Take pride in your union

By DAVID A. COOK
President

PROUD MARCHERS in last year’s PRIDE parade, Local 655’s delegation led the way. Come join us again June 30. Watch your email blast for assembly details. – Labor Tribune file photo

It’s June, which means Pride Month is in full swing.

For 10 years, UFCW Local 655 has marched in the Pride Parade and we will be again on June 30. Hope you can join us. We were the first Labor union in St. Louis to add our name to the participants in the Pride Parade, and now every year dozens of Labor Organizations march with us.

Every year, we find ourselves fielding the same questions, although we see less and less of them as the years pass. Inevitably, someone will ask us why we march in the parade, why we acknowledge and celebrate pride, or why we say anything about the month and the celebration at all.

When Labor unions say “all workers,” they mean it. There is, of course, a dark piece of our history as there is with many institutions. Labor unions did not always fight for all workers. Some fought for only a select few even while others led the fight for equality. While some Labor unions were demanding justice and fairness for people despite their differences, some were excluding people of color, or women, or anyone who wasn’t a white man.

It’s a sad but important history that we have to acknowledge. You can’t improve if you can’t be honest about what needs improvement.

I am proud that we have improved right here at Local 655. In my time here, I have worked hard to make sure this organization fought for all workers, represented all people, and never excluded someone because of how they look, how they identify or who they love.

That’s why we stand with our 2SLGBTQ+ union siblings. When you’re at work you deserve to be treated exactly the same as the worker next to you. The union contract protects you both equally and your wages and benefits don’t care what you look like or who you are.

Workers can and should stand side-by-side in the fight for a better life. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen. Too often we allow ourselves to be divided based on petty differences. This division only serves to make the rich richer and keep workers subdued. Workers that fight each other don’t stand side-by-side to fight for a better life.

If our Union doesn’t stand up for all workers, then what do we stand for? If we pick and choose which people deserve the most protection, then why should people put their faith in us?

Most of our partners understand these concepts, but there are always a few naysayers. These folks seem to think that fighting for all workers is somehow a detriment to themselves, as if our decision to stand up for the rights of our 2SLGBTQ+ siblings somehow means we won’t stand up for everyone else.

This is not a zero-sum game. Rights for someone else doesn’t mean less rights for you. What is a union if not the mechanism for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to come together and speak with one voice? We don’t have to agree on everything; we don’t all have to vote the same way or worship the same way or love the same way. All we have to do is remember that as workers we have one thing in common: we all want the best life we can make. That means good wages, good benefits, respect on the job, and protection from companies or individuals that would tear us down.

Good wages don’t care what you look like or how you identify. Healthcare means the same thing to me as it does to anyone else. Retirement matters to everyone and protection from unfair attacks from management is critical regardless of who you are.

We are not all the same. We are different, diverse and unique. We are not all the same, but we are all equal. That’s why we stand up and say “Happy Pride Month.” Join us at the PRIDE parade on June 30. Let’s show everyone what solidarity looks like!

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