Unions And Gays Unite In Support Of Proposal 2

By Crystal A. Proxmire

"As a woman in skilled trades, I've had equal opportunity. I've had a living wage. I've got healthcare for my family and I don't have to worry about being let go for no reason. I appreciate what my union has done for me," said Becky Ervin, an engineer who builds prototypes for GM who also serves as the Financial Secretary of her UAW Local.

Ervin has stepped up this election season and spent her personal time campaigning in favor of Proposal 2. She's been knocking on doors around the metro Detroit area, and has been featured in a commercial which was produced by the Protect Working Families campaign. Ervin said she's "always been a union activist, but I see how it can help the GLBT community. The union has been at the forefront of the change - civil rights, women's rights."

Roland Leggett of Equality Michigan and Mayor Dave Coulter also appeared in the commercial.

Standing before the Equality Michigan banner in the commercial, Leggett said "In Michigan, our State Constitution doesn't protect against being fired because you're gay or denied housing because you're gay or any of the issues that matter so much to Michigan families. However 10 years ago as a result of collective bargaining the auto industry extended same sex benefits to all of its workers. Today same sex benefits are the norm and that only happened because of collective bargaining."

Mayor Coulter shared how labor-based movements spread beyond the workplaces that start them. "When I was an Oakland County Commissioner we passed a non-discrimination policy and I'm convinced that one of the reasons it passed was because we were able to point to the major employers in Oakland County who already have these things in place. For Oakland County to be successful we need to be as progressive and inclusive as our workplaces."

Protect Working Families is reaching out to various communities, including Arab Americans, the Faith Community, LGBT, Jewish, and Latino people, seniors, Veterans, women and youth.

Christos Michalakis, President of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, is working with members of the gay community to foster unity and cooperation. "The issues that matter to every family - jobs, schools, the economy - are issues that are important to the LGBT community, and to organized labor," Michalakis said. He praised the efforts of the gay community in collecting "stacks and stacks of signatures" at Pride events over the summer to help get Proposal 2 on the ballot, and wanted to let the gay community know that "when you support a union business, you're supporting a service that is made in an environment that supports LGBT workers."

"I'm proud to represent a group of unions that are very progressive. One thing we say is that an injustice to workers anywhere is an injustice to workers everywhere," he said.

Once the votes are cast, the fight for equality and for worker's rights does not end. Ervin is among those who are working to start a Pride at Work chapter for the Detroit area. When asked why she is such an involved activist, she replied "I am the foster parent of young kids and I knew I had to stay active for them. It's my job to do what's best for them."

Watch Ervin, Leggett and Coulter in the video above, and visit http://protectworkingfamilies.com/.

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