Labor, Class and Queer

Bill Fletcher, Jr., vice president for International
Trade Union Development at the George Meany
Center for Labor Studies, started off a panel at
CLAGS’s “Labor, Class & Queer” conference in
October by evoking the image of a dangerous gulch
that has only a shaky bridge across it. What are the
options, he asked? Try the bridge? Look for another? Meeting the many gulches corporate capitalism
has dug these days, he suggested, organized labor has only one viable choice: It must build a new
bridge, one that can support everyone and that is designed and constructed by everyone. Along with
Newspaper Guild activist Donna Cartwright (who works for the New York Times — and also serves as
associate editor of Transgender Tapestry magazine) and Desma Holcombe, director of research and
policy for building service workers local 32BJ SEIU (and co-author with Miriam Frank of Pride at Work),
he commented on labor’s growing embrace of LGTBQ folks as part of its bridge-building corps. A
second panel — featuring activist/scholars Carlos Ulises Decena, Miriam Frank and Patrick McCreery —
considered how the LGTBQ movement has responded to labor and class issues: Frank discussed
organizing efforts in organizations like GMHC and the Whitman-Walker Center in Washington; Descena
presented some of his findings about the workplace and social challenges faced by immigrant
Dominican men who have same-sex relations; McCreery analyzed the limitations of workplace antidiscrimination
legislation. The panels were sandwiched by two screenings of Kelly Anderson and Tami
Gold’s compelling documentary film, “Out at Work,” followed by a Q&A with them and Nat Keitt, an
organizer featured in the film. “When members come out,” he declared, “unions respond, honey!”