UCLA Labor Center

REPORT: LGBTQ+ Worker Experiences at UFCW

UFCW 770 and 1428 Rank and File Members, West Hollywood Pride 2019

LOS ANGELES – A UCLA report published today 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 researchers hope that the findings can inform discussions and strengthen union organizing related to equity for LGBTQ workers across industries. The report was a collaboration between the UCLA Labor Center and the United Food and Commercial Workers OUTreach, an LGBTQ advocacy group within the union.

The researchers surveyed 1,004 United Food and Commercial Workers members, one-third of whom identified as LGBTQ, in regions across the U.S. and Canada. UFCW members work in a variety of industries, including grocery, retail, health care, meatpacking and food processing, and cannabis.

Three-quarters of survey participants said their local union takes concrete actions to support LGBTQ workers and 70% said LGBTQ workers are protected by their union contracts. In addition, 68% said it should be a top priority for unions to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation on the job.

The authors write that collective bargaining agreements are one of the tools unions can, and do, use to increase equity for marginalized workers. UFCW OUTreach organizers, for example, have negotiated for policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace, measures that have effectively filled existing legislative gaps.

More than two-thirds of the respondents said their current union contract protects LGBTQ workers, and more than half of LGBTQ workers said they felt protected at work because of their collective bargaining agreements.

The report 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 the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“The union has the power to advocate to address systemic inequities that affect LGBTQ workers by utilizing collective bargaining agreements as well as educational training that increases awareness of the urgency to improve the workplace for LGBTQ members,” said Michelle Kessler, the chairperson of UFCW OUTreach.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 87% of union members said LGBTQ workers should be protected by their union contracts.
  • 83% said LGBTQ issues should be supported by union leaders.

“When direct actions are taken by union leaders, workplaces are safer for LGBTQ members,” said Jean Tong, the union representative for UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles. “Equally important is the thoughtful work our union has done to expand leadership opportunities for LGBTQ workers to participate in the decision-making process.”

While the survey respondents generally support LGBTQ workers’ rights and contract protections, the study also explores the ongoing on-the-job challenges LGBTQ workers face. The UFCW represents workers on the front lines serving customers and providing essential services to the community, where they are often exposed to overt discrimination, negative cultural attitudes and everyday indignities that are frequently minimized or go unnoticed.

“Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ workers reported being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and 43% had heard negative comments or stereotypes in their current workplace,” said Sid Jordan, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center. “This points to the cultural and structural changes that will be needed to give meaning to nondiscrimination policies.”

The report outlines four main recommendations that would improve the workplace experience for LGBTQ people:

  • Develop proactive union agendas and policies 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 organizing and labor education programs that focus on lifting up and affirming LGBTQ workers’ rights and identities.
  • Create spaces within unions and affiliated community centers where LGBTQ workers can work with their allies to eradicate workplace violence, discrimination and harassment.

 

Release originally published at UCLA Newsroom on October 8,2020 

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

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Abigail Gonzalez

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Abigail Gonzalez, one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at Equality California for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography:

Abigail Gonzalez was born on December 6th,1999 in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico. When Abigail was just a six-month-old baby, her family immigrated to the United States for a better life and future. After moving to the U.S., Abigail grew up in the small neighborhood known as Boyle Heights located in Los Angeles, California. She attended First Street Elementary School, Hollenbeck Middle School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2018. Throughout high school, Abigail was very active within her school and local community. She was class president for three years, was a four-year varsity softball player, was a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and a College Track scholar. 

Abigail is currently attending Pasadena City College (PCC) and will be transferring this fall to Pomona College, where she plans to pursue a degree in public policy. After graduating, Abigail hopes to work at a nonprofit organization that provides all immigrants⏤regardless of their immigration status⏤with educational opportunities, legal assistance, and mental health resources. Abigail’s career goal is tied to her personal life experience. Abigail comes from a mixed-status immigrant family, so she wants to empower her community and create positive social change because she is highly aware of the struggles immigrant families face. In particular, she understands how an individual’s immigration status can highly impact the type of opportunities available to them.   

In February of 2018, Abigail and her family were featured in NPR’s podcast Code Switch to discuss what living in a mixed-status immigrant household is like. Abigail’s mixed-status household includes her younger brother who is a U.S. citizen and her two older sisters who are both recipients of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA provides eligible immigrant youth⏤who were brought to the U.S. as children without proper documentation⏤temporary relief from deportation and a work permit. Unlike her brother and sisters, Abigail is neither a U.S. citizen or eligible for DACA. She is currently undocumented because the program is no longer accepting new applicants, since President Trump rescinded the program. Abigail’s older sister, Miriam Gonzalez, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit suing the Trump administration for its decision to rescind DACA.

Abigail at the Census 2020 press conference, held by Los Angeles County Supervisor representative Hilda Solis, that addressed the potential inclusion of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

We asked Abigail: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“As a Dream Summer fellow, I was assigned to work with Equality California (EQCA), the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. EQCA works on improving the lives of California’s LGBTQ community through grassroots organizing and political advocacy. This summer, I had the pleasure to work with EQCA’s 2020 Census outreach team. I was in charge of the outreach to college campuses in the Los Angeles County. Our goal was to engage LGBTQ and immigrant youth with the U.S. 2020 Census. Outreach was challenging because it is summer and many campuses do not have a lot of students present, but I was able to connect with five campuses that will allow EQCA to host tabling events for census outreach. These tabling events include talking to students about the importance of the 2020 Census and getting them to pledge to fill it out.

I also attended two press conferences, with EQCA, about the 2020 Census. The first press conference brought local leaders and community members together, right after the Supreme Court’s decision on the potential inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. The second press conference was hosted by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer in order to inform his district about the census work he is supporting. These two press conferences were significant because they were the first I had ever attended. They taught me about the work that other community organizations are doing regarding the U.S. Census.”

Abigail with Dream Summer Project Coordinator, Leticia Bustamante, at the 2020 Census press conference in Los Angeles. 

We asked Abigail: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“If I am being completely honest, I never thought I would be able to have an opportunity like this because I am not eligible for DACA. Therefore, this fellowship has been nothing but a huge learning experience for me. It is the first fellowship that has allowed me to learn skills necessary for a job. This fellowship was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time being in an office and professional setting. I never thought I would be able to experience this, at such a young age, because opportunities like these are rare to find when you are undocumented⏤and even more so when you do not have DACA. 

Overall, I have grown a lot professionally. Throughout the fellowship, I wrote professional emails, made professional phone calls, and attended staff meetings. These experiences helped develop my professional skills such as time management, organization, problem-solving, communication, and more. These are skills that one cannot develop and improve, if one is not in a professional setting. 

This fellowship was also great for networking. I met a lot of cool people who are doing great work! They have provided me with both professional and life advice. I have grown so much⏤both personally and professionally⏤in just a couple of weeks because of this fellowship.”    

Learn more about Dream Summer here.