Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Labor Move For Gay Marriage

GayCityNews - Big Labor Move For Gay Marriage

Big Labor Move For Gay Marriage
Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendlyA California labor group that represents 1,200 union locals and 2.1 million union members in that state voted unanimously on July 23 to oppose Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would amend that state's constitution to bar same-sex marriages and could nullify the marriages that gay men and lesbians entered into starting on June 16.

"It's huge from a number of perspectives," said Steve Smith, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a consulting firm, and the campaign manager of Equality for All, the coalition that opposes Proposition 8. "What you've got is somewhere between a million-and-a-half and two million households that are now going to be contacted about Proposition 8 by their unions and told why they should vote no... Needless to say, we are more than little excited."

The resolution from the California Labor Federation said the group will "put forth energy and resources to educate and mobilize its members to vote against Proposition 8, and encourage its twenty-three member Central Labor Councils to do the same."

Additionally, the voter guides and slate cards that the federation distributes to members will recommend a no vote on the proposition.

"I understand the power of the state labor federation," said Smith who once served as California's labor secretary. "I suspect this is the first time that any state federation has ever engaged in one of these battles."

When it comes to convincing voters, having union members talking to friends and colleagues is very powerful as those are some of the sources that voters trust the most.

"The most persuasive are friends, family," said D. Sunshine Hillygus, the author, along with Todd G. Shields, of "The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns" and a professor of government at Harvard University, in an interview earlier this year.

In 2004 exit polls, 28 percent of California voters said they had a union member in their household and 17 percent said they belonged to a union.

The resolution was introduced by members of Pride at Work, an LGBT union group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the union umbrella organization, at the federation's biennial meeting.

"This is a major step toward beating the anti-gay and anti-union attack on marriage equality," said Hans Johnson, president of Progressive Victory, a consulting firm, and an officer of Pride at Work.

In 2006, the federation passed a resolution that supported the "rights of all California workers to access the full and equal rights of civil marriage." The 340,000-member California Teachers Association officially opposed the marriage initiative on June 7.

The stance this year is in contrast to labor's position in 2000 when California voters passed a law barring same-sex unions by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. Only a handful of labor groups in California's 58 counties took a stand on the 2000 initiative on their slate cards.

California's highest court struck down that 2000 law in a May ruling that also required the state to let gay men and lesbians wed.

"Working men and women in California have essentially said through their organization that they will not stand any longer for one group of Californians being treated differently under the law," Smith said. "Come November, all Californians are going to affirm that sentiment and we are going to defeat Proposition 8."

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