Strength In Numbers

At last year’s Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, members unanimously passed a nondiscrimination resolution and created the foundation for Pennsylvania to have its first charter of Pride at Work. Pride at Work is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBT union members and their allies. They are officially recognized as a constituency group of the AFL-CIO, and they work to organize mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBT community to further social and economic justice.

“An overwhelming majority of our LGBT community are workers. Therefore, worker issues are LGBT issues,” said Adanjesus Marin, CoPresident of Pa Pride at Work and Member Political Director of SEIU Healthcare Pa. “As members of the LGBT community we know that today the best way to protect ourselves from discrimination, and even economic hardship, is with a union contract. As labor leaders we know that attacks on the LGBT community are weapons of the Tea Party conservatives to keep working people divided and attempt to instill fear in potential LGBT activists for broad justice. This is why labor issues are LGBT issues and vice versa,” explains Marin.

Dozens of LGBT union members from around the state attended the first meeting and a few months later were able to hold elections in order to have officers in place to move the charter forward. Marin, along with Michele Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW 1776, were elected co-presidents. Josh Rafsky of USW, was elected Secretary and I was elected as Treasurer. Now that we have our officers in place we are ready to get to work on making Pennsylvania the best place to live and work, tearing down the walls of discrimination as we go. If the initial meetings we have had so far are any indication of the potential of this new charter has, then we will soon be a force to be reckoned with, and we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Despite winning the right to marry this past year, Pennsylvania is still a state that does not include sexual orientation and/or identity in its non-discrimination laws. That means that if your boss sees that you got married you could be fired, if you don’t live in one of the few counties in PA that offers non-discrimination protection. That’s just plain wrong, and Pride at work has vowed to fight it, so that all Pennsylvanians can live their lives without fear of discrimination.

Pride at Work PA, also intends to fight to win trans inclusive health coverage in employer and union plans. So often our trans brothers and sisters don’t seek the care they need because their insurance plans, if they are lucky enough to have insurance, don’t cover the medications and/or procedures they need in order to stay healthy. It’s not right that trans people in this state don’t have access to healthcare coverage that is appropriate to their needs. Non-discrimination and trans inclusive health coverage are just two things Pride at Work has vowed to take on. We want to be the first place a union or employer goes to in order to make sure they are doing the right thing when it comes to LGBT equality, as well as mobilizing the LGBT community around worker justice issues.

We will serve as a resource for unions to share best practices and contract language on winning non-discrimination through collective bargaining. So often, we find that while unions want to do the right thing by all of their members, they simply don’t have the language to do so. That is where Pride at Work will come into play. Not only will we be able to offer inclusive language, we will be able to offer information to unions that is helpful for internal use. There are times when workers face discrimination from their fellow co-workers. With a resource like Pride at Work, unions can educate their members and open the dialogue that makes the workplace stronger and safer for all workers.

Pennsylvania’s charter of Pride at Work is more than just a group of LGBT activists and allies meeting regularly, as you can tell, we have plans. Don’t miss an opportunity to get involved and let your voice be heard in a safe space with like-minded union brothers and sisters. As mentioned before, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but with dedicated members working together there is no doubt we will be able to achieve trans inclusive health care, state wide non discrimination policies and become the state’s leading resource for employers and unions who wish to be more equitable.

If you are interested in joining, email paprideatwork@gmail.com or like us at facebook.com/prideatworkPA