The United Auto Workers, in move that UAW president Rory Gamble said was long overdue, announced it was setting up a new LGBTQ caucus to operate as part of the union’s established committees on Civil and Human Rights, putting more emphasis on the issues linked to gay issues.
“The UAW has a unique and proud history of early advocacy of LGBTQ issues in its history,” said Gamble, who is working on rebuilding the union’s public image after a scandal that badly damaged the union’s reputation for integrity.
“From contract negotiations that included non-discrimination and insurance protections prior to the legalization of gay marriage, to local union leadership and support for LGBTQ civil rights advocacy, UAW members in many ways have pioneered efforts for the LGBTQ community.
Gamble added, “We are so proud to make this announcement during LGBTQ Pride Month.”
Announcement reflects changes in blue-collar America
Gamble said the member driven caucus will focus on LGBTQ workplace issues and human rights including protection of members from discrimination. Caucus members will create recommended best practice workplace standards, training and programming as well as advise officers and the IEB on key LGBTQ issues.
The announcement by Gamble also reflects the changes in the union’s membership, which is growing younger and now includes graduate students at major universities on the East and West coasts as well as government worker and employees in the gaming industry as well as industrial workers.
Younger industrial workers also tend to be more accepting of different lifestyles than the older workers, whose attitudes reflected a range of attitudes from wry bemusement to disapproval based on religious dogma to outright hatred.
When automakers, such as Fiat Chrysler, began several years back to express support for LGBTQ rights some workers mounted protests, but they quickly fizzled.
Support mirrors union tradition
Gamble emphasized the support for LGBTQ rights mirrors the union’s best traditions of inclusivity.
The UAW Constitution provides for standing committees at the international union, regional union and local union levels including the Civil and Human Rights Committee. LGBTQ local representatives will participate through the standing committees.
“The UAW has been integral in the modern history of civil and human rights whether standing with Dr. Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela, or passing some of the first LGBTQ workplace protections in our contracts,” said Gamble. “We are all proud to have a permanent structure for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”
The UAW caucus will participate in the AFL-CIO’s Pride at Work program. Other labor unions with LGBTQ caucuses, which includes unions such as AFSCME, SEIU, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Education Association and CWA.