CAW Statement on Working With Pride (1997)
July 17, 1997
The Black and Pink Triangles
The Black and Pink Triangles are the symbols which were used by Nazi Germany to identify the lesbian and gay people in their concentration camps. Tens of thousands of homosexuals wore these symbols to their deaths in the gas chambers. These remain the symbols of one of history's most extreme examples of homophobia and a reminder of the need to undertake a struggle against homophobia in all its forms.
Homophobia is still alive and well within the community as well as within the workplace. Many lesbian and gay workers are systematically denied jobs and accommodation, physically bashed and some even killed simply because of who they are. Discriminatory laws and continued institutionalization of homophobia is present in all aspects of society. Many employers capitalize on discriminatory legislation against lesbian sisters and gay brothers by openly denying benefits to their same sex partners and their families or terminating their employment when they find out their sexual orientation.
Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are everywhere: they work beside us, they are active in our unions, they are our neighbours, they are church members, community activists, professionals, athletes, elected officers and politicians. They are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses and our friends.
Over the last few years, the CAW has made some giant steps forward in the fight against homophobia in the communities and in the union as well as in the workplaces. Some workplaces, through bargaining, have been able to obtain same sex spousal benefits and pensions. Since 1995, there have been workshops for same sex spouses on lesbian and gay issues at the CAW Human Rights Conferences, regionally and nationally, as well as at the Women's Conferences.
In 1994, a lesbian and a gay man from CAW were appointed by the CAW to the CLC Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Working Group. In 1995, a CAW representative was appointed by the CAW to the OFL Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Working Group.
The CAW Education Centre's library in Port Elgin has educational videos and materials on lesbian and gay issues. The national union has compiled a mailing list for lesbian and gay activists and sends out a Black and Pink Triangle mailout periodically. The national has helped establish lesbian, gay and bisexual caucuses in BC and Ontario.
Through the CAW's support, the caucuses have designed and produced a national pin and banner representing CAW Gay Pride and Solidarity. These banners are visible at gay pride events and at labour demonstrations.
Workshops on lesbian and gay issues are important in the fight against homophobia. Participants come to a better understanding of what homophobia is and we need to confront and challenge this form of discrimination. The national union is committed to ensuring education on lesbian and gay issues will be an integral part of education and human rights work and necessary materials will be incorporated in relevant courses.
Since the birth of the CAW lesbian, gay and bisexual caucuses, there have been a number of lesbian and gay members who have declared their sexual orientation at their workplaces and have taken a stand as activists for the union. Many of these members would never have come out, nor ever got involved in the union, if not for the strength and support given to them by way of the caucuses. The CAW lesbian, gay and bisexual caucuses need the continued support from the national union. We need to establish new caucuses across Canada within the CAW.
The national union and locals will continue to provide support to ensure that the caucuses are maintained and exist as safe places for lesbians, gays and bisexuals to meet on a regular basis.
The CAW continues to bargain same sex benefits in all contracts. Contract language must be non-discriminatory towards lesbian and gay workers, such as with the definition of spouse. We also should be challenging the exclusion of lesbians and gays in regards to pension plans. The union must be prepared to fight the backlash that comes when trying to implement same sex benefits.
CLC and Federations of Labour Working Groups
At the CLC as well as at the federations of labour the national union is committed to providing full support to appointed activists.
Fighting homophobia and other systemic barriers that lesbian, gay and bisexual members face every day will require solidarity and commitment. We must be prepared to join and lead in the fight against homophobia in all its forms. Our collective action now will build a stronger and a more united union for the future. A union in which lesbian and gay members participate equally and freely at all levels without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
July 17, 1997