Phoenix, Ariz. — Pride at Work, the LGBTQ Constituency Group of the AFL-CIO, held its triennial convention Aug. 23-25 in Phoenix. With the theme of “Proud and Powerful,” this convention was PAW’s tenth since its founding in 1994 as the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Labor Organization.
Over 200 attendees represented a record number of local chapters and demonstrated the overall growth of the organization. Most major unions contributed financially to the convention and appointed representatives to PAW’s national executive board. Open and out LGBTQ union activists are represented at all levels of the organization’s leadership.
One of many speakers at the convention was Josette Jaramillo, president of the Colorado Federation of Labor. She is the first LGBTQ Latinx leader to advance to that position in any state. Jaramillo is one of eight women who are top state AFL-CIO officials. Of them she is the only woman of color. She praised the strike of teachers in Pueblo, where she lives, which ended in victory.
With the convention in Arizona, there were many positive references to the successful teachers strike there. Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association delivered solidarity to the convention. “Screw Janus,” he said, referring to the recent anti-union Supreme Court decision. He noted that the AEA has gained 2,000 new members since the strike, pointing to the potential for pro-union rank-and-file organizing.
The many other guest speakers included other out LGBTQ and pro-LGBTQ labor leaders and some elected officials. They emphasized the need for both unions and the LGBTQ movement to fight back under the current political situation. Unfortunately, there was a tendency at times for speakers to equate fighting back with electing Democrats in November.
The struggle for LGBTQ worker justice is not over, especially for trans workers. They face oppression every day, whether it’s abuse in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention or the murder of trans women of color. Even with a union, it’s still a challenge to obtain insurance plans that cover trans-specific health needs.
On the final day, convention delegates passed a wide range of progressive resolutions, including support for gender-neutral restrooms in every workplace; for a ban on anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy”; and to defeat an anti-trans ballot initiative in Massachusetts. Other resolutions supported the “Count Me In” campaign of building trades workers in New York City; immigrant rights; the Poor People’s Campaign; decriminalization of sex work; and the upcoming International Tribunal on U.S. Colonial Crimes in Puerto Rico.