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Volume 35
Issue 09
 
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Domestic Partner benefits now being offered to all Port of Seattle employees
Domestic Partner benefits now being offered to all Port of Seattle employees
by Jacob Clark - SGN Staff

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender families who have a partner employed at The Port of Seattle have a reason to celebrate. Last Tuesday, the Teamsters Union and the Port of Seattle announced the extension of benefits to LGBT spouses in the areas of health and welfare, vision and dental insurance. This was brought about by a unanimous vote of the Port Commissioners.

The agreement between the union and the employer was first sought in 1994, but the effort was redoubled four years ago when Port of Seattle Human Resources Director John Okamoto came to the Port of Seattle. "I'm so pleased that we can offer domestic partner benefits to all the employees, including those employees working under the Teamsters contract," he said.

Domestic partner benefits were extended to the non-union employees in 1994. Encouraged by John Williams at the Teamsters Union, Okamoto began working on the issue four years ago, making a presentation to the Union in 2003. The effort finally paid off this week.

"Extending these benefits helps us to be an employer of choice. It helps us retain and recruit new employees. An employer always wants a competitive edge, and this gives us that edge," added Okamoto.

Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington, applauded the news. "The Port Commissioners have been working hard to ensure domestic partnership benefits for port and airport employees for over a decade. They deserve the thanks of the entire LGBT and allied community. It was wonderful to see every Port Commissioner being supportive of protecting all of Washington's families," he said.

The Teamsters are deserving of LGBT gratitude as well. "The Teamsters represent a diverse group of workers. It was wonderful to see their commitment to making sure that all the families of the workers they represent are protected," concluded Friedes.

Many issues had to be resolved to come to an agreement, according to Friedes. "Extending DP benefits is a much more complex issue that most people realize, and the Teamsters and the Port Commissioners worked a long time to make this happen. This is really your classic win-win situation," he said.

Commenting on the process of securing DP benefits itself, "was transformative," Freides continued. "Today the Port Commissioners and the Teamsters seem more committed to protecting diverse families than ever before. The extension of DP benefits to even more workers -- as the legislature considers the DP bill (SB 5336 and HB 1351) -- should be one more data point to encourage legislators to quickly pass the legislation."

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, John Williams of Teamsters Local 117 said the compromise's success can be replicated at any of the 500 workplaces employing 20,000 Washington Teamsters. Marianne Bischel, communications director for Mayor Greg Nickels, also told the P-I that the union's announcement won't just help legitimize same-sex partners, but also unmarried heterosexual couples who have been together for significant amounts of time.

"This benefit for the life partners of those who work at the port expresses our commitment to diversity," Port Labor Relations Director Herman Wacker told the P-I.

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