Pride in the union: Standing together for LGBT workers’ rights
I was proud to be part of the TUC team supporting Pride in London on Saturday, talking with many marchers about the work trade unions do in fighting for LGBT rights at work.
One young man’s story stuck with me in particular. He told me how he had been kicked out of his family home after coming out as gay. He moved to London to look for work, found a room to rent and got a job working in a nightclub. He is currently on only £5.00 an hour – less than the adult minimum wage – and finding it impossible. With no family to support him, but rent and bills to pay, he tried to get by by borrowing money from payday lenders. Now £6,000 in debt and with little to show for it, he’s very worried about the future and how he will survive.
Pride also coincides with the TUC’s annual LGBT Conference, which gives a voice to equality issues facing LGBT people in the workplace and beyond. His story reminded me of a conference speech given by SERTUC LGBT network secretary (and young Unite member) David Sharkey.
David told conference about the ways many young LGBT people end up in vulnerable employment. New to the labour market and sometimes less confident in life, they often try to go into jobs where they feel safer expressing their sexuality. This means that many end up in sectors like hospitality and retail, which are notoriously bad sectors for low pay and vulnerable employment contracts like zero hours. The young man I met at Pride was far from alone in his vulnerable situation.
Trade unions play an important role in helping LGBT workers to feel more comfortable coming out in the workplace and to challenge employers to pay the living wage and put an end to insecure contracts. With solidarity and the support of the wider movement we can make a positive difference to the rights of LGBT workers.
A record 30,000 people took part in Saturday’s Pride, This year’s theme was #freedomto
I know what the trade union message would be…
#freedomto not be discriminated against because of sexuality
#freedomto to enjoy equal rights and dignity at work
#freedomto join a union, gain protection and enforce your rights