bargain and advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and their families. In solidarity, we work to build a movement that calls for respect for diversity and advances the goal of social and economic justice for all. You can download our Labor Movement Handbook of best practices here or contact Pride in Our Union coordinator and Upstate Director for Pride in Action Sheilah Sable at firstname.lastname@example.org.