Pride at Work, Pride in the Union: Steelworkers on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues
The United Steelworkers represents more than 288,000 workers across Canada. In all kinds of workplaces, from offices and universities to mines, mills and factories, men and women have joined the Steelworkers' union because of a tradition of negotiating, defending and fighting for workers' rights.
Proud to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, Steelworkers are actively working for equality in the workplace, at the bargaining table and in our communities. Steelworkers are helping to raise understanding and respect for the diversity and differences that make us strong, proud and, indeed, Everybody's Union.
Human rights are workers' rights. When someone is harassed or isolated in the workplace because of his sexual orientation or her gender identity, their human rights and their rights as workers are violated.
Fear of harassment, violence, isolation and bullying lead many people to hide or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Steelworkers union must continue to take steps to help create "positive space" for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
At the Bargaining Table
- Negotiate anti-harassment workplace training, policies and procedures. The United Steelworkers' Anti-Harassment Workplace Training Program has reached over 45,000 front line workers, supervisors and managers. The training helps people recognize and deal with harassment inside and outside of the workplace.
- Many Steelworker collective agreements now include provisions for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. The union has a trained network of anti-harassment complaints counselors across Canada to assist local unions in investigating and resolving harassment issues in the workplace.
- Bargain anti-discrimination language into your collective agreement. Insist that your employer recognize that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers are entitled by law to equality and to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.
- Make sure your collective agreement definition of spouse includes same sex partners. In Canada, it is illegal to deny same-sex spousal benefits. Also, check the definitions of "family members" within other contract provisions to ensure same-sex partners are covered.
- Ensure your health and welfare plan cover medical leave or treatments for transgender workers,
- Make sure your drug plan covers medication for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In the union
- Post the union's anti-harassment policy and support human rights training. The Steelworkers Anti-Harassment Policy, known as the "Yellow Sheet" because it is printed on yellow paper, reminds members of how important a respectful and discrimination-free environment is to the union's solidarity. Review the Yellow Sheet at the beginning of meetings, post the policy in the union office, and encourage leadership and activists to participate in human rights and anti-harassment training.
- Put up posters and wear a button. The Canadian Labour Congress has produced posters and buttons to help build respect and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. Wearing a button or putting a poster on the union bulletin board sends a message of solidarity to our sisters and brothers.
- Start a Steelworker Pride Committee. Whether it is in your workplace, together with other Steelworker units, or through the Area Council, start a Steelworker Pride Committee. Pride committees are opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender workers and their supporters to talk about issues, and plan how to raise awareness in our workplaces and in the union of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. During Pride Days, Steelworker Pride Committees join with other labour and community groups to hold events and parades to both celebrate and educate.
- Help fight HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is a union issue. We work with people who have HIV/AIDS and care for people who have HIV/AIDS. We must make sure our workplaces are safe, healthy and harassment-free for all workers. That means preventing harassment and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.
- The best step we can take to fight HIV/AIDS is through prevention, counseling and education. Include a discussion about HIV/AIDS in your health and safety training. Make sure your benefit plan and employee assistance plan offer confidential support to workers with HIV/AIDS.
- The Steelworkers Humanity Fund is helping to support the work of Stephen Lewis and the United Nations to build a global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Canadian workers can demonstrate leadership in raising the resources, and pressuring other countries to do the same, to stop this epidemic. Over 60 million people have been infected by HIV since the AIDS epidemic started over 25 years ago. Your donation to the Steelworkers Humanity Fund can make a difference.
- Support changes to laws to ensure equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers and their families.
- The Federal Government is appealing a court decision which granted Canada Pension Plan survivor spousal pensions to persons who lost their same sex partners between 1985 and 1998. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons paid into the CPP just like everyone else and are entitled to equal benefits. Let your Member of Parliament know that you disapprove of their wasting tax money to promote inequality.
- In July 2005, Parliament passed legislation extending civil marriages to same-sex couples. Parliament and the courts have made it clear that it is discriminatory under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The new Conservative government in Ottawa wants to re-open the same sex marriage debate and reverse this important victory for equal rights. Lobby your Member of Parliament now to ensure that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons across Canada continue to enjoy equal marriage rights.
- Only one Canadian jurisdiction - the Northwest Territories - has included gender identity in its human rights legislation. Transgender persons deserve the same human rights protection as all other Canadians. Tell your provincial, territorial or federal representative that is it crucial that a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender identity be added to all human rights legislation.
- Strong and proactive employment equity legislation is needed in Canada to promote the full participation and equality of disadvantaged Canadians in the workforce. At present, only the federal jurisdiction in Canada has employment equity legislation. And it does not extend to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. Lobby your provincial, territorial or federal representative for strong employment equity legislation that covers all disadvantaged Canadians.