Activists mark Labor Day weekend, call for law to protect LGBT workers

Mon. September 2, 2013 9:08 AM by Wisconsin Gazette

Americans for Workplace Opportunity is marking Labor Day weekend with another call to Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

"We're reminded this Labor Day that everyone should have the opportunity to get and keep a job and provide for their families – one of the most fundamental American values," said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Americans for Workplace Opportunity. "Fortune 500 companies, labor unions and supermajorities of Republicans and Democrats – a rare national consensus – are honoring these values by supporting ENDA. It's time for the Senate to pass this bill."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants to bring the bill to the floor this fall.

In July, ENDA passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee by a 15-7 bipartisan vote – with support from Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Nike, Citigroup, General Mills, US Airways, Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, Coca-Cola and Ernst & Young are among the more than 100 major businesses that back ENDA. The largest labor unions also support the bill, including Service Employees International Union and American Federation of Teachers.

"Labor Day is a time when we celebrate the contributions of workers to our society and our economy," said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union. "However, we must remember that not all workers are equally protected from discrimination. In 2013, this is simply unacceptable."

"The fear of being discriminated against based on who they love often deters great people from stepping up to serve our communities and reach for the stars. Growing up gay, I remember often being paralyzed by this fear. As we reflect back on 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we should recommit ourselves to knocking down barriers for working people and standing up for equal treatment under our laws," AFT president Randi Weingarten said. "The Senate has an opportunity to right this wrong. This Labor Day, we've got to make it clear that the time for ENDA is now."

Nearly 80 percent of Americans back workplace protections for LGBT people, including 77 percent of observant Christians, 72 percent of Deep South residents, 70 percent of Republicans, and 69 percent of seniors. It's so commonsense that most Americans – nearly nine in 10 – mistakenly believe it's already law.

Article provided in partnership with Wisconsin Gazette.