Indiana’s New Anti-LGBTQ Law ‘Condones Discrimination’

The Indiana legislature passed and Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a bill last week that critics, from human and civil rights groups to corporate CEOs to professional athletes, say opens the door to legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.

In a statement, Indiana State AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies said the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) “condones discrimination against our own citizens.”

Throughout its long history, organized labor has always fought for education, fair wages, safe workplaces and equality. That is why, on behalf of the 300,000 working Hoosiers and the more than 800 local unions affiliated with the Indiana AFL-CIO, we call on the Indiana General Assembly to repeal the discriminatory RFRA or pass the ‘Fairness for All Hoosiers Act’ immediately.

Read his full statement here.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote about legislation such as Indiana’s “rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.” He added:

Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.

Former NBA star and current basketball analyst Charles Barkley said:

Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me. As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced today that the union will move its 2015 Women’s Conference in October out of Indianapolis “as a direct result of Gov. Mike Pence last week signing into law a bill that legalizes discrimination.” Said Saunders:

This un-American law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights. It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated. The 1.6 million members of AFSCME cannot in good conscience make such a sizable financial investment in Indiana knowing that women and men in that state are deliberately being targeted for discrimination.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Unions Celebrate LGBTQ Progress; Look Toward Continuing Challenges

In celebration of LGBTQ Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO and Pride At Work hosted a panel discussion Monday that surveyed efforts by various unions in advancing LGBTQ rights and discussed ongoing challenges that unions face in advancing the rights of LGBTQ workers. In particular, panel participants talked about the need of unions to become more inclusive, to increase efforts to protect transgender workers and to fight for state laws that prevent employers from firing workers for their sexual orientation or gender expression.

The panel was introduced by Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights; moderated by Peggy Shorey, AFL-CIO’s director of state government relations and deputy director of government affairs; and included Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA); Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tim Schlittner, assistant communications director for politics for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and Caniesha Washington, a program specialist in the women’s and fair practices department for AFGE.

Nipper said that while “the rate of progress now is extraordinary,” many activists have been working on these issues for 40 years, so while it’s good to see some of the recent changes, “we still have a lot more progress to make.” She noted that getting married is such a fundamental part of our culture that everyone should be able to marry.

She also noted that very few protections are in place for transgender Americans, even things as fundamental as obtaining simple documents such as birth certificates. Nipper, who is an ordained interfaith minister, said one of the biggest barriers we still face is the use of religious beliefs to discriminate even though there is nothing in religious teachings that call for the kinds of discrimination conservatives are attempting to impose.

Larson made the key point that it is still legal in many states to be fired for who you love, even in states where marriage equality exists. He noted that in most states, the strongest protection an LGBT worker can have against such discrimination is a union contract.

It is the responsibility of union leaders and activists to educate union members about LGBTQ issues, Washington said.

Schlittner said that it’s heartwarming to see how far we’ve come, noting the entire city block of labor unions marching in the World Pride Parade in Toronto last week, but that we must combine labor issues and LGBT issues as part of the broader movement and that while we stand on the shoulders of giants who did much work before us, we have a responsibility to finish that work. Change will start, he said, organically at the local level, but as the groundswell grows, leadership will hear the voices of the people and progress will follow.

Here are some tweets from the event:

Other labor organizations in attendance at the event included: Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFTWorking America, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Freedom to Marry and AFSCME.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How Speaker Boehner Is Making Life Harder for Potential NFL Player Michael Sam

In February, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be considered for the NFL draft. If he is drafted, he will make history by becoming the first openly gay player in the National Football League.

Luckily for Sam, the NFL has a company-wide policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, however, the country as a whole has no such law: in 29 states you can be fired for being gay (or perceived as gay) and in 33 states you can be fired for being transgender.

If Michael Sam is drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, or Carolina Panthers, he will work in a state where most LGBT people have no workplace protections (13 other teams operate in cities that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, but where there are no such statewide laws).

Statewide LGBT employment protections currently:

Bloomberg’s Joshua Green laid out Michael Sam’s predicament in a February 12 Boston Globe op-ed:

Sam essentially has no say in where he’ll work, since whichever team drafts him will have exclusive rights to his services. No federal law prevents employers from discriminating against him on the basis of his sexuality. So he’s uniquely exposed to the vagaries of state laws — or, in many cases, the lack of one. If Sam winds up with, say, the New England Patriots, he’ll be protected by the laws that prohibit workplace discrimination in Massachusetts and 20 other states. But if he’s drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, he won’t be, since Georgia does not ban discrimination.

The lack of coherence in the law Green points out could be solved, at almost any point in time, by Speaker John Boehner.

In November 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) with a huge bipartisan majority of 64-votes. ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation nationwide, solving the “vagaries of state laws” problem Michael Sam and millions of other LGBT Americans face daily.

Unfortunately, Speaker Bohener has yet to introduce it in the House. “The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs,” said Boehner’s spokesperson.

On this issue, Boehner is on the wrong side of public opinion. 70 percent of Americans believe LGBT people face “a lot” or “some” discrimination at work, and 73 percent favor laws that would protect LGBT from discrimination at the workplace.

With any luck, Sam will be drafted by a team in a city where he would be protected as a football player, a schoolteacher, or a fast food worker equally. But chances are that he will remain exposed to legal discrimination, as will LGBT players who come after him, unless Boehner is convinced that the issue is not as “frivolous” as he thinks it is.

Photo by @BuzzFeed on Twitter

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8 Things You Need to Know About the Employment Non-Discrimination Act



Next week the Senate is expected to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, currently one of the few legal forms of workplace discrimination. The AFL-CIO historically has supported this legislation, and at the most recent quadrennial national convention, delegates passed a resolution reaffirming support for ENDA and rejecting any form of workplace discrimination.

Here are eight important facts you need to know about ENDA:

1. ENDA would protect workers nationwide by prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, currently one of the few legal forms of workplace discrimination.

2. Many LGBT workers face discrimination that impairs their ability to support their families because of personal characteristics that have no bearing on their job performance.

3. ENDA doesn’t provide any special rights to the LGBT community or require employers to fill any LGBT quotas, it merely levels the playing field and gives LGBT workers the same protections heterosexual workers have.

4. ENDA also would protect heterosexual people from being fired because employers suspect they might be gay.

5. Currently, 52% of the LGBT population lives in states that allow discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity.

6. Voters overwhelmingly (73%) support ENDA.

7. Small businesses, religious organizations and the military are exempt from the requirements of ENDA.

8. Most Fortune 500 companies (88%) already prevent such discrimination.

Image via Pride at Work on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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14 Worker Struggles To Pay Attention To This Labor Day

Sure, to some people #LaborDayIs about barbecues and fashion rules. But #LaborDayIs also about, you know, labor. Today, workers across the country are struggling for decent wages, safe workplaces, affordable healthcare, and even basic civil rights.

North Carolina’s Moral Monday

North Carolina's Moral Monday

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) and the North Carolina legislature have passed huge cuts to state unemployment insurance, an overhaul of the state tax code, big education cuts and the nation’s strictest voting restrictions. Lead by the NC NAACP’s Rev. William Barber, North Carolinans of all stripes have gathered by the thousands to for huge weekly “Moral Monday” protests to stand up to Gov. McCrory’s agenda.

Learn more about Moral Monday and check out some sweet protest photos.

Oh and thanks to @sherierb for the thumbnail photo.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers


The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers
After the huge protests in 2011 against Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining restrictions, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies changed the rules at the state Capitol Building in Madison, requiring protesters to have permits. His reasoning? Um, none.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers had been gathering in the Capitol every day to protest the Walker agenda through song, and suddenly their gatherings were illegal. Singers started getting arrested. In response, hundreds of Wisconsinites joined their singing brethren to stand up to the ridiculousness of the arrests and the broader anti-worker Walker agenda.

Learn more about the Solidarity Singalong and read more intrepid reporting on the protests from John Nichols.

The fast food strikers

The fast food strikers

tumblr.com

On August 29, fast food workers in 58 (!!!) cities went on strike for better wages and a voice at the workplace. Learn more from Josh Eidelson and check out some awesome strike photos on our Tumblr.

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, pays low wages, inconsistent schedules, and little to-no health benefits. But across the country, Walmart workers are organizing primarily for respect at the workplace.

Learn more at ForRespect.org.

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

First, Gov. Tom Corbett cut over a billion dollars from public education in Pennsylvania. Then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and school officials demanded $133 million in concessions from school employees. Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents are marching, striking, and even fasting to call attention to their city’s school crisis.

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston workers are fed up with employers committing wage theft – not giving a last paycheck, making employees work after punching out, etc. – and are pushing the Houston City Council to pass a wage theft ordinance.

Learn more from the Down With Wage Theft campaign.

Washington, D.C. retail workers

Washington, D.C. retail workers

The D.C. City Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) in July, which raised the minimum wage for big box retail workers to $12.50/hour. Walmart responded by freaking out and threatening to cancel construction of their D.C. stores. Mayor Vincent Gray has still not made up his mind about whether to cave to Walmart’s wishes or stand up for D.C. retail workers at stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target.

Learn more about the LRAA and D.C. retail workers.

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

In the 2012 election, Albuquerque voters passed a minimum wage increase with 66 percent of the vote. But in 2013, Albuquerque’s Republican Mayor Richard Berry and members of his city council refused to enforce the new law.

No joke, they are actually telling workers who make as little as $4 or $5 an hour to hire private lawyers to sue their employers. That’s their solution.

Needless to say, Albuquerque workers aren’t taking this lying down. Working America and allies have launched a “Got Your Raise?” campaign to pressure city officials and educate workers about their rights. Learn more about the situation in Albuquerque or click here if you prefer your news in “Breaking Bad” form.

Concert tour dancers and choreographers

Last year, music video performers won a groundbreaking union contract after, establishing workplace standards for the industry after decades of advocacy.

Now, the Dancers’ Alliance and SAG-AFTRA are launching #theUNIONIZEtour to ensure that performers on concert tours have workplace protections, access to affordable health care, and a fair shot at gigs.

Watch the video above and learn more here.

LGBT workers in 29 states

LGBT workers in 29 states

Thanks to the activists who came before us, we have federal laws saying that you can’t be fired for being old, female, pregnant, or disabled (yay!). Unfortunately, in 29 states, there are no such protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender workers. That’s why workers’ rights and LGBT groups are organizing to pass a strong Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Learn more from Pride at Work.

Transgender workers in 33 states

Transgender workers in 33 states

Add Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York to the map above. Pride at Work has great information on this too.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers

Millions of domestic workers, mostly women, are employed by households and businesses across the country. Most of them have little to no worker protections – no minimum wage, overtime pay no nothing.

State by state, domestic workers and allies have worked to pass “Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights” to establish basic protections. Ai-Jen Poo, founder and director of theNational Domestic Workers Alliance (and Working America board member #plug) toldThe Nation that President Obama might soon bring domestic workers under the protections of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which would be “one of the most significant victories for low-wage workers of this administration.”

Learn more about the Ai-Jen and the NDWA.

Mississippi auto workers

Mississippi auto workers

Auto workers at Nissan in Mississippi have been trying to exercise their basic right to form a union, but are getting blocked by the company. Lethal Weapon/workers’ rights star Danny Glover has been active in calling attention to the situation. Not only that, but Nissan workers in Brazil, France, and South Africa have expressed solidarity. Learn more at DoBetterNissan.org.

Danny Glover: He’s not too old for this. #LethalWeaponJoke

Solidarity in Brazil.

No big deal, it’s just Common. (!!!)

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Establishing a path to citizenship isn’t just about immigration. It’s about bringing millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows, where they are currently vulnerable to every employer abuse imaginable.

Learn more about the connection between workers’ rights and immigrant rights here.

What did we leave out?

What did we leave out?

There’s a lot more going on that we didn’t cover. Feel free to keep the list going in the comments below, and visit WorkingAmerica.org for more information on how you can get involved.

Respoted from BuzzFeed

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