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King County Labor Council takes up ENDA
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King County Labor Council takes up ENDA

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On January 6, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council (MLKCLC) committed itself to advocate for "speedy passage of ENDA legislation including both sexual orientation and gender identity." The resolution to do so passed the MLKCLC Executive Board unanimously.

On January 8, the MLKCLC resolution was distributed to its 150 affiliated unions with a recommendation that they do likewise.

The MLKCLC's action came at the request of Pride At Work - the LGBT labor organization. Pride At Work is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, but includes members of Change To Win and independent unions, as well as non-union allies.

In the resolution, the MLKCLC recognized that "LGBT workers still suffer discrimination in hiring and advancement, harassment in the workplace, exclusion of their partners from health and other benefits, and on average earn lower wages than their straight counterparts," and that "this discrimination is especially pronounced for Lesbians, LGBT people of color, and Transgender workers.&"

The resolution also noted that "federal employees have no statutory protections against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the workplace," and that "only 12 states currently have statutory protections against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace.&"

The MLKCLC promised to contact US Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and members of Congress who represent King County to lobby for ENDA.

The MLKCLC will also bring up the resolution at the Washington State Labor Council's February 10 Executive Board meeting.

ENDA - the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act - would expand the protections of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by employers based on race, gender and religion, by extending similar protections to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The current ENDA bill was introduced in the US House in June 2009, and in the Senate the following August. Unlike the 2007 version, it includes protections for Transgender workers.

All six of Washington's Democratic Congress members are co-sponsors of ENDA, as are its two senators. Two of Washington's three Republican Congress members have already stated they will vote against ENDA.

Republican Dave Reichert, who represents King County's Eastside, has not stated a position, but is thought to be leaning towards a Yes vote. He voted Yes in 2007, the last time ENDA came up for a vote in Congress.

Consideration of ENDA has been delayed because of the Senate's protracted debate on health care.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), ENDA's prime sponsor in the US House, predicted in the summer of 2009 that ENDA would pass the House in December 2009 or February 2010, with the Senate voting on it in spring 2010. However, the House Education and Labor Committee's markup of the bill, scheduled for November 18, 2009, was abruptly cancelled with no new date set for a hearing.

Pride At Work activists have been concerned that if ENDA does not pass by the time Congressional election campaigns get under way this fall, the bill may have no chance of passage till 2013.

Republicans, who by and large oppose ENDA, are expected to make gains in the 2010 elections. A gain of even one seat in the Senate would effectively kill Democrats' chances of passing their favored legislation, since 60 votes are required to bring measures to a vote in the Senate. The current balance is 58 Democrats, 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 40 Republicans.

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