UCLA Labor Center

Union Values and LGBTQ+ Worker Experiences: A Survey of UFCW Workers in the United States and Canada


2020 / Sophia L. Ángeles, Lucero Herrera, Sid Jordan, Janna Shadduck- Hernández, and Saba Waheed.

A new report from the UCLA Labor Center, a unit of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and the United Food and Commercial Workers OUTreach, found that advocacy efforts by rank-and-file members of the United Food and Commercial Workers broadly support union organizing for safer and more equitable workplaces for LGBTQ+ workers in the U.S. and Canada, but the fight toward ending workplace discrimination is far from over.

The report Union Values and LGBTQ+ Worker Experiences: A Survey of UFCW Workers in the United States and Canada offers a timely analysis of issues surrounding workplace issues for LGBTQ+ people and identity politics in North American labor movements. Its publication occurs just days before National Coming Out Day (which is Oct. 11 in both the U.S. and Canada), and just four months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that LGBTQ+ and transgender workers are protected from discrimination at the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The researchers surveyed 1,004 union members and conducted 15 interviews with LGBTQ+ workers in diverse industries and regions across the United States and Canada.

Among other findings, the study finds:

  • 87% of union members believe LGBTQ+ workers should be protected by their union contracts.
  • 83% of survey respondents said that LGBTQ+ issues should be supported by union leaders.
  • 68% of survey respondents said that nondiscrimination protections in collective bargaining agreements should be a top priority for local unions to improve conditions for LGBTQ+ workers.
  • 42% of LGBTQ+ participants have felt unsafe in their current workplaces at least once because of their gender or sexuality.

Report authors outline the following recommendations to improve LGBTQ+ workplace experiences:

  • Develop proactive union agendas, policies, and structures that recognize and protect the rights and identities of LGBTQ+ workers.
  • Create visible, clear, and concrete organizational structures for LGBTQ+ leadership and participation at every level of the union.
  • Develop issue-based, worker-centered organizing and labor education programs that focus on lifting up and affirming LGBTQ+ worker rights and identities.
  • Create worker-centered safe spaces where workers can address, denounce, and resist LGBTQ+ workplace violations, discrimination, and harassment.