It is quite fitting that our final push for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) begins at the time that we as Americans celebrate Labor Day. This is our moment to say that transgender people have the right to be employed, to be judged on the quality of the work we do, and not on who we are. It is a time to stand up with dignity and assert our equality in the workplace.
As stories of discrimination have been coming in, I’ve been struck by the power of people being willing to tell the truth about what happened to them. By speaking out, we send a message that these acts of discrimination are not acceptable to us as individuals or as Americans. Each story says, in its own way, that the pain of what happened when someone was fired or treated badly is an outrage. And we need to say that over and over again.
The Labor Day holiday was born out of the labor unrest in the 19th century, when workers spoke out for better pay, safer working conditions, and the end of company control of their lives. When the Pullman workers went on strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland sent 12,000 troops to break the strike, resulting in violence and the death of two strikers. In an attempt to win back some labor votes that election year, Cleveland established Labor Day as a gesture to American workers.
A few years after the holiday was established, the head of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, declared it “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed…that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”
This is our time to stand shoulder to shoulder, to demand that discrimination against transgender people in the workplace must end and must end now. Will you take a stand and work to pass ENDA with us? We will all feel stronger for it.
If you have experienced workplace discrimination, please consider telling us your story. It is valuable information as we talk with members of Congress about why this bill is so important. You can choose whether or not we will disclose your name.