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Queer rights are labor rights and labor rights are queer rights

February 28, 2018

How the Supreme Court comes down in Janus v. AFSCME could deal a body-blow to labor; and, with it, make discrimination against LGBTQ workers much easier.

On February 26, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME. The case is focused on whether a worker must pay dues when one is covered by a collective bargaining agreement and receives representation from a union. A ruling against labor would mean a person could receive all the benefits from representation without having to pay a dime. This potential theft from unions would harm all workers, but LGBTQ workers could face new forms of discrimination.

LGBTQ people —  especially LGBTQ people of color, the transgender community, and gender nonbinary people —  are more likely to need access to the sort of benefits a union provides:

  • We need representation to ensure that nondiscrimination provisions are enforced. More than a quarter of lesbian, gay, and bisexual working people report being denied a promotion due to their sexual orientation; more than a quarter of transgender and gender nonbinary people report being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired due to their gender identity or expression in the previous twelve month.
  • We need access to health insurance. LGBTQ people have less access to health insurance, despite the fact that LGBTQ people face significant physical, mental, and behavioral health disparities.
  • We need access to paid leave that recognizes all members of our family.Not only are LGBTQ people less likely to have access to paid time off, many paid time off policies don’t recognize members of our families that are not legally related. Because many of us struggle to form legal relationships to our families, we need representation to ensure that our families are recognized by our employes.

Like all working people, LGBTQ people need access to paid sick and safe leave, to job security, and to health insurance.  Unions help secure those benefits, especially for people who are marginalized in our economy.

Make no mistake – economic justice demands that all of us have access to secure employment, health care, and paid leave for ourselves and for our loved ones, regardless of whether a union is available.  The decision the court makes will make a significant difference in our ability to ensure these rights are available to all, and we must fight to ensure we have strong unions to protect all of us at work. Undermining unions could undermine all working people. Our vision is exactly the opposite: we demand a system where everyone enjoys living wages, healthcare, and non-discrimination. That is a mission of full equality, justice, and freedom for all LGBTQ people and our families.

by Meghan Maury, Senior Policy Counsel, National LGBTQ Task Force

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