Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 082615 Contents 24 • 8 .26.2015
column bil of rights
I’ll be in Orlando, Florida this week
preventing a divorce at the Magic
Kingdom. That’s right, I’ll be keeping a
relationship together at the triennial Pride
At Work (P@W) conference.
P@W is the LGBT
organization you probably
haven’t heard about before
if you're not in a labor
union. With only two
employees, they toil away
in the headquarters of the
AFL-CIO in Washington, DC.
My husband, Jerame Davis,
is the executive director
and Kristina Pace is his
loyal deputy. Together they
accomplish miracles for
our community with fewer
staff and less money than
99 percent of the national
LGBT groups. That’s pretty
amazing, even if I am slightly
"We don't just bring
the message of labor unions to the queer
community," the incredibly handsome
Davis told me. "We also bring the needs and
challenges of the queer community to the
Details like LGBT nondiscrimination
language and transgender-inclusive health
care benefits don’t appear in union contracts
on their own after all. Someone has to train
the union negotiators on what to demand;
your average straight steel worker in a rural
factory more than likely isn’t well versed in
the cultural needs of our community.
You might have missed P@W, but the
labor unions know who they are. They count
on their advice and expertise. It's a marriage
of sorts; they support each other and work
together to make life better for both of them.
They're a team. For better or
My dad was incredibly
proud to be the treasurer
of his union local. He spent
many extra hours balancing
the books and helping to
negotiate the contracts for
his fellow workers. Every
summer, he would pack
his bags and head off to his
union convention to listen
to speakers, attend trainings
and hang out with peers from
One year, Dad came back
from the convention and
announced he was leaving
my mom for another woman.
They'd met at the convention
and had been carrying on an affair for
years. Apparently trainings on contract
negotiations wasn't the only incentive for
Mom blamed the union for years as the
source of their divorce, but always neglected
to consider that the marriage had been on
rocky ground for years. Blaming the union
for her own problems wasn't rational, but it
made her feel better about herself in an odd
sort of way.
The American people have a similarly
twisted relationship with labor unions. For
years, folks have blamed waste, corruption
and greed as the main reasons for the steady
decline in union membership. People bristle
when they hear how much union members
are making compared to their own wages.
Just like good ole Mom though, they don't
stop to realize that their blame is misplaced.
The problem isn't that union members'
wages are too high; it's that their non-union
wages are too low.
Instead of recognizing the actual issue
corporate greed has depressed wages,
eliminated benefits, and crippled the
middle class - Americans have bought the
Republican anti-union talking points. No
wonder corporations and wealthy fat cats
love Republicans; those CEOs making 300
times the amount of the average worker
knows which side of the bread is buttered.
Gullible workers, however, have misplaced
their anger just like my poor mother.
America's relationship with labor unions
has crumbled in recent years and the middle
class has suffered like children caught in the
middle while the parents bicker about the
small things and nurse old grudges.
Jerame and I have been together for
almost twenty years now. Sometimes the
road has been rocky but, like responsible
adults, we've worked through our problems
with patience and perseverance. Sure,
we could have split up when he spent too
much money or I demanded too much, but
together, we're a team. When push comes to
shove, we have each other's backs.
Labor unions and the LGBT community
have a similar long-term connection. Unions
were the first organized group to stand up for
our rights. They've been beside us the entire
time - cheering us on, using their clout to
make life easier for us, and protecting us as
much as they've been able. They've taken
on our fights as if they were their own and
lived up to their motto: "An injury to one is
an injury to all."
Workers in Florida aren't protected by a
statewide nondiscrimination law. A union
contract is the only way most workers are
protected in the state outside of local human
rights ordinances that generally lack any real
enforcement mechanisms since state laws
always trumps local ones.
The unions are still diligently working on
their relationship with the queer community.
If we truly love them - and ourselves - we
can't give up now; true love is steadfast and
can't be derailed by outside interests. That's
why I'll be in Orlando this week.
I'm working to save your long-term
relationship. Mom would be proud.
saving youR Relationship at
the magic kingdom
The first Pride At Work
Converence in 2012.
Sure, we could
have split up
when he spent
too much money
or I demanded
too much, but
a team. When
push comes to
shove, we have
Bil Browning is a freelance writer and gay activist based in Washington,
DC. Known for his political and social commentary, Bil also does consulting
work for political, communications and new media projects. His papers and
activism memorabilia are part of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum
Links Archive SFGN 081915 SFGN 090215 Navigation Previous Page Next Page