June 13, 2005
AFL-CIO Urged to Halt Support of “Proud Union Queers”
by Randy Hall
CNSNews.com Staff Writer/Editor
CNS NEWS — Leaders of more than three dozen family-oriented organizations have sent a letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, urging him and his federation to rescind its support of same-sex marriage and stop using members’ dues to advance the agendas of homosexual and transgender activists, including one group that calls its members “proud union queers.”
The letter, sent earlier this month, is a response to a resolution entitled “Support for the Full Inclusion and Equal Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the Workplace,” which the AFL-CIO Executive Committee passed unanimously at its March 3 meeting in Las Vegas.
While stating that “families come in all shapes and sizes,” the AFL-CIO resolution claimed that the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment and its state counterparts “threaten the rights of working people by creating an environment across the nation that is hostile to the rights of domestic partners, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
The measure concluded by stating that the AFL-CIO — which represents 58 national and international labor unions and more than 13 million workers — “reiterates its longstanding support for the full inclusion and equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace and in society.”
Reaction came swiftly from Nancy Wohlforth and Josh Cazares, co-presidents of Pride at Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO with an office at the federation’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“We’re delighted that the AFL-CIO has taken this stand,” they wrote in the organization’s online newsletter, because “it’s the right thing to do.
“It happened because of the strong leadership of President John Sweeney in bringing this resolution to the entire Executive Council,” they added.
The Pride at Work website states that its purpose is “to mobilize mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community around organizing for social and economic justice.”
As part of that mobilization, the site elsewhere asks “Are You a Proud Union Queer?” before encouraging members to obtain a temporary tattoo composed of a raised fist next to the words “PROUD UNION QUEER.”
Sweeney heard from conservatives in early June, when a coalition of pro-family leaders sent him the letter “on behalf of tens of millions of American families — including, public opinion polls indicate, a strong majority of dues-paying union households — who believe that the institution of marriage is and should remain a union of one man and one woman.”
The letter then cited a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll from March that reported Americans favor “a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman, thus barring marriages between gay or lesbian couples” 57 percent to 37 percent.
The writers also referred to a survey of Michigan voters commissioned by the Detroit News this past October that showed two-thirds of union households supported that state’s marriage protection amendment, “identical to the level of support in non-union households.”
“We firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of dues-paying union members who finance the national AFL-CIO and its organizational, political and lobbying activities strongly oppose so-called homosexual ‘marriage,’ as well as the broader political agenda of homosexual and ‘transgender’ activists,” the pro-family leaders wrote.
They urged “the AFL-CIO Executive Committee to respect and honor the views of your own rank-and-file membership by voting — during your upcoming July 25-28 annual convention in Chicago — to rescind your March 3rd resolution.”
Until then, the groups promised to inform union members across America about “the AFL-CIO’s endorsement of homosexual activists’ political agenda,” as well as workers’ rights to either divert the equivalent of their dues or fees to a charitable organization or resign from the union and demand a full refund of all money “used for any purpose other than collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance processing.”
Among the letter’s signatories were such conservative leaders as Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Larry Cirignano of Catholic Vote, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority Coalition and Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America.
Also signing the letter was former union negotiator Phil Burress, who serves as president of Citizens for Community Values in Cincinnati and chaired a successful campaign to pass a constitutional amendment supporting traditional marriage in the battleground state of Ohio during the 2004 election.
Burress told Cybercast News Service that he considers the AFL-CIO’s backing of the homosexual and transgender agendas to be “a stealth campaign.”
“I know union workers, and on these social issues — especially dealing with marriage — the AFL-CIO does not represent the rank-and-file workers,” he said. (Listen to audio exchange between Phil Burress and Randy Hall.)
Burress added that union leaders “certainly talk with workers when it comes to negotiating contracts, but when it comes to taking public policy stances, they don’t talk to the membership at all.” He recommended that AFL-CIO officials poll their members before adopting positions on such controversial issues as same-sex marriage.
Providing input to AFL-CIO President Sweeney is exactly what Kendall Boutwell, a Mississippi worker with the United Steel Workers union, intends to do through his web site unionworkersagainstgaymarriage.com.
“Sweeney sold us out,” Boutwell told Cybercast News Service. “Unions are supposed to be democratic and give members a choice. When Sweeney and his council speak for 13 million workers about an issue this important, he’s supposed to represent the body.”