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 fellow Dani Alderete

The UCLA Dream Resource Center (DRC) finalized their selection of fellows for the 2019 Dream Summer fellowship and will be kicking off the fellowship from June 20th to June 22nd! The next generation of immigrant youth social justice leaders will be joining the DRC for a three day kick-off filled with leadership and professional development workshops and on-the-ground experience in social justice movement building.

Forty-two amazing fellows were selected this year for the 2019 Dream Summer fellowship! Meet Dani Alderete, a finalist who the DRC wants to highlight because of his continued work in the immigrant rights movement and a returning Dream Summer fellow! Dani graduated from Dream Summer 2018 but will be joining the DRC for Dream Summer 2019 to continue developing his skills!

Dani Alderete


Dani Alderete was born in Cuautla, Morelos, México and goes by Him/They pronouns. They arrived to the United States at the age of four and has lived in Long Beach ever since. Dani started kindergarten in the Long Beach Unified School District and navigated primary school without knowing how to speak English. The advocacy and assistance of Dani’s mother, as well as teachers, staff, and neighbors, helped Dani become adjusted to living in the U.S. Dani was always aware of their family’s undocumented immigration status; however, it became more salient when Dani started high school. During high school, Dani became aware of the various barriers ahead due to their immigration status such as being ineligible to apply for a driver’s license and being ineligible to receive financial aid for college.

Yet Dani maintained hope for the future and persevered by graduating from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) with a B.A. in Human Development and minors in Queer Studies, Spanish, and Gerontology. During Dani’s undergraduate career, they had the opportunity to be a part of the 2018 Dream Summer fellowship. The validating and caring community that Dani found in Dream Summer, encouraged Dani to stay connected and build a community with immigrant peers at CSULB by joining the student organization For Undocumented Empowered Leaders (FUEL).

Dani leading a “Stress Management with Aromatherapy” workshop during Dream Summer 2018.

Dani plans to attend graduate school and is currently working on applications for programs in college counseling/student services and mental health services. After graduating, Dani’s goal is to work at an AB540/Undocumented Center to help immigrant students reach their educational goals. Dani knows how difficult it is to access and navigate higher education as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., so they wants to assist in creating inclusive, accessible, and equitable spaces for immigrant students. In the future, Dani also hopes to open up a private practice that provides mental health therapy and career coaching to the LGBTQIA+ community and immigrant communities.

Dani sharing a significant moment they experienced during the 2018 Dream Summer fellowship.

Why the Dream Summer fellowship?

“I applied to Dream Summer because I wanted to build community with other immigrant youth and learn more about community organizing. Since middle school, I was aware about my undocumented immigrant status and always had a desire to get involved in the immigrant rights movement. However, I was unsure of how to get involved and experienced deep anxiety and fear about sharing my immigration status with other people. I would frequently run into Facebook videos featuring Dream Summer alumni that the UCLA Dream Resource Center would post on their page. The videos were inspirational and I saw the amazing work that fellows were doing throughout the fellowship and later on as Dream Summer alumni. That inspiration and my desire to get involved are some of the main reasons why I applied to Dream Summer.”

-Dani Alderete

Learn more about Dream Summer here.