In the long fight for a better life for working people, the Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Janus v. AFSCME dealt a devastating blow to workers across the nation. In short, the Janus decision means that non-members of public sector unions no longer have to pay fair-share fees, even though they reap the benefits of public unions’ work. The consequences of this decision will reach far beyond workers’ paychecks and job schedules. For the LGBT community, threats to civil rights may even be on the horizon.
Since the ‘70s, unions have amplified the voices and fought for the rights of LGBT people. Unions have secured benefits and protections for queer and gender-nonconforming workers, even in states where local laws leave the door open for discrimination. And unions have negotiated benefits for unmarried “spouse-equivalent” partners, and banned harassment for employees who have gender confirmation surgery. But post-Janus, all those gains are at risk—not to mention that workers from LGBT communities, like workers everywhere, will now have a harder time earning a living wage. That’s especially concerning for trans workers, who are almost four times as likely as cis people to live on less than $10,000 per year.
On top of it all, weaker unions mean that fewer LGBT workers can use grievance procedures when they do experience discrimination. In a labor market flush with arbitration agreements—meaning that workers have to settle any workplace complaints out of court—grievance procedures are one of the best tools to fight mistreatment. And anything that threatens that tool threatens workers themselves, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Conservative groups supported Janus because they know what we know: Unions give employees a voice, and weakening unions means silencing working people. So the Supreme Court’s decision has forced workers everywhere, and especially LGBT workers, to make their own decision. Will we sit back and watch our rights get trampled or stand up, speak up, and fight back?
We may be down, but we’re never out. None of the above is set in stone, because if we decide to band together, we can keep our union strong. Our OUTreach group gives LGBT union members the chance to raise their voices and have each others’ backs. If union members show up and demand that their rights be recognized, then stingy or prejudiced employers don’t stand a chance. You have a say in this story. All it takes is action—powered by members like you.
Interested in being a part of OUTreach? Contact Jean Tong or call 213-201-7120 to get involved today.