“It is our hope that, going forward, our leadership’s support for unions extends to us…”
(January 19, 2018, New York, NY) Today, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Janus v. AFSCME, a case pending at the United States Supreme Court. The brief is in support of unions that represent public sector employees. In the crosshairs of this lawsuit are “fair-share fees” – cost-sharing arrangements paid by all public employees who benefit when unions negotiate the best contract possible for everyone. In response, Lambda Unites, the organizing committee of Lambda Legal’s employee union, issued the following statement:
“We are proud to stand behind this brief and the hard work that our talented legal team put in to make it possible because supporting unions is consistent with our values as an organization. That said, we feel we must also note that our CEO, Lambda Legal’s leader, failed to mirror these same values in recent months.
“Unions have been invaluable for many LGBTQ and HIV+ workers – especially in states without explicit statutory protections or federal court rulings – through collective-bargaining agreements that ensure LGBTQ and HIV+ employees are treated equally and provided reprieve when they aren’t and the law falls short. And historically, Lambda Legal has been supportive of unions and the rights of workers to organize and have a collective voice in determining the terms of their employment.
“For example, in 2007, Lambda Legal authored and joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a case on behalf of LGBTQ workers in Michigan when the Governor claimed that union contracts – which provided health benefits for same-sex domestic partners – were a violation of Michigan’s constitutional amendment that said marriage was “between a man and a woman.” Additionally, Lambda Legal’s Know Your Rights: Workplace web resource details the many benefits of employee unions for LGBTQ and HIV+ workers.
“As an organization, Lambda Legal has many times taken a stand for the rights of workers to organize and fight for the dignity, fair treatment, pay and benefits they and their families deserve. We, as employees, are proud to work for an organization that, in just the past year, has won federal protections for workers in Indiana in our Hively v. Ivy Tech case, brought Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital to the front door of the United States Supreme Court, argued in federal court on behalf of LGB employees in Zarda v. Altitude Express and launched the Out At Work campaign. But we are also disappointed to work for an organization where, in our experience, the CEO has not practiced what it preaches.
“Lambda Legal is an ally to and advocate of unions. However, there is a serious disconnect when our CEO refuses to honor the rights of employees by voluntarily recognizing our staff union after a supermajority signed and mailed pledge cards in support of organizing, which instead forced a mail-in vote over the 2017 holiday season.
“But, as we tend to do, and as Lambda Legal employees: we persisted, and we won. We voted by an overwhelming majority to form a union. We did this because changes to our health care and benefits were made for us, unilaterally and without consultation; changes that hurt us and disproportionately affected staff who are paid less, staff with children and families – in particular single parents, staff living with disabilities, staff living with HIV and those of us who are transgender. We organized because this is not what Lambda Legal does – or should – stand for. We are activists, and we know that as a collective our voices will be heard. Lambda Legal would not be what it is today if we did not rise up together for those most vulnerable among us.
“It is our hope that, going forward, our leadership’s support for unions extends to us and our CEO and her legal representatives engage in good faith during this process. It would be hypocritical to have one position externally and another internally.
“We look forward to negotiating for the needs of all of our staff as we move forward, because together we can build a Lambda Legal that is truly equitable for every employee, in every state, in every situation and with every background, identity and need.”