Laboring For Rights

Laboring For Rights

EDITED BY Gerald Hunt
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Temple University Press
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  • Book Info
    Laboring For Rights
    Book Description:

    How do unions around the world respond to issues raised by sexual minorities? Much as been written on labor's response to issues raised by women and racial minorities, but there has been little work done on labor's engagement with gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered. The original essays in this collection attempt to fill that void by bringing together a group of experts who examine labor's response to such issues as benefits for same-sex partners, anti-discrimination language in collective agreements, and education. Speaking from a variety of racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and political views, the contributors bring their unique personal perspectives and scholarly approaches to this groundbreaking book.The chapters included inLaboring for Rightsgive a global vision to the increasingly important subject of equity in the workplace. They offer a much-needed look at labor's involvement with current international workplace conditions from such diverse countries as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and South Africa, as well as parts of the South Pacific. Some of these countries have strong and progressive labor unions; some, like the U.S., have relatively weak labor organizations. But whatever the context, as these articles demonstrate, there seems to be a growing and in some instances prospering gay/lesbian labor alliance in many parts of the world.Laboring for Rightsis a pioneering text in an important new area of labor study. It will engage readers interested in equality in the workplace, labor and organizational studies, gay and lesbian activism, and international, comparative studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0117-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 What Can Be Done? Sexual Diversity and Labor Unions in Perspective
    (pp. 1-9)
    Gerald Hunt

    This book examines organized labor’s response to inequity concerns raised by sexual minorities.¹ Although organized labor has often been preoccupied with wage and benefit issues—its policies shaped by traditional conceptions of social class and gender—a number of trade unions and labor federations have expanded their mandate to include equity issues. This is an important development because organized labor remains one of the largest and most powerful of social and political movements. As such, it has the potential to force equity issues onto the agendas of public and private corporations that might otherwise be unreceptive to such concerns. In...

  5. 2 No Longer Outsiders: Labor’s Response to Sexual Diversity in Canada
    (pp. 10-36)
    Gerald Hunt

    Dateline Ottawa: Clearly, the organizers of the first Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) conference on sexual orientation held in October 1997 were a bit surprised at their own success. In opening the conference, a spokesperson said they had imagined a hundred or so people would attend, but 350 people registered. Her announcement was followed by much applause; some conference participants hooted and hollered with excitement. When a semblance of silence returned (this was a very excited crowd!), the spokesperson said in a beautifully restrained voice: “I guess it’s our time, and it’s about time.” Five minutes of craziness followed: People hugged...

  6. 3 Fighting It Out in Canadian Courts
    (pp. 37-57)
    Cynthia Petersen

    In the previous chapter, Gerald Hunt summarized the kinds of discrimination that lesbians and gay men face in Canada and highlighted the role that organized labor has played in addressing these problems. As he pointed out, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has become less common over the past two decades, but it persists in many sectors and continues to affect the lives of countless workers. Certainly, unions bear some responsibility for human rights violations against lesbian and gay employees. Some unions, for example, have negotiated collective agreement clauses that benefit heterosexual employees exclusively. Some have failed in other ways...

  7. 4 A Short History of Lesbian and Gay Labor Activism in the United States
    (pp. 58-86)
    Christian Arthur Bain

    Like Howard Wallace, lesbian and gay labor activists across the country have long seen themselves as a bridge between two natural allies. On the labor side, they have brought the concerns of lesbian and gay union members to a movement that has traditionally protected the right of workers to live their personal lives freely, without fear of discrimination or dismissal by their employers.

    In the lesbian and gay rights movement, these activists have worked to raise awareness of a generally middle-class leadership to the issues of working-class lesbians and gay men and to the critical role that unions have played...

  8. 5 Lesbian and Gay Caucuses in the U.S. Labor Movement
    (pp. 87-102)
    Miriam Frank

    Shirley Clarke runs a community residence house for the mentally handicapped for the State of Massachusetts. She had been a union activist and officer and an ardent fighter for the rights of sexual minorities well before a job upgrade transferred her union membership from American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 402 to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509. As a Local 402 vice president, chief steward, newsletter staffer, and strike leader, Clarke had never been shy about her lesbian identity and had pushed the local to participate in Boston gay pride events.

    When Clarke became...

  9. 6 Domestic Partner Health Benefits: The Corporate Model vs. the Union Model
    (pp. 103-120)
    Desma Holcomb

    Domestic partner health insurance benefits became big news in the United States in 1991 whenBusiness Weekreported on domestic partner benefits at the Lotus Development Corporation: “Lotus Opens a Door for Gay Partners; It’s the First Big Company to Give Benefits to Gay Workers’ ‘Spouses.’”¹ The vice president for human resources at the computer software firm asserts in the article that “This is fair and equal.” As the article reveals, however, these benefits would not apply to unmarried, cohabiting straight couples. Lotus’s reasoning is that “straight couples have the option of marriage, while homosexual colleagues don’t.” When asked about...

  10. 7 The Limits to Union: Labor, Gays and Lesbians, and Marriage in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 121-139)
    Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller

    The strategies that have brought the labor movement in the United States to the same table as lesbian and gay organizations to dine on the fruits of common interest have had mixed success. Right-wing initiatives to deprive gays and lesbians of their civil rights in Maine, Oregon, and Idaho in recent years have been met by coalitions between labor and other progressive forces that helped defeat each, although by very slim majorities. In some public and private contract negotiations, labor has supported the extension of benefits to gay and lesbian partners, encouraging a “silent revolution” of progressive social policy even...

  11. 8 Silence at Work: Trade Unions, Gender, and Sexual Diversity in the South Pacific
    (pp. 140-156)
    Jacqueline Leckie

    Peni lives on one of the islands in the South Pacific. He has a reputation as an excellent nurse and aggressive unionist. His coworkers and patients respect his decisiveness and strong personality, but they know little of the contradictions he has battled throughout his working life. His conversation ranges from in-depth analysis to sharp, campy humor, and he reflects warmly on a childhood spent in the company of strong professional women. His mother and many of his aunties were nurses, a respectable career for Pacific Islands women, typifying the feminine virtues of caring, devoted service, and long working hours with...

  12. 9 Sexual Identity and the Australian Labor Movement in Historical Perspective
    (pp. 157-190)
    Shane Ostenfeld

    Employment discrimination against sexual minorities, ranging from nonhiring to harassment and violence on the job, has been just as prevalent in Australia as in comparable countries.¹ The masculinist Australian labor movement might be presumed complicit in this discrimination. From the time that lesbians and gays began to organize into a social movement in the 1970s, however, the industrial and political wings of labor have proved to be the most receptive and actively supportive institutional forces within Australian society.² This receptivity can be attributed in part to the growing strength of white-collar workers in the organized labor movement and in part...

  13. 10 At a Turning Point: Organized Labor, Sexual Diversity, and the New South Africa
    (pp. 191-205)
    Mazibuko K. Jara, Naomi Webster and Gerald Hunt

    Collin Ndaba, the general secretary of a trade union, calls Charity into his office with a very somber expression on his face. He says, “Charity, I have something serious to tell you. Mazibuko has been hiding something from you and Cornelia. Do you know he is gay? He has spoken to me about protecting the rights of gay and lesbian workers, but I am going to ignore him.” Charity is thinking: Mazibuko is working for a lesbian and gay rights organization. He does not have to be gay to work for lesbian and gay equality. Why does it matter one...

  14. 11 On the Fringes of the New Europe: Sexual Diversity Activism and the Labor Movement
    (pp. 206-237)
    David Rayside

    From the early 1980s, transnational European institutions have given lesbian and gay activists opportunities to challenge the most oppressive laws and regulations of their native countries. In recent years, these openings appear to have widened and are being used more frequently to provide leverage against reluctant governments and legislatures. Hesitantly and unevenly, labor unions have also been developing a presence at the European level. They were long wary of the European Economic Community and its successors, treating it for good reason as a one-sided accommodation to corporate interests. The recognition that transnational corporate growth would threaten union leverage at the...

  15. 12 Labor Unions and Sexual Diversity in Germany
    (pp. 238-252)
    Ronald Holzhacker

    The modern struggle within German labor unions for nondiscrimination and equality in the workplace and society began with the efforts of gay and lesbian activists who emerged from the student protest movement during the late 1960s. The earliest activists were members of the Berlin branch of the Union of Public Services and Transport (Gewerkschaft Öffentliche Dienste, Transport, und Verkehror ÖTV). The union’s reaction to their appearance on the public stage was swift and harsh, including threats of expulsion if the activists continued to represent themselves as gay and lesbian members of the ÖTV.

    Now, two decades later, officially recognized...

  16. 13 British Trade Unions and Sexual Diversity: Survey Evidence Since the 1980s
    (pp. 253-260)
    Phil Greasley

    In 1975, only a few years after the surge of gay liberation activism, the National Union of Journalists became the first labor union in Britain, and one of the first in the world, to formally adopt a progressive policy on sexual orientation. This was in a country in which resistance to such measures was very powerfully embedded in the legal and political order, and inside the union movement itself.

    As Fiona Colgan shows in her contribution to this volume, parts of the British labor movement have been actively engaged with the concerns of lesbian and gay members for a substantial...

  17. 14 Moving Forward in UNISON: Lesbian and Gay Self-Organization in Action
    (pp. 261-289)
    Fiona Colgan

    UNISON is Britain’s largest trade union and the largest public service union in Europe. It organizes 1.4 million public service workers in the United Kingdom. During the 1990s, UNISON engaged in one of the most radical attempts in the history of British trade unionism to encourage the participation and representation ofallsections of its membership, including a specific commitment to lesbian and gay workers and their employment and human rights. Equality was at the heart of UNISON’s constitution when it was formed in 1993 from the merger of three public sector unions: the National Association of Local Government Officers...

  18. 15 Laboring for Rights in Global Perspective
    (pp. 290-300)
    Gerald Hunt

    The cases presented in this book highlight the real gains and considerable progress made by sexual minorities through alliances with organized labor. Since the 1980s, labor organizations in a growing number of locations around the world have helped to bring about change not only through policy and education initiatives within their own organizations, but also by pressing employers to adopt inclusive collective-agreement provisions and by lobbying governments for expansive reading of antidiscrimination provisions in human rights codes and other legislation. Some labor organizations have committed considerable financial and human resources to assist litigants in challenges before arbitrators, courts, and other...

  19. About the Contributors
    (pp. 301-302)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-303)