For Immediate Release: June 4, 2019
Lansing – Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Pride at Work Michigan President Cynthia L. Thornton are calling on lawmakers to adopt legislation that would update the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Members of the Michigan House and Senate announced the introduction of the civil rights legislation earlier today.
“For the last 40 years, the AFL-CIO has supported adding protections for the LGBTQ community to federal law. Just last month the Michigan AFL-CIO reaffirmed our support for amending state law to include these protections as well,” said Bieber. “No one should be fired because of who they are or who they love, that’s a basic level of dignity all working people deserve. An injury to one is an injury to all. We’re proud to stand in solidarity with members of the LGBTQ community to advocate for passage of this legislation.”
Pride at Work is an affiliated constituency group of the AFL-CIO, that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies. The organization has more than 20 chapters nationwide, including Michigan, and coordinates mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBTQ Community to further social and economic justice.
“Pride at Work is dedicated to fighting for equality in the workplace and in the union hall–to protecting the freedoms of all LGBTQ+ working people and to lifting the veil of fear and hate that leads to high suicide rates in the LGBTQ+ Community and the disproportionate murder of transwomen of color. We have been working for the last 25 years to include strong nondiscrimination protections when union contracts are negotiated,” said Thornton. “Updating ELCRA to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity is long past due, if Michigan is to be open and welcoming to ALL–a place where businesses can thrive, and people don’t feel they must move elsewhere to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The Labor Movement’s support for nondiscrimination policies dates back at least as early as 1970 when the American Federation of Teachers became the first union to formally support LGBTQ Rights by passing a resolution denounceing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mutual support between the two movements strengthened in 1974 when LGBTQ Rights Activists and the Teamsters joined together in a boycott of Coors over the beer company’s anti-union and anti-gay practices.
May 24, 2019
LANSING – The Michigan AFL-CIO held its constitutional convention this month in Detroit. The event was attended by more than 200 delegates, guests and vendors. The event included speeches from national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The convention elected members to its general board, executive council as well as electing Ron Bierber to a second term as president and Daryl Newman to a third term as secretary-treasurer.
“When I was elected four years ago, I set three main goals: strengthen and grow the Labor Movement, fight for legislation that supports working families, and hold politicians accountable,” said Bieber. “Today we have more people represented by unions than when the so-called ‘right-to-work’ law was passed, we held our ground against needless attacks during the recent lame duck session, and we elected a more labor-friendly legislature and executive branch. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this unified and focused Labor Movement.”
The central theme for the convention was “Icons of Labor” focusing on the lessons of the past while building a 21st Century Labor Movement. In addition to recognizing the legislative accomplishments of Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) and Detroit City Councilmember Janeé Ayers, the organization awarded a lifetime achievement award to former Congressman Sandy Levin. The labor federation also celebrated the life and work of the late Congressman John Dingell. A new lifetime achievement award named for the congressman was unveiled. Judge Christopher Dingell accepted the posthumous award on behalf of his father. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, unable to attend due to Congress being in session, sent a video message expressing her appreciation.
“I appreciate the trust my brothers and sisters have placed in me. Sound stewardship is critical to our ability to build the Labor Movement,” said Newman. “The working men and women of this state deserve to have people fighting to protect their families and their freedoms. I look forward to continuing that fight for another term.”
The Michigan AFL-CIO is the state’s largest labor federation, representing over a million active and retired members from nearly 50 unions and constituency groups.
May 20, 2019
Lansing – Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, released the following statement in support of Governor Whitmer’s letter opposing proposed changes to overtime eligibility made by the Trump Administration.
“We appreciate Governor Whitmer speaking out on behalf of the working people of Michigan and the rest of the country. The overtime pay eligibility rules proposed by the Trump Administration are a drastic reduction from what was initially proposed by the Obama Administration. When people are away from their families working longer hours, they should be fairly compensated. The rules proposed by the current administration in Washington leaves out too many people and hurts working families who are just trying to make ends meet.”
May 16, 2019
Detroit – Today the Michigan AFL-CIO named Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) as its Legislators of the Year for 2019. Detroit City Councilmember Janeé Ayers was also named Local Elected Official of the Year. The awards were announced at the state labor federation’s constitutional convention at IBEW Local 58 in Detroit.
“Elected officials who use their time in office to support the working men and women of this state deserve to be recognized for those efforts,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We have a lot more pro-working family members in the legislature and we’re looking forward to the work they do to support our freedoms. These lawmakers stood out because of their leadership on critical issues facing workers.”
State Representative Kevin Hertel played a key role in the passage of a bipartisan package that addressed critical failures in the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency following the robo-fraud scandal that falsely accused 40,000 of committing fraud. Hertel continues to work to create a compensation fund for those wrongly accused and other continued reforms.
“I ran for office in order to represent working men and women,” said Kevin Hertel. “I was proud to work closely with the Michigan AFL-CIO when we passed a package of bipartisan bills to address unfairness in the Unemployment Agency, but we still have a lot of work to do. I look forward to continuing to work with them to make sure everyone is getting a fair shake.”
State Senator Jeremy Moss has led a bipartisan effort to expand accountability and transparency in state government. He has also been a strong advocate for expanding workplace protections to all working people, including members of the LGBTQ community.
“My family’s story is one of the many in Michigan that show why unions matter. My grandfather was able to lift his young family into Michigan’s middle class because his trade union made sure he earned a living wage that he deserved for the skilled work he completed. Union protections have afforded the grandson of a typesetter opportunities to succeed way beyond his grandfather’s hopes and dreams,” said Sen. Jeremy Moss. “I appreciate the continued support of the Michigan AFL-CIO in our joint mission to create a more fair, more honest system of government that seeks to protect Michigan families, their wages and their workplace standards.”
Detroit Councilmember Janeé Ayers is a former labor leader having been a member of AFSCME, UNITE HERE and former Vice President of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO. As a local elected official, she has been working to protect the freedoms of working families in Detroit.