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Ruling on labor unions to affect LGBT workers

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Ruling on labor unions to affect LGBT workers

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has sent labor unions in the country reeling– and this has possible effects for LGBT workers.

This is because a lot of the benefits that labor unions fought for in the past are currently being enjoyed by LGBT workers.

LGBT workers in labor unions

Jared Odessky and Miriam Frank wrote in the New York Times about the effects of the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees to LGBT workers.

The high court ruled with a 5-4 decision that on First Amendment grouns, public sector employees who don’t join the labor union of their workplace cannot be required to pay what’s called “fair share fees.”

These fees cover the costs of collctive barganining, given that all unions have an obligation to represent both paying members and non-members.

As union membership in the public sector is five times higher than in the private sector, Odessky and Frank wrote that the ruling is expected to drain organized labor’s funds.

Since public and private employees often share the same parent union organization, this will likely affect workers in the private sector, too.

Currently, state and local governments employ about a million people who identify as LGBT.

With this decision affecting labor unions, LGBT workers are also at risk– especially those in 29 states were they don’t have full protection against employment discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Legal decision affecting labor unions

Despite states or companies that offer protections, non-union in the private sector are forced to sign arbitration clauses. This makes them unable to defend themselves in court.

This current situation was recently supported by the high court decision upholding the enforceability of mandatory arbitration clauses,

With labor unions, workers can negotiate against forced arbitration and enact grievance procedures against prejudice in the workplace.

The recent decision also involved the top LGBT advocacy groups in the US as they submitted an amicus brief in support of the union’s right to collect fees.

Labor unions, on the other hand, have been helping the LGBT community for the longest time.

Through their collective bargaining agreements, they pushed for nondiscrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, and inclusive health care coverage that became models for other contracts and public policy.

Organized labor also helped the LGBT movement by donating to their campaigns for marriage equality and filing amicus briefs on marriage equality.

Labor unions fighting for equality

Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said, “It’s a basic principle that has always been at the heart of the labor movement.”

“Progress, steadily gained, is fueled by the power of a mobilized community. Every victory in the fight against oppression has ultimately been achieved by that spirit of solidarity,” Trumka said in his message to the Pride celebration.

He noted that while most of the LGBT community are free to marry who you love today, “in most states, you can still be fired because of who you are. Unless, of course, you have the protection of a union contract.”

“The truth is that many of the fights left to be won are based on economic rights. They’re rooted in workers’ relationships with employers. The labor movement knows a thing or two about that,” he said.

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