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American Federation of Government Employees Holds Inaugural Training on LGBT Workplace Issues

AFGE LGBT Training

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is a national labor union representing more than 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees across the nation. In August 2013, the union held its Diversity Week of events to include its first LGBT Pride Training Summit focusing on workplace issues facing members of the LGBT community. With a group of nearly 70 labor activists from across the country, the one-day training session addressed issues related to equal employment opportunity law, organizing and messaging around LGBT labor issues, and developing leaders within the labor movement.

The training provided LGBT members and allies with a space to learn more about the challenges LGBT workers face on the job and the discriminatory laws that are currently in place in states around the country. By highlighting these issues, participants of the summit were made aware of the current landscape and how AFGE activists can ensure they are effectively representing all federal and D.C. government workers. The introductory portion of the summit also provided guidance to supporters and allies who want to advocate for LGBT workers but often face confusion when discussing issues affecting the LGBT community. This guidance included an overview of terminology, health and safety concerns and ways to ensure that workers who identify as part of the LGBT community are included in the labor movement.

The summit and AFGE’s LGBT Pride program are a function of the union’s women’s and fair practices departments.

“This training is long overdue but I am pleased that we have been able to put this program together for our membership. I don’t think it’s a secret that addressing LGBT issues has not always been popular in the labor movement,” says Augusta Thomas, the National Vice President for Departments. “As labor leaders we must move past closed minded beliefs and pull out all the stops in order to represent all workers equally.”

Augusta Y. Thomas

For the training, AFGE recruited the expertise of other labor activists and members of the LGBT community. By drawing on these resources, participants of the summit were exposed to other organizations that are advocating on behalf of the LGBT community. Guest speakers at the summit included Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Executive Director Gregory Cendana, Pride at Work Executive Director Darren Phelps and Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis.    Participants also received welcomes from leaders within the union including Thomas, AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr. and AFGE District 3 National Vice President Keith Hill.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. put his full support behind the program stating, “It is critical that we train our members on the issues that affect our diverse communities. Work has the ability to unite us all and it is our responsibility to ensure all workers are treated with dignity and respect. I look forward to the continued growth of our LGBT program and the expansion of our LGBT training summits.”