Partners standing together for PRIDE
By DAVID A. COOK
Next week, UFCW Local 655 will march in the St. Louis Pride Parade continuing the tradition that began six years ago when we were the first labor union in St. Louis to participate.
While the parade is great fun – a colorful and uplifting event with an enthusiastic crowd and tens of thousands of participants — it’s more than just an excuse to blow up balloons and perch our rainbow-colored arch on our parade float. It’s a chance to remind the public what unions do for all workers, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
What some of you may not know is that Missouri remains a hostile state for the LGBTQ community. In Missouri it is illegal to fire someone or evict them from their home if they are a woman, Muslim or African American. But it’s perfectly legal to do so if they are LGBTQ. Missouri is one of the few states that still has legal discrimination on the books. That’s a tragedy.
For more than 20 years, some politicians have fought to end this through the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA). Unions have lobbied to stop such discrimination, but the debate continues in the halls of the Capitol, allowing hard-working men and women to still be discriminated against unless they belong to a union, of course.
UNIONS PROTECT WHEN ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS FAIL
Where the law continues to fall short in Missouri, unions are filling an important role. Union brothers and sisters can’t be fired simply because of who they are, or the life they lead. Our LGBTQ partners in Local 655 can’t be fired simply because someone wants to discriminate against them. They are protected by a union contract.
The beauty of union contracts is that they don’t see color or creed, they don’t care what language you speak or what faith you practice or the gender you are. They protect ALL workers covered under the contract equally, as partners in a union family.
IN UNION FAMILIES, EVERYONE IS EQUAL
That’s why we choose to march in the Pride Parade every year. We want our brothers and sister to know that in this family, we are all equal. In this family, we believe that everyone ought to be treated the same on the job as the person standing next to them. In this family, we believe in the dignity of all workers, the importance of respect on the job, and the value of good wages and good benefits for all.
While our visibility at the Pride Parade and celebration is a chance to remember what unions do when the law doesn’t adequately protect workers, it is not the only time the union difference is so clear.
Despite the Equal Pay Act, women continue to make less money than men for the same work. That is, of course, unless they have a union contract. And while racial discrimination is illegal under the law, it is difficult — even impossible sometimes – for a victim of discrimination at work to get justice without a union standing beside them and demanding the equality we know that all people deserve.
It’s easy to take something like this for granted, and it’s especially easy to forget how critical this function of a Union is when you’ve never experienced real discrimination based on who you are. But during this Pride month, we want to continue to remind our partners about the Union difference.
Sometimes the difference is better wages or guaranteed raises. Sometimes the difference is high-quality healthcare or pension. And sometimes the difference is a chance to fight back against discrimination and hate with a strong family standing beside you.
Our Union family stands together as one. We fight for each other. We respect each other. United we bargain. Divided we beg.
Happy Pride month to every single partner in our union family.