AFL-CIO doubles down on ENDA support, calls on Congress to act

Posted by Justin Snow
September 11, 2013 4:38 PM |

Richard Trumka.jpg

The nation's largest labor federation reaffirmed its backing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with a seemingly unanimous vote Wednesday calling on Congress to act.

Submitted by the American Federation of Teachers and first adopted in 2009, Resolution 37 vows to redouble the AFL-CIO's support for passage of ENDA and "continue this work until every worker — gay or straight, transgender or not — is treated with dignity and 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," the resolution states. "As we did in 2009, let us commit to doing 'all in our power to see that it passes.'"

The vote by AFL-CIO delegates at their convention in Los Angeles comes as Congress returns from its August recess and advocates prepare for an expected vote on ENDA in the Senate this fall. 

"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," Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told Metro Weekly. "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."

According to Almeida, the resolution could carry particular weight with the only three Senate Democrats who have not yet signed on as cosponsors of ENDA — Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.), Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.). 

"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," Almeida said. "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." 

ENDA, which would prohibit employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, saw its first major movement in more than a decade on July 10 when the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7 to report the bill to the full Senate. HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently told Metro Weekly a vote by the full Senate could be expected following the October special election in New Jersey.

The passage of the AFL-CIO resolution comes after the labor federation, which consists of 57 unions representing 12 million workers, amended its constitution Monday to add a provision prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. The amended section of the federation’s constitution seeking to welcome all workers now reads, "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."

[Photo: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Credit: AFL-CIO.]


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