SEIU, AFT join coalition to stop job discrimination vs. gays

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WASHINGTON (PAI) - The Service Employees and the American Federation of Teachers, two of the nation's largest unions, have joined a wide-ranging coalition that will use the August congressional recess to urge citizens to lobby lawmakers for a long-pending law outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians on the job.

The Americans for Workplace Opportunity campaign will focus on lobbying 13 senators in 11 states - ten of them Republicans - to get them to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and to oppose any GOP attempt to filibuster it to death.

ENDA is a key cause of gay, lesbian and transgender groups nationwide, including Pride@Work, the AFL-CIO's gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender constituency group. It's also a key cause of the two unions, whose presidents, Mary Kay Henry (SEIU) and Randi Weingarten (AFT), are lesbian. The AFL-CIO's other constituency groups previously pledged to work for ENDA's passage.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee passed ENDA earlier this year by a bipartisan 15-7 vote, but no Senate floor vote has been scheduled.

"The labor movement unequivocally believes workers should be judged by their work, not who they are," Pride@Work says. "Employment discrimination is wrong, and it's that simple. We urge our leaders in Congress to do the right thing, to say no to employment discrimination, and to pass an inclusive ENDA without amendments. It's time to bring the bill to a vote."

"There is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans," Henry added after the Supreme Court in June threw out a federal law discriminating against non-heterosexuals in federal benefits, along with a California anti-gay referendum. "In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the ENDA is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all...We look forward to joining our allies to end discrimination in the workplace."

"As president of AFT, and as someone who felt the sting of anti-gay prejudice growing up gay, I am proud to be a part of a labor movement committed to challenging injustice and discrimination, knocking down barriers for working people and standing up for the equal treatment of all under our laws," Weingarten said on AFT's website.

"Unions fought for workplace protections and benefits for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, and for same-sex partners," she added. "Embedding discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans into our laws and workplaces is not only morally reprehensible, it also makes zero economic sense. We must no longer be a nation that allows loving, committed same-sex couples to be denied the economic and workplace rights and protections that heterosexual couples simply take for granted."

Photo: Connecticut Pride@Work really, Pride@Work Facebook page.

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