The fight for worker power is the fight for LGBTQIA+ justice
The high-profile worker-organizing campaigns at Amazon, Starbucks, and most recently Apple signal a resurgence of the labor movement. Across the country, workers are rising up to fight back against unsafe workplace conditions, unfair labor practices, and a system that values profit over the health and wellbeing of its people. The reinvigorated movement is driven particularly by younger people, who are also carrying the torch of the fight for justice for LGBTQIA+ people.
Throughout its history and continuing today, the fight for workers’ rights has been intertwined with the rights of all oppressed people, including the LGBTQIA+ community. Social and economic justice have always driven the mutual support between the labor movement and the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The fight for worker justice is inextricably tied to the fight for LGBTQIA+ justice,” says Eileen Berkun, the chair of the SEIU Local 1021 Lavender Solidarity Committee. The committee’s mission is to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights within the union and in the workplace. Committee members work to educate their coworkers and employers about sexual orientation and gender identity issues and ensure that their concerns are included in all aspects of union work, including contract bargaining, workplace rights, healthcare benefits, and political action.
“The two movements, histories, and presents cannot be separated. The same forces that seek to divide and weaken us at the bargaining table are the same that want to control how we live our lives, whom we love, and what kind of relationships we can pursue. I feel that people should care about others, period, and if somebody’s being mistreated, that’s wrong, and it should be challenged. We can accomplish great things when we realize that the struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality and worker power are one and the same. Having the same enemies makes it easier for us to work together.”
When looking at the current moment, Eileen takes a step back to explain where both movements are. “It really is impressive how things have changed, and it’s kind of scary how there’s still that resistance to the change. I feel very concerned about what is happening at the national level. The fight to roll back women’s rights is deeply connected to the LGBTQIA+ community. Both movements are just that: movements. In order for our rights to be protected, we need a massive movement of people willing to stand up, speak out, and fight back against bigotry, whether it is because of whom you love or what kind of work you do for a living. SEIU Local 1021 has been at the forefront in making those connections clear as day to its members and the community at large. The fight for one is a fight for the other.”
The 1021 Lavender Solidarity Committee is open to all SEIU 1021 members and staff. For more information contact Chair Eileen Berkun at firstname.lastname@example.org.