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Out at Work: Building a Gay-Labor Alliance

Kitty Krupat
Patrick McCreery
Volume: 17
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 294
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttshfz
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  • Book Info
    Out at Work
    Book Description:

    Although mainstream gay rights organizations have tended to imagine their community as primarily middle class, an overwhelming number of lesbians and gays are working class, and many are already union members. Out at Work identifies the important parallels between the labor and gay rights movements and their shared work of foregrounding human rights, fighting homophobia, and embracing the full range of sexual expression. Contributors: Cathy J. Cohen, Teresa Conrow, Lisa Duggan, William Fletcher Jr., Representative Barney Frank, Tami Gold, Yvette Herrera, Desma Holcomb, Amber Hollibaugh, Gloria Johnson, Tamara Jones, Heidi Kooy, Andrew Ross, Van Alan Sheets, Nikhil Pal Singh, John J. Sweeney, Jeff Truesdell, Urvashi Vaid, Riki Anne Wilchins, and Kent Wong._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9248-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)
    Patrick McCreery and Kitty Krupat

    Those who came of age in the 1960s remember the street fighting in Chicago, when New Left radicals and countercultural hippies descended upon the 1968 Democratic convention. It was a moment of political passion that would not be seen again in the United States until December 1999, when protesters of every political stripe, from liberal to radical, effectively derailed the World Trade Organization summit on global trade. In Chicago, organized labor was safe and sound inside the Democratic Party convention hall. Thirty years later, in Seattle, labor was in the street, thirty thousand strong. Though uncounted, lesbian and gay union...

  5. Out of Labor’s Dark Age: Sexual Politics Comes to the Workplace
    (pp. 1-23)
    Kitty Krupat

    In October 1995, John Sweeney was elected to head the nation’s labor federation. He had come to office in a coup d’état of sorts, engineered from within the AFL-CIO by an oppositionist cadre bent on ousting the administration of Lane Kirkland.¹ His victory was widely regarded as a repudiation of forty years of conservative leadership under Kirkland and his predecessor, George Meany. To mark the first anniversary of this event, a group of historians organized a labor teach-in at Columbia University in October 1996. It drew nearly two thousand participants, a mixed crowd of leftist intellectuals and progressive trade unionists,...

  6. The Growing Alliance between Gay and Union Activists
    (pp. 24-30)
    John J. Sweeney

    I still recall the day in October of 1983 when a resolution condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation came up on the floor of the AFL-CIO’s Fifteenth Constitutional Convention. Seventeen years ago, the resolution was something of a landmark, a declaration of the labor movement’s support for a group of workers whose identity and particular concerns had never been acknowledged or addressed before. At the time, I was president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which had sponsored the resolution. I rose to speak in favor of it. Since that day, I have spoken out many times...

  7. Beyond Gay: “Deviant” Sex and the Politics of the ENDA Workplace
    (pp. 31-51)
    Patrick McCreery

    In July 1996, theWashington Postreported allegations that Jeffrey Dion Bruton, a physical education teacher at a local middle school, had worked surreptitiously as an actor in gay porn. Titillating to begin with, thePost’s exposé of Bruton’s “double life” was made more so by the fact that the allegations came from Bruton’s wife, who cited her newly discovered knowledge of her husband’s sex work as grounds for divorce. Local television pounced on the story, comparing pictures of Bruton to ones of “Ty Fox,” the muscular blonde star of such videos asFox’s Lair, Ty Me Up,andHot...

  8. What Is This Movement Doing to My Politics?
    (pp. 52-59)
    Cathy J. Cohen

    It seems to me that we have reached a critical moment in the politics of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer (LGBTTSQ) communities. Specifically, we seem to be fractured as never before. While there have always been tensions and divisions among LGBTTSQ people, at this moment in time the differentiated organized interests that exist among our national organizations are especially visible and appear to have a vicious edge. In part, this tension is the result of the proliferation of groups representing the varied interests and politics of queers. Technological advances also allow us to monitor the actions of “our” elites...

  9. Sexuality, Labor, and the New Trade Unionism: A Conversation
    (pp. 60-77)
    Amber Hollibaugh and Nikhil Pal Singh

    NIKHIL PAL SINGH: We want to discuss the relationship between sexual politics and the labor movement, a subject that you have given a great deal of thought and active effort to. Perhaps you could begin by telling us about some of the organizing work that you have been doing around issues of sexuality in the workplace.

    AMBER HOLLIBAUGH: About ten years ago, I was at the AIDS Discrimination Unit of the New York City Human Rights Commission. At that time, we were already looking at discrimination issues and the union movement. The hospital workers union, 1199, was concerned about HIV,...

  10. Strike a Pose for Justice: The Barneys Union Campaign of 1996
    (pp. 78-91)
    Andrew Ross

    The days are over when union pride alone could sustain an audience for commercial entertainment. The high watermark remainsPins and Needles(1937–41), the famous musical revue sponsored by the ILGWU and performed by garment workers, which turned into one of the longest running musicals in Broadway history. This immensely successful production, which irradiated the popular show tune with overtly political lyrics (“I’m on a campaign to make you mine / I’ll picket you until you sign / In one big union for two,” and “Sing me of wars and sing me of breadlines / Sing me of strikes...

  11. Conversations with a GenderQueer: Talking with Riki Anne Wilchins
    (pp. 92-111)
    Patrick McCreery and Kitty Krupat

    PATRICK MCCREERY: Before we get to the larger question of the potential for a radical collaboration between LGBT movements, organized labor, and intellectuals, I would like to ask you about gender, which often seems to get left out of this discussion. Why is it that so few activists talk about or work toward transgender rights?

    RIKI ANNE WILCHINS: Well, I see we’re just going to dive in there. (Laughter.) Of all the things that we convey to each other as human beings, perhaps the first and most fundamental is our gender. It’s the reason we put on certain clothes in...

  12. Trollops and Tribades: Queers Organizing in the Sex Business
    (pp. 112-132)
    Heidi M. Kooy

    Chants like “Bad girls like good contracts!” “Two, four, six, eight, don’t come here to masturbate!” and “No justice, nopiece!” are not run-of-the-mill slogans shouted by workers protesting unfair pay and working conditions.

    But then, the employees at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady Theater were not running the average labor organizing campaign. In the summer of 1996, the dancers, janitors, and cashiers of this San Francisco peepshow decided they were fed up with unfair treatment on the job and sought union representation. Although they were not the first strip club to attempt to unionize, they are the only organized club...

  13. Being a Lesbian Trade Unionist: The Intersection of Movements
    (pp. 133-149)
    Teresa Conrow

    I first heard the chant “10 Percent Is Not Enough . . . Recruit . . . Recruit . . . Recruit” at a dyke march. The chant does a great job of making light of straight people’s fears that lesbians will negatively influence straight women. This chant in particular, for me, was a piece of culture with the potential to transcend some of the divisions within my life and between the lesbian and labor movements.

    Both the lesbian and labor movements are used to chanting at demonstrations and on the picket line. In the labor movement, the “10 Percent”...

  14. Making Out at Work
    (pp. 150-171)
    Tami Gold

    In June 1992, Kelly Anderson and I videotaped a conference on gay and lesbian workplace rights that was sponsored by LAGIC, the Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee of District Council 37. D.C. 37 is one of the largest units in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the conference was held at its headquarters in Manhattan.¹ What made this labor event different from hundreds I had been to in the past was that everyone here was queer. The first regional conference of its kind, it drew gays and lesbians from several unions and many different workplaces across...

  15. “Top-Down” or “Bottom-Up”?: Sexual Identity and Workers’ Rights in a Municipal Union
    (pp. 172-195)
    Tamara L. Jones

    The windowless room in the basement of the multistory building near the World Trade Center is packed with people passionately discussing an upcoming workshop to examine the details and terms of their job contracts. Although I do not share their employer, I share their excitement. Sitting in the room are a police dispatcher, a construction worker, an architect, secretaries and clerical workers, administrative assistants, safety and health inspectors, and a Board of Education administrator. They are men and women, Black, Latino/a, White, Native American, and Asian, and come from widely varying educational, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Despite these differences, they...

  16. Homophobia, Labor’s Last Frontier? A Discussion with Labor Leaders William Fletcher Jr., Yvette Herrera, Gloria Johnson, and Van Alan Sheets
    (pp. 196-210)
    Kitty Krupat and Patrick McCreery

    William Fletcher Jr.,Assistant to the President, AFL-CIOYvette Herrera,Assistant to the Executive Vice President, Communication Workers of America (CWA)

    Gloria Johnson,Director of Social Action, International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE); President, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW); Vice President and Member, AFL-CIO Executive Council

    Van Alan Sheets,Assistant Director of Political Action, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Officer, Pride at Work (PAW)

    YVETTE HERRERA: Kitty and Pat asked us how widespread homophobia is in the workplace and is it receding. The way I would answer is that homophobia is very widespread. But to...

  17. Kingdom Come: Gay Days at Disney World
    (pp. 211-231)
    Jeff Truesdell

    Walt Disney might have been horrified. Self-appointed guardians of the “family values” labeldefinitelywould have been horrified. But there was no fear—or even a hint of irony—on the part of the video crew stationed in the forecourt of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, their camera trained on a well-toned man wearing a goatee, cutoff shorts, a red T-shirt and, dangling from his neck, rainbow-colored beads. “So,” said the interviewer, reporting for a tourism show to be broadcast on German TV, “Tell us: What kind of man do you like?”

    On that Saturday in June 1999, the...

  18. Imagining the Gay–Labor Alliance: A Forum
    (pp. 232-257)

    To conclude this volume, the editors have asked four activists from different backgrounds and professional sectors to reflect upon a single question: What is the practical potential for a gay–labor alliance? We have asked them to answer that question from the perspective of their own personal history and professional experience. Responding to this question are Urvashi Vaid, director of the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF); Kent Wong, director of the Center for La bor Research and Education at the University of California, Los Angeles; Desma Holcomb, director of research for UNITE (Union of...

  19. Afterword
    (pp. 258-262)
    Lisa Duggan

    I had a dream about the twenty-first century. Actually, it was a nightmare. In it there were two worlds; I had to choose between them. One world, called The Left, operated smoothly and efficiently, its population officially Unified around the Universal Progressive Agenda. The Agenda was posted everywhere, signed by the Universal Visionaries. I don’t remember all the names, but I think I saw Richard Rorty, Todd Gitlin, Eric Alterman. There were women and people of color—even a few queers—on all the Universal Welfare Committees, but everyone had learned the error of divisiveness from the teachings of the...

  20. Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  21. Permissions
    (pp. 267-268)