LOS ANGELES - At its 2013 convention here Sept. 11 the AFL-CIO passed a strongly worded resolution calling for an end to on-the-job discrimination against gay people.
"The AFL-CIO supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and will do all in our power to see that it passes," the federation declared. That proposed legislation, also referred to as ENDA, would prohibit discrimination in the workplace (including in hiring) by employers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The resolution, submitted by the American Federation of Teachers, highlighted how important that legislation is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. "ENDA does what no other law currently does: creates express protections for LGBT people in the workplace. These are similar to protections under existing federal discrimination laws that protect other classes of workers on the basis of sex, religion, race, and ethnicity. ENDA would put in place uniform and comprehensive protections for LGBT workers in all 50 states."
And though four years have passed since the AFL-CIO convention committed to supporting ENDA, "little movement has been made on this vital piece of legislation - until now.
"The LGBT movement is experiencing unprecedented momentum. Last November, Maine, Maryland, and Washington joined a growing group of states to pass full marriage equality. This year, Delaware, Minnesota, and Rhode Island followed suit, bringing the total number of states to 13. One-third of the U.S. population now lives in a state with marriage equality.
"These victories were compounded by a Supreme Court decision in late June that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and gives same-sex couples married in states with marriage equality full protections under federal law.
"The momentum of marriage equality, and the changing tide of public opinion, clears the way for the swift passage of ENDA."
Furthermore, said the resolution, "Civil rights, human rights, business, religious, labor, and LGBT communities are coming together in bipartisan spirit to make ENDA law."
In particular, said the statement, the AFL-CIO and its affiliates "are leading the way for LGBT protections on the job," and "have been leading advocates against discrimination in the workplace, however it manifests. ... Without ENDA, the only protection many LGBT workers have is their union contracts. Union workers can be fired only with just cause and often have access to grievance procedures and arbitration. Additionally, many union contracts do what the law does not: protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
Now that the momentum required is there - all across the country - the resolution concluded, "We must work to win freedom from discrimination for all workers. The AFL-CIO will redouble its support for the passage of ENDA and continue until every worker - gay or straight, transgender or not - is treated with dignity and respect on the job. We urge all national and international unions to join in the effort to pass ENDA and to use their influence to sway those members of Congress who will be instrumental in the bill's passage. As we did in 2009, let us commit to doing 'all in our power to see that it passes."
Photo: Pride at Work Facebook page