AFL-CIO gives transgender equality a big push

The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, amended its constitution on Monday by adding a provision banning discrimination based on gender identity or expression.  The AFL-CIO delegates have been at their annual convention in Los Angeles.

Several constituent unions had already added similar wording to their policies.  

Very exciting.  Labor has really been stepping up, and the AFL-CIO has been stepping up.

–Mara Keisling,  executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

The labor movement has long been a leader on full inclusion in the workplace.  This important addition to the governing document of the largest federation of labor unions is a historic and important step forward to ensuring that every American has an equal shot at employment and equal benefits.

–Fred Saenz, vice-president of the Human Rights Campaign

HRC and NCTE are part of Americans for Workplace Opportunity, which is a national coalition pressing Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect LGBT workers from bias in employment.

THE AFL-CIO’s own LGBT organization, Pride at Work, called the federation’s decision, “a great day for our movement.”

The AFL-CIO is made up of 57 national and international unions representing over 12 million workers.

Tico Almeida of Freedom to Work said he was “thrilled” by the news.

The AFL-CIO and its millions of members work hard to improve wages and working conditions for all Americans, and they are squarely on our side as transgender and gay workers fighting for a fair shot at the American Dream.  We are particularly grateful for the leadership of [Communications Workers of America] President Larry Cohen, who introduced the proposal, and our LGBT brothers and sisters at Pride at Work.

Section 4 of the Objectives and Principles section (Article II) of the federation’s Constitution now reads:

Section 4. To encourage all workers without regard to race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, [or] sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to share equally in the full benefits of union organization.

That’s what we want is for everyone to be able to share equally.  I think it says it just right, and the folks who have been working on it – Donna Cartwright, [SEIU’s] Gabriel Haaland, [CWA’s] Shane Larson – are just superstars.


Statistics around the experiences of transgender workers tell a staggering story.  We applaud passage of the resolution that moves this country’s workers forward in protecting all workers.

–Cartwright, the secretary of DC-Baltimore Pride at Work

Cartwright noted, however, that a second proposal, a resolution in support of transgender-inclusive healthcare was “unable to move forward due to technicalities, but will be reintroduced at a later meeting of labor leaders.”

On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO doubled-down with a near unanimous vote calling on Congress to pass ENDA.  The vote on Resolution 37, first introduced by the American Federation of Teachers in 2009, calls for the federation to support passage of ENDA and “continue this work until every worker —gay or straight, transgender or not — is treated with 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.’

–Resolution 37

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As a former member of the AFL-CIO’s organizing team, I am thrilled to learn that America’s largest labor federation has passed a resolution calling on Congress to act now and pass commonsense workplace protections for LGBT Americans.  We are particularly grateful for the leadership of the AFT, which introduced the resolution, as well as all of our LGBT brothers and sisters at Pride at Work.


The resolution could carry some weight with the three Senate Democrats who have not yet signed on as co-sponsors:  Nelson (FL), Manchin (WV), and Pryor (AR).

Freedom to Work has been meeting with union leaders and union members from key ENDA states and diverse sectors of the economy as we move rapidly toward a winning Senate vote this fall and then a strong ENDA campaign in the House of Representatives.  I think the AFL-CIO’s ENDA efforts will be particularly important for persuading the three remaining Democratic Senate holdouts: Manchin, Nelson and Pryor.  After that, whether we attach ENDA to a spending bill in the Senate or launch a discharge petition in the House, we look forward to pushing forward strongly with our labor friends to improve wages and working conditions for all Americans.


1 comment

    • Robyn on September 14, 2013 at 12:02 am

    [The AFL-CIO’s] willingness to embrace the dubious concepts of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ are bound to offend many unionized workers.

    Stan Greer,National Institute for Labor Relations Research

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