Views in brief

December 4, 2008

An LGBT-union alliance

I'D LIKE to add a footnote to the history shown, pretty accurately, in the excellent movie Milk ("Out, proud and fighting").

Both the Coors boycott and the "No on Briggs" campaign were fights waged in alliance with labor unions, partly because of the burgeoning network of gay and lesbian activists who actively sought to create that alliance.

Howard Wallace, one of those activists, gives an account of this effort:

The Teamsters wanted our support in boycotting Coors, which was nonunion. Gays didn't like Coors, either, because the company had a lie-detector test for prospective employees, and one of the questions was, "Are you a homosexual?" [But the Teamsters weren't much better, so] before saying yes, Harvey wanted them to hire gay drivers.

Because of the gay and lesbian contribution, we got Coors out of over 100 bars. San Francisco was the first place in the country to make the boycott work--to this day, I still don't know of any bars [in the Castro] that carry Coors. And when Harvey finally won the election, the whole joint council of Teamsters was behind him.

Why is this worth focusing on? Because making connections between the LGBT movement and workers organized in unions is still an urgent necessity. Unions need to defend all their members. As the chant says, "Gay, straight, black, white, equal marriage is a right." And our movement needs the power of organized labor.

Finally, here's a brief take on what Pride at Work does in San Francisco now.
Tina Beacock, Chicago

Marriage shouldn't determine our rights

SHERRY WOLF does an excellent job of making the case that it is important for the left to be involved in the struggle for gay marriage rights even though there are significant problems with the institution of marriage ("The unapologetic case for gay marriage").

But I don't think she accurately captures what it is that troubles many on the left about the focus on gay marriage.

It is certainly true, and a great injustice, that gay couples do not have the same rights as married straight couples. But unmarried individuals generally are treated differently by the legal system and other institutions than married individuals. Marriage in general provides advantages in terms of health insurance, taxes and a number of other respects, and this is wrong. People should not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, but neither should their marital status determine their rights and privileges.

To be sure, as Wolf points out, much more can potentially be achieved by this movement than just the legalization of gay marriage. But it's important for the left to spell out what some of our other goals are for this movement.
Jeff Melton, from the Internet

What is the U.S. doing in Congo?

I'M CONFUSED about some aspects of your reporting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo ("Behind the war in the Congo").

I'm not doubting for a second that the U.S. government or corporations would do horrible things in search of profit. It's just that I can't see the direct cause-and-effect relationships in a lot of the events described in the article.

It's unclear to me why the U.S. government and U.S. corporations are backing both sides of war--wouldn't it be easier to exploit the mineral resources and Congolese labor if the U.S. tried to end the conflict by decisively supporting one side or the other? Is this a case of different segments of the U.S. ruling class competing for the same resources using locals as proxy armies, or is there a coordinated strategy to destabilize the region?

When you say that the U.S. "supplied arms" to both the DRC and regional governments, was that for-profit arms trading by U.S. military corporations, or strategic military aid from the U.S. government aimed at securing future profits?

Similarly, it's unclear why the U.S. backed the Rwandan slaughter of the 800,000 Hutu refugees during the 1996 invasion. Why not do business with the existing DRC government? Where is the profit in hunting down refugees?
James Moy, from the Internet

Secrecy needed for Employee Free Choice

I WOULD enthusiastically support the Employee Free Choice Act if there was a secret ballot clause involved ("A new battle over the right to organize").

As Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) stated: "It is beyond me how one can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone--your employer, your union organizer and your co-workers--knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice.'"

Until this is addressed, I simply refuse to support this measure.
Brad Maxwell, from the Internet