COLUMBUS, Ohio - Organized labor has weighed in on the side of LGBT rights in central Ohio, starting with the strong support given to discharged teacher Carla Hale. Hale had taught for 19 years at Bishop Watterson High School here, before being fired by the Catholic Diocese in March after returning to work from her mother's funeral. Her mother's obituary had mentioned that she was "survived by her daughter Carla and her partner."
For the first time, the AFL-CIO and Pride@Work, organized labor's LGBT constituency group, were officially represented at the huge Pride Festival and Pride Parade here with a booth at the festival and a float in the parade. It was estimated that over 300,000 people participated in the activities this year.
"It's really a new day and exciting times for the LGBT community and for all people," said Glen Skeen, Communications Workers of America officer and president of the newly organized Ohio Pride@Work organization.
"Unions represent all people and fight for everyone's basic human rights," Skeen said. "Nobody should be able to be fired, discriminated against for any reason if they do their job well, as Carla Hale did for 19 years. Having our unions up front in the fight for LGBT, and everyone's, rights gives us all strength and a real reason for pride this year!"
The Central Ohio AFL-CIO labor federation and the Retiree Council both unanimously passed resolutions of support for Hale and the grassroots campaign for her reinstatement. In addition, Pride@Work sponsored a well-attended public forum at the Communications Workers union hall here this past week.
A grassroots movement, HaleStormOhio, composed mainly of students, alumni and parents from Columbus Watterson High School, has held a series of rallies at the Catholic Diocese offices and has set up a petition calling for Carla Hale's reinstatement. Hale filed a lawsuit and, earlier this month, filed a case with the Columbus Human Rights Commission. The city has passed very strong anti-discrimination legislation, and officials with the Diocese could face fines and even jail time if Hale is successful.
"We're all so happy to see unions weighing in, putting their strength and experience into fighting for Carla Hale and for people who've been marginalized by this society," said Amanda Finella, chair of HaleStormOhio.
"People were just happy to see a union booth supporting Carla Hale," Finella said. "The atmosphere was changed and everyone was so welcoming. It's great, but it's just a first step! Unions are our natural partners and we're so glad to be on the same side, fighting for justice!"
HaleStormOhio makes a point: