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Hotel and food service workers endorse marriage equality
Hotel and food service workers endorse marriage equality
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

UNITE HERE, the union representing almost a million workers and retirees in the textile, clothing, hotel and restaurant industries, has called for equal access to marriage and its benefits for LGBT workers.

In a resolution adopted by the union's General Executive Board at their March meeting, the union said it would "support the rights of LGBT individuals and couples against discrimination in all areas including employment, housing and civil marriage." The resolution was submitted by UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor and Hospitality President John Wilhelm, and passed unanimously.

Nancy Wohlforth, co-President of Pride at Work, the LGBT constituency group of the AFL-CIO, praised UNITE HERE's action, saying "this is a tremendous statement of solidarity with LGBT workers on the part of a major American union. It sends a clear message to employers and lawmakers that the labor movement will not tolerate discrimination against any of its members, in marital status as well as housing and employment."

UNITE HERE joins a growing number of unions that have endorsed civil marriage quality. They include the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Farm Workers.

The UNITE HERE resolution also pointed out the pitfalls inherent in trying to create marriage-like legal arrangements that are not called marriage. "Civil union and domestic partnership laws, however well intentioned, create an unequal legal status for same-sex couples and their families," the resolution said.

Pride at Work co-President T Santora called on more unions to follow the example of UNITE HERE. "Labor has championed the rights of minorities and disadvantaged groups for generations," he said. "It's time for the entire movement to rise to the defense of LGBT workers, and demand equal access to marriage as well as employment and housing."

UNITE HERE represents large concentrations of LGBT workers, as well as many women, immigrants, and people of color. It has pursued a relationship with the LGBT community through contract language as well as political advocacy. UNITE HERE Local 8, representing hotel and restaurant workers in Western Washington, achieved groundbreaking language in its Westin Hotel contract last year, explicitly adding Transgender workers to its anti-discrimination protections and expanding protections for immigrant workers. The Westin contract is expected to set a standard for the hospitality industry, as its anti-discrimination language is incorporated into other contracts.

The Martin Luther King County chapter of Pride At Work can be contacted through its Secretary-Treasurer, Mike Andrew at 206-261-8110. UNITE HERE Local 8 can be contacted through its office at 206-728-2326.

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