Orlando, Fla. — A lot of pride and fightback energy was on display at the “Triennial Convention of Pride at Work, AFL-CIO,” in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 26-28. Pride at Work is the official lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer constituency group of the AFL-CIO, created in 1994 as part of a grassroots activist upsurge of the LGBTQ working class.
Some 175 delegates charted a course for the coming year to fight for the needs of LGBTQ workers, their unions and all working people.
The influence of the Black Lives Matter movement was very evident at the convention and a strong BLM resolution was passed. The first-ever all African-American women and trans-inclusive panel addressed the plenary meeting on the subject of “Race and the Queer Community.” Panelists included Elle Hearns, a trans woman leader of GetEQUAL; Carmen Barkley and Sheva Diagne of the AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department; and Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100.
Hearns was a national organizer of the Aug. 25 “Trans Liberation Tuesday,” observed in many cities across the country. Hearns spoke passionately about the dozens of murders of African-American trans persons over the past year, with five murders just in the previous week.
This writer had attended a Boston Black Lives Matter Trans Liberation Day rally in Roxbury, where Andre Francois, the president of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Steelworkers Local 8751, and members of the union’s executive board had pledged union support for trans rights.
The Florida convention unanimously passed a Black Lives Matter resolution on race relations, resolving that “public services that systematically underserve or mistreat communities because of their racial prejudice must be challenged and changed.” Similar language had been used in May at the 44th annual convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
Another resolution directly challenged the group known as the Human Rights Campaign for catering to “big money donors” and for having “misguided priorities [that] have disproportionately affected the transgender community, People of Color and workers.”
The Human Rights Campaign is known to have a “fist-in-glove” relationship with the Democratic Party. The resolution’s particular ire was reserved for HRC’s 90 percent corporate approval rating for Walmart, despite that company’s anti-gay and anti-worker record. The “Our Walmart” campaign of the United Food and Commercial Workers has been fighting for $15 and a union for Walmart workers for the past two years. Rank-and-file members of UFCW’s OUTreach Caucus, known as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Labor and Our Allies,” gave strong support to this resolution.
The most withering attack on corporate America and its paid-for politicians was delivered by Pride at Work Co-President Shane Larson. Addressing the plenary, Larson excoriated Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and the Obama administration in the strongest language imaginable for trying to force the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement through Congress. The TPP is a gift bag to global capitalism that would undermine labor rights in many participating countries and make it impossible to manufacture cheap generic versions of drugs, including life-saving HIV anti-retrovirals.
Pride at Work union members at the convention are involved in organizing for the “Days of Grace” union rally against racism on Sept. 5 in Charleston, S.C., site of the recent terrorist massacre of nine church members at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. One of those killed was the pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who was a known ally of the LGBTQ community.
A number of LGBTQ groups will be participating in the march, which is being organized by the International Longshoremen’s Association, Local 1422, and endorsed by many unions and community groups, including the Southern Workers Assembly.