Pride at Work Tells HRC: ‘Enough Is Enough’

Pride at Work Tells HRC: ‘Enough Is Enough’

Pride at Work is done playing nice with the Human Rights Campaign. 

The LGBT workers’ organization this weekend approved a scathing resolution that calls on member organizations to stop funding the Human Rights Campaign until the advocacy group addresses what Pride at Work sees as systemic issues and key problems with HRC’s Corporate Equality Index

After what the LGBT labor organization contends have been months of unfruitful conversations with HRC staffers about the importance of valuing companies with strong union practices in HRC’s CEI, the nonprofit organization, which represents LGBT union members and their allies, overwhelmingly approved the resolution at its triennial convention, held in Orlando, Fla., from August 26-29. Organizers tell The Advocate the voice-vote on the resolution returned only a single “no” vote.

“Through this resolution, the members of Pride @ Work are demanding that enough is enough,” Shane Larson, co-president of Pride at Work and a member of Communication Workers of America, tells The Advocate. “Working people are under attack every day, and a war on their rights to come together and fight for a voice on the job is being waged by many of the corporations that HRC asks the LGBT community to celebrate.” 

As an officially recognized constituency group of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Pride at Work “organizes mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBT community to further social and economic justice,” according to the group’s website

The resolution lays out a litany of issues the organization finds with HRC’s organization, priorities, and most specifically, its annual Corporate Equality Index, which purports to identify companies with strong protections and worthwhile benefits for its LGBT employees. 

The opening salvo of the page-long resolution (read it in full on the following page) indicates the tone of Pride at Work’s message, and its ongoing frustration with the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. 

“Too often, HRC has catered to its big-moneyed donors at the expense of those who live on the margins,” reads the resolution. “These misguided priorities have disproportionately impacted the transgender community, people of color, and workers, and; … LGBT consumers look to the CEI when deciding how to spend their hard-earned money.”

As such, Pride at Work argues, “the CEI should paint an accurate and complete picture about companies’ policies and practices when it comes to LGBT equality, but has fallen woefully short of this standard.”

Until HRC remedies the issues outlined in detail by the resolution, “Pride at Work calls upon all labor unions, labor federations, and labor-affiliated organizations to cease funding HRC at all levels until these matters are addressed in a manner that shows HRC stands in solidarity with all working Americans for a fair, just and equal society.” 

The resolution is binding on the organization of Pride at Work, though leaders note that “of course, it is not binding on any individual union or the AFL-CIO.” That being said, leaders estimate that if all 20 labor unions with which Pride at Work cooperates adopt the resolution, HRC could be facing a financial loss of more than $100,000. 

Although Pride at Work leaders tell The Advocate that several companies with anti-union practices and demonstrated hostility toward LGBT employees continue to receive high scores on HRC’s CEI, the resolution calls out one particularly egregious example: Walmart, which received a score of 90 (out of a possible 100) on the most recent CEI, the same year the retail chain’s policies were ruled unlawfully discriminatory in a case filed by a lesbian employee after Walmart refused to allow her to add her cancer-stricken wife to her company insurance plan. That suit, initially filed by Jacqueline Cote, has now become a class-action lawsuit alleging that Walmart systematically discriminated against its employees in same-sex relationships. 

That’s why Pride at Work’s resolution “calls on HRC to suspend the CEI score of Walmart and all other companies that systematically violate LGBT and workers’ rights, and … to fundamentally revamp the CEI so it serves as an accurate barometer of where companies stand on LGBT equality.”

In addition to the documented antigay discrimination perpetuated by companies like Walmart, Pride at Work contends that the CEI’s refusal to take into consideration a company's unionization policies deliberately ignores the most effective way for LGBT employees to ensure they are treated fairly on the job. 

“We have made the case — repeatedly — to HRC that in the current state of LGBT nondiscrimination law in this country, the most durable — and sometimes only — nondiscrimination protections an LGBT person can get on the job is a union contract,” Pride at Work executive director Jerame Davis explains to The Advocate. “Union contracts that include LGBT nondiscrimination policies not only require a company to have a policy on the books, but they also force a company to adhere to those policies in a real way. A union collective bargaining agreement gives workers a process by which they can address discrimination and unfair work practices with their employer that other workers simply don’t have. When more than half of the states in the union do not protect workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, union-busting is very much an LGBT issue, but HRC apparently doesn’t see it that way.”

Pride at Work has “spent significant time and energy over the past year or so attempting to educate HRC and advocate our position with them,” adds Davis. “With little to nothing to show for our efforts, we felt it was our moral obligation to speak out in service of our members and all of the LGBT workers who are, at times, hoodwinked into thinking a corporation has a great track record on LGBT equality when, in fact, all they have is a piece of paper and HRC’s imprimatur.”

“What’s more, the CEI doesn’t account for a corporation’s compliance with their own policies,” continues Davis. “HRC will readily admit they have no ability to verify that the policies they grade in the CEI are actually followed by the company. So, not only do they not grade employers on their willingness to let workers organize a union, they have no actual means of ensuring these companies they give high marks are actually treating their LGBT workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Larson, the Pride at Work co-president and CWA member, concludes with question for the nation’s largest and best-funded LGBT organization:

“At a time when the entire labor movement is under attack like never before in our nation’s history, we have to ask: Do you stand with us, or some of the worst corporate abusers of U.S. labor laws and funders of campaigns focused on destroying workers’ rights? At a time when the labor movement is struggling for its very survival, we cannot afford to continue funding an organization like HRC that refuses to stand with us.”

Representatives with the Human Rights Campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Read Pride at Work’s full resolution on the following page.