Years ago the Imperialist Uncle Scam, the U.S led by George Bush invaded Iraq and destroyed a civilization based on a pack of lies. A group of us Queers were at a antiwar demonstration, passing out leaflets denouncing the war, waving the rainbow flag and chanting along with the best of them. This was nothing new for some of us since we had been demonstrating against war since the invasion of Vietnam by the U.S. A leftist who for the life of me I can’t remember her name came up to us and said, “I thought you gays were only interested in marriage.” This was said to us almost as a put down by one of the organizers of the rally where speaker after speaker never once mentioned the LGBTQ community. A couple of times of course in the apporiate place I had to yell out, something like, “that affects the Queer Community also,” or “you’re forgetting the LGBT community”, or “Queers too!” I think many in the audience listening to the speakers were a bit taken back as you know that those who are chosen to speak, know their subject that is why they are standing up there, telling all of us what is and what isn’t. ( a topic for a whole other article) “Leaders”, as May Riley says, “Oh what do we do with those who call themselves Leader?”) Whenever Queers Without Borders held an event, Frank would bring along his speaker system, Timmy or Richard would decorate their pull along shopping cart, and a open speak out would be held. We wanted to hear what everyone had to say, not just the chosen few. You know that one idea pushes another idea? Well a lot of ideas push a lot of ideas and we always thought we ended up in a much better place.

Below is one of the antiwar leaflets that Queers Without Borders passed out a demo’s in Hartford.

I got to thinking about this again over the past few months when Jerimarie Liesegang, the mother of the Ct. Transgender movement, and I have been doing a lot of research on the LGBTQI+ communities using a timeline that I did for the exhibition Challenging and Changing America The Struggle for LGBT Civil Rights 1900-1999 among other items of research. We now are on the 3rd video in our collaboration a look at the LGBT movement, The Radicals vrs. the Reformists. (soon to be released) I got to thinking again about unions, the work place, and the struggle for basic civil rights. I got to thinking again that most of us, yes I would say a good percentage of us are working class queers and what did the struggle for human rights in the workplace mean for us, how do we approach unions and how do unions approach the LGBTQI+ communties. I remembered a few sections of the timeline that I wanted to explore more fully so began this posting for Furbirdsqueerly.

This work is gleaned from many sources and put together as a collage in the service of the people.

The cause of labor should be the cause of every LGBT person. Our shared struggle is one of the most critical movements in America today. In this the age of trump and the rise of the right-wing gun toting fascists’, the right to work, get paid a living wage, and share in the fruits of your labor is being eroded week by week. Collective bargaining is one of the only tools in our tool belt that allows us to push back against this tide of income inequality and demand our fair share of the economic pie. Not crumbs mind you, never crumbs shaken from the rich man’s table, and even not a piece of the pie, but honest pay and then some. I think of the line from Solidarity Forever, Without Us Not A Single Wheel Would Turn. Pay that every worker can live on. Honest pay that is ours not the bosses, not the owners, and not the wealthy. Not $15 per hour as some unions say, (in Part 2 we will tell you why and do the math.) Nope we are not bowing and scraping and enjoying those table cloth crumbs. We do not live for pie in the sky.  But in this struggle we must be aware from union-busting corporations, to state legislative all out efforts to dismantle workers’ rights, America’s unions have never faced attacks from so many angles at once. As we know and Jerimarie and I have proven in our research, far too often, the LGBT community of today turns a blind eye to these struggles. The elite leadership of the LGBT movement is drunk with their own wins of marriage and “gays” in the military, yeah folks go kill brown people all over the world in the name of equality, and their one issue agenda of and for the elite among our community. (more on that later) But first we demand unity with the workers of the world and the workers of the world demand the same from us.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS!     (1)

Let us start this essay using a few dates and information from the original timeline of 1999 and other postings from this site. Here are some of the LGBT people who were activists in support of workers and show that the LGBTQ common struggle is with the labor movement.

From Challenging and Changing America: The Struggle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Civil Rights 1900-1999.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman a Russian born Feminist, and Anarchist, though not a Lesbian or Bisexual according to most historians was a strong supporter of our people. When asked in 1900 when living in the U.S how could she dare to come out in support of Oscar Wilde she replied, “Nonsense no daring is needed to protest great injustice.”  ( 2 ) Goldman spoke out in support of freedom of expression, women’s equality, birth control, sexual freedom, workers rights and was a champion of the rights of homosexuals’ and those who were bisexual or transgender.

Magus Hirschfeld said of Goldman, “She was the first and only woman indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public.”  In 1923 she sent a letter to Hirschfeld and stated, “It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life.” In a 1915 tour across the country Goldman defends lesbianism and homosexuality. He appearances prompted many women, unhappy with having to hide their lesbianism, to share their stories with her. Her views were met by disapproval of the mainstream, and also opposition within the radical left and among her anarchist comrades who thought that the mere mention of homosexuality would harm their cause. She also spoke out against what today we know as “lookism” coming to the defense of Anarchist, Poet Louise Michel who people had labeled a lesbian simply because she looked like a man and wore men’s clothing during the Paris Commune. Goldman declared, ” Enough is enough, stop saying a women is a lesbian or anything else for that matter simply because she does not fit men’s shopworn requirements of what a woman should be.”

In 1913, Emma Goldman, spoke in Hartford Ct. February 12th. She talks about love and marriage and stated how marriage-maintained Capitalism. More than 500 people attended the lecture at Hartford’s Columbia Hall. She told the audience that love only comes “from a union between two people and the sanction of the church or law cannot make it a bit more scared or holy.” In talking about Marriage vs. Free Love Goldman had this to say, “Free Love? As if love is anything but free it can live in no other atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely.” Marriage on the other hand, “incapacitates (a woman) for life’s struggles, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination.” Emma Goldman was arrested in 1917 for speaking out against military conscription for World War I, and in 1919 she was deported to Russia. Emma Goldman, upfront, out front, radical and supporter of our people, Presente’.

Marine Cooks and Stewards

Stephen Blair ( 3 )

1933: The National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS) elect Stephen Blair, an openly Gay man as its Vice President. The union was then labeled as “Red, Black and Queer” for its strong liberal views and embrace of minority rights. “Our struggle for freedom was expensive but worth it,” so noted Stephen Blair of those years. The union was Communist led and rejected segregation. Many of its leaders and members were openly Gay. By 1950 the McCarthy witch-hunts destroyed the NUMCS and many of the leaders were blacklisted or imprisoned. In 1995 the CIO expelled the NUMCS and eight other unions.. Blair’s life partner, Frank McCormick, was a vice president of the California Congress of Industrial Organizations and was instrumental during the West Coast longshoremen’s strike in 1934, which led to the unionization of every port on the west coast.  A gay leader in the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS), the flamboyant Blair earned top wages waiting tables on luxury liners before being blacklisted in the 1950s.

The NUMCS arose during the 1930s. Like many other maritime unions, it rejected segregation at a time when Jim Crow unions were the norm. A majority of its members were queer, African American, revolutionary, or all three.  Delegates held meetings and study groups aboard ship.  The strike which lasted over 83 days ended after Bloody Thursday when police fired into striking longshore men killing them. Many shops, theaters, and other businesses closed in support of the strike. Major West coast strikes in the 1930s were led by the California Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Harry Hay.

Harry Hay in Los Angeles, CA, 1989. Photo by Robert Giard ©

Harry Hay longshore man, labor organizer, Communist Party member and gay man described his full political awakening upon seeing the funeral march for the dock workers in 1934.  The funeral procession of 40,000 people filing down Market Street to honor workers shot by police during the strike, Hay described the day as one that he was taken by the “siren song of Revolution”. “You couldn’t have been a part of that,” he recalled, “and not have your life completely changed.”

Hay and his comrades used CPUSA organizing and educational techniques to develop the Mattachine Society into an active and effective representative of gay people and the issues facing them. Like most organizations of its time though, even the Mattachine was not immune to the political pressures of McCarthyism. By the mid-1950s, Harry and Mattachine’s Communist and left leadership found themselves the victims of the same kind of internal redbaiting that had devastated trade unions and mass organizations during the early Cold War.

One of the stories that we at this site are very fond of and find that it crosses from one time to another and teaches us how to act for one another is this one from Harry Hay’s life.

1933: During the “Milk Strike” when mothers of the poor and unemployed protested that large amounts of milk were poured down the storm drains to keep the prices high and the police were beating people Harry Hay throws a brick and dislodges a policeman from his horse. Sympathizers rushed him away to Clarabelle’s for hiding. Clarabelle who lived full time as female, was the “queen mother” of the Los Angeles Bunker Hill. She held an informal position coordinating homosexuals, queens, communists and bohemians. She had a dozen lieutenants, who monitored the area. Clarabelle was one of the most powerful of the “Queen Mothers” who oversaw the comings and goings in the districts of town where they lived.

Gays who sought acceptance and assimilation within the existing system – the opposite of everything Harry and his comrades stood for – took over Mattachine and turned it into an organization of proper men in suits and ties, holding forums with homophobes and centrists, and engaging in very tame actions to seek greater “toleration” for gays. By the time the mass gay liberation movement took shape after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, the Mattachine had come to be seen by many gay activists as an artifact with establishment pretensions. Many times we wonder, if the conservatives didn’t take over this movement I wonder where we would be? Would we have come to liberation sooner rather than now as in still waiting. You know the folks who got rid of Harry Hay so they could go up to Sacramento and change a few laws, same folks who years later walked out of the Gay liberation Front meeting when the people voted to support the Black Panthers and then formed a one issue movement? The same folks who continue to this day wrapped up in their one issue, I want mine mentality and fuck everyone else and then cry when no one will stand up for and with them. Why? Well as Mattilda once said, “A gay elite has hijacked the queer struggle and positioned their desires as everyone’s needs. The dominant signs of straight conformity have become the ultimate measures of gay success.” ( 4  )  Could this be why the straight leftist made her statement to us at the antiwar demonstration. After all at that time in Connecticut the only game in town was Love Makes A Family whose only issue was gay marriage. As QWB noted at the time, “any semblance of a Queer Left, let alone Queer anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anarchical presence was virtually non-existent.

A Lesbian Sister Takes The Lead – or – Ideas on how we all should be.

Dr. Marie Diane Equi
1872-1952

In 1893 Marie Equi and Bess Holcomb who were in a “Boston Marriage” together moved to Oregon where Holcomb worked as a teacher and Equi studied to enter medical school. In 1901 Equi was one of the first women to enter the University of Oregon Medical School. She graduated with a degree in 1903. Dr. Equi set up a medical practice serving working class women and children and was dedicated to the expansion of women’s reproductive choices, including access to birth control and abortion. In 1906 she organized a group of doctors and nurses in response to the San Francisco earthquake to provide aid. At this time she met Harriet Speckart and the women began a relationship living openly as a lesbian couple and adopting a daughter in 1915.

A radical political activist Dr. Equi became an anarchist in 1913 after being beaten by the police while attending to an injured woman worker during a strike action. Due to her professional status she could not become a member of the IWW but was a strong supporter. In 1916 she was arrested at an antiwar protest and in 1918 she was convicted of sedition for a speech she made opposing World War I. In 1920 she began what was to be a 3 year sentence at San Quentin which was later reduced to a year and a half. Never content with protest alone, Equi obtained food and shelter for the unemployed, distributed birth control information, and provided abortions to both poor and upper-class women.

Equi vehemently opposed war preparedness prior to World War I. She believed that profiteering capitalists and imperialists had engineered a conflict that left young men dead on the battlefields of Europe. Dr. Marie Diane Equi died in Portland Oregon in 1952.

Dr. Equi believed, as many of us do, that there is no difference between the many struggles of our human family and that these battles can not be fought as a single issue fight. Dr. Equi saw her fight for birth control, woman’s suffrage, the over all improvement in working conditions, class struggle and against war to be a part of the larger struggle for freedom, dignity, and health of workers and their families.

Rustin Speaking

Bayard Rustin: Socialist, Pacifist, Social Justice Warrior, Labor Leader

Bayard Rustin served the trade union and civil rights movements as a brilliant theorist, tactician and organizer. He conceived the coalition of liberal, labor and religious leaders who supported passage of the civil rights and anti-poverty legislation of the 1960s and, as the first executive director of the AFL-CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, he worked closely with the labor movement to ensure African American workers’ rightful place in the House of Labor.  In 1941, Rustin investigated the problems of conscientious objectors. He then joined staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a nondenominational pacifist group. In 1942, Rustin assisted James Farmer in founding the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an interracial civil rights organization, serving as its first field secretary. Rustin spent 28 months in federal prison after being arrested in 1943 when, as a conscientious objector, he refused to report to his draft board for a physical examination.

In 1955, Rustin worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to organize the successful boycott of the segregated local bus system in Montgomery, Ala., and for the next five years he remained King’s special assistant and close adviser. In 1957 he helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1963, A. Philip Randolph asked Rustin to help him organize a massive March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to mark the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Rustin’s left-wing past and sexual identity (Rustin had never hidden his homosexuality) made him a controversial figure for many of the more conservative members of the coalition Randolph wanted to bring together. To placate them, Randolph accepted designation as the march’s official director, but he appointed Rustin to be its chief organizer. In 1965, with a founding grant from the AFL-CIO, Rustin launched the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) to forge an interracial coalition that would promote racial justice and secure jobs and freedom for all Americans. He served as APRI’s executive director from 1965 until 1972 and as its honorary president until his death in 1987. In 1984, Rustin was arrested after participating in a “silent demonstration” in support of the pay equity demands of striking clerical workers at Yale University.

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The End Up Bar Strike

Queer Wobblies fired for organizing at the End-Up,  gay bar in San Francisco South of Market district, were please to announce a victory n that case. Rather than face trial on Unfair Labor Practice charges at the NLRB, the End-Up bosses instead paid a modestly large amount to each fellow worker with a pending case in exchange for dropping charges.

According to one Wob this was ironic in that our original grievances with the End-up wasn’t about wages–rather, they were about discriminatory hiring and firing practices, arbitrary firings, job security and some measure of control over the conditions in which we worked. When presented with a contract for negotiation, the End-up Bosses instead fired us, and we proceeded over the next several months to picket, the deliveries during the day and the clubs at night. Management denied union involvement in the local press even as they retained a top-notch union busting law firm and enjoined our recognitional picketing in federal court. Months later we filed our charges at the NLRB, and year later the bosses handed us the recognition of an out-of-the-court settlement.

The real victory at the End-Up, however, was that queer workers organized to fight back within our own community. As a ruling caste, gay establishment bosses simultaneously maintain a stranglehold on the community’s resources while simultaneously proclaiming that “we’re all family.” Fiercely anti-union bar owners also publish the local gay papers and own the boutiques in  “our” neighborhood, where sometimes we get to work.

Coors Beer, racist, sexist, anti-union and anti-gay! ( 5 )

Fight the Right–and we still fight the right years later.

In 1977 a historic partnership between the LGBT community and the Teamsters begins. The partnership began when Coors started union busting and in part to a question on a Coors application asking if the applicant was a homosexual. If the answer was yes, that terminated a person’s application. Part of the anti-union campaign was to fire LGBT workers. Howard Wallace a Teamster truck driver campaigned for the boycott of Coors beer. City supervisor Harvey Milk joined the call for the boycott. The result was a bar boycott of Coors beer organized by a new labor and LGBT alliance. The boycott became a powerful national boycott against the notoriously right wing brewery. In 1983, Wallace and other activists formed the Lesbian/Gay Labor Alliance of San Francisco. The beer boycott showed the power of the LGBT community and in other union campaigns LGBT folks allied with and came out within other unions proving that we are indeed here, there, and everywhere. Bottles of Coors beer was brought out of the bars in San Francisco and dumped  down the drains. The struggle against Coors Beer, is an important example of working class unity that took up the banner of LGBTQ rights through an unshakable alliance of gay activists and organizations, labor unions, immigrant rights groups and other anti-racist sectors, setting the basis for the unity that these movements share today.

 

We will enter our question here: While the unions are being attacked by the Trump administration where is the queer mainstream of today? Why are they not standing up in support of the unions? One only needs to look a the recent history of the Gay rights struggle and know that the unions have been there for the LGBT community over the years.

Here is a good statement:

“American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka noted in a 2018 op-ed, “For many LGBTQ Americans, a union card is their only form of employment protection,” and he’s right. There is currently no federal law that protects queer and trans workers from being discriminated against at work, and the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy that classified bias against trans workers as a form of sex discrimination, which falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With even that gone, queer and trans workers are left with no federal-level workplace protections, and are subject to individual states’ laws, which can also impact access to housing and health care.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), more than one in four trans workers have lost a job due to bias, with over three-fourths reporting that they’ve experienced discrimination at work. Discrimination can take many forms, from privacy violations, refusal to hire, harassment, and physical and sexual violence to misgendering workers or denying them access to appropriate bathrooms. According to the NCTE’s 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 30% of trans workers report experiencing harassment at work, and trans workers experience unemployment at a rate three times higher than those in the general population do; for trans workers of color, the unemployment rate is four times higher.”

How much is not enough?

So many in the LGBT mainstream do not and will not stand with queers who know as the sign says, are workers. This is not enough. When unions are under attack LGBT folks must stand up and fight back. Now we mean this not only when LGBT workers are under attack but when all workers are under attack. There can be no other way.

But many of us are not afraid to answer the call of the workers and stand in support. Here we will look at some events that happened in Hartford Ct , where members of the LGBTQ community stood shoulder to shoulder with the unions, and with workers under threat from the bosses and companies.

An Evening of Solidarity: A benefit for the IWW Food and Allied Workers.
The program arranged by Bernardo Mc Laughlin of the SDS and Queers Without Borders featured Frank O’Gorman of People of Faith for Gay Civil Rights and Queers Without Borders, Trans singer Evan Greer of the Riot Folk Collective, Mr. Mayday & The Hired Guns of Frequency Activism and IWW Organizer Billy Randall. Queers Without Borders was one of the main sponsors of the event.

AND we know from all of the above that one lesson all of us had better remember is this.

Picket Line Song-Evan Geer

“These workers work hard and they do a job that not everyone wants to do.”

Where do we come from? A history of the Janitor’s Union.

In 1921, representatives from seven Chicago unions met to form the Building Services Employees International Union (BSEIU). According to founding organizer William Quesse, the union was important, “For the worker for had no one on his side.” Immigrant janitors from Eastern Europe, Africa, Turkey, Spain and Ireland came together in Chicago to form the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU). Today, the Service Employees International Union has come to represent some 2 million workers, over 25 percent of whom identify as immigrants – a constant tribute to the union’s roots. From the start, SEIU has embraced its heritage as a union of immigrants and has stood on the frontline of immigrant justice.

BSEIU faced opposition from building owners, the courts, and even other unions, but managed to quickly grow from 200 members in 1921 to 250,000 by 1960. In 1968, the BSEIU changed its name to Service Employees International Union (SEIU). But the Chicago-based Local 1, the union’s first local union, continues to unite janitors, security officers, and other property service workers for justice at the workplace and in our communities today.

 

There is power in the Union. We all stuck together and brought down the Pharaohs.

One demonstration that some of us will never forget was a Justice For Janitors shut down of Main and Pearl Street, Hartford Ct. during rush hour. Negotiations were getting nowhere for a new contract for the cleaners in Hartford due to a hold out by the President of UTC. You know the famous part of the war machine, that we demonstrate against or stopped at during any antiwar demo. The ones who makes big bucks on killing innocent women, children and men all around the world where Uncle Scam does its dirty deeds. In the weeks leading up to the massive rally on Main, folks in the social justice movements in the area, clergy, and legislators alike had been arrested in various actions. (we are going to examine this in Part 2. During those weeks we saw classism on display brought to the arrestees by the judicial system in handing out sentences) We are proud to say the two members of the clergy a gay priest and a lesbian bishop, a bisexual state legislator, and several lesbian leaders in the non-profit sector had been arrested along with many janitors. After a few choice words by the president of UTC such as calling the cleaners donkey’s, and declaring it wasn’t his fault that they couldn’t do anything but clean building the union and members said enough is enough.

A small group of us had formed what we called the MADA Art Party and word came through the grapevine that UTC was going to sponsor an exhibition on the Impressionists at the local art museum. Well we said, we are artists and we are janitors and we know how to fight back. Let’s all go to the pretty picture show. We release this leaflet to all the patrons coming and going into the pretty picture show that evening. Justice for Janitors Leaflet from the MADA ART PARTY.

The flip side of the leaflet said this:
THE MADA ART PARTY
CELEBRATES AND SALUTES
THE JUSTICE FOR JANITORS CAMPAIGN.
OUR BROOMS ARE READY TO SWEEP AWAY
THE DIRT THAT THE GREEDY TRY TO HEAP ON US!

Mr.. George David of UTC thinks it’s quite okay to wage war upon the working poor. Mr. David and UTC think that art is nice but those that clean their toilets don’t deserve a living wage, with good benefits. They wish to be seen as good corporate citizens. They sponsor this show and that run. Their name is up in lights. But their sponsorship is like the shiny red apple and their apple is full of worms. Worms of the worst kind. Those that eat away at the gains of the workers. Those that try to destroy the little that the working poor have. All the while here at the Wadsworth Atheneum the UTC name is up in lights sponsoring an art exhibition. Oh, yes George, art is nice, but lets see those dead artists and pretty pictures clean your toilet. Certainly UTC can afford to give to the janitors that clean its buildings a fair wage. Is that too much to ask? We don’t think so.

The MADA Art Party says to hell with pretty picture shows. Give the janitors a decent wage!

The MADA Art Party seeks justice. We are not affiliated with the Service Employees Union, Local 531. We join the Justice For Janitors Campaign as workers in the arts and stand against corporate greed and the war against the working poor. The Struggle Is Our Art.

We embarrassed the fucker by going to the opening party with our signs and leaflets. We heard many times “No thank you,” that night, and one well heeled patron told us to, “get a job.” That is how removed the razzy dazzy folks who attend art openings are from the struggle of the people. Mary yelled back, “Take a bath.” That is how pissed we were. “Donkey’s”, fuck you buster brains, you can be glad all we do is tell you to take a bath. But many did accept the leaflet. I am sure we were the buzz at the party, the elephant in the room, the talk of the show. In the end with pressure on and a massive sit in at Main and Pearl with hundreds of janitors and supporters he and all the other powers that be knew we were serious. We were defiant. The very thought of backing down now was not in the play script.The very idea that UTC would support mostly a white middle class who come into the city to view an art show and not the very lives of the janitors that clean UTC headquarters was not lost on anyone. That must be their sense of community.

Damn right the janitors were serious for who else would sit down in the middle of the street on a cold rainy October Day? Damn right they knew we meant business as hundreds of supporters brave the rain and stood on the sidewalk. We really messed up rush hour. We put a little real art into the picture. Well the city hall powers called out the riot police. Ha, riot police all dressed up in their riot police outfits standing against immigrant cleaning women and men, black, brown and white together that is us. Power in the union as the song goes. Guess they were afraid of our mops and brooms our yelling in many languages. Oh, the art of persuasion. But the fun part is many people from the office buildings came out and stood with us. People clapped from their windows. People at the bus stop joined in. Yeah, people were pissed, after all it was rush hour, and folks we just want to get out of this city and go home. Yeah and we just want to stop being treated like dirt.

The riot police blocked the door at United Technologies stopping anyone from going in and sending those who wanted to go out around the back. Doing a job for us that we couldn’t have dreamed of. For that hours or two the art of revolution was in the streets. The cherry on the top was the janitors finally won. My partner, friend Mary, and John were arrested. When everyone was released later that evening we all had chicken soup, nice homemade buns, took hot showers, and hoped that no one would come down with a wicked cold. So you see business may perform for the arts, but when it come to those who clean up their daily shit, well fuck the people they say. Well we don’t want them to fuck us, and we know time after time that unless the people take to the street and stand up tall and denounce the fuckers any way that they can, we will be cleaning up their daily shit for the crumbs they care to toss our way. Living life like revolutionary artists, real artists. Shake that mop and broom. Bang your cans, shake your mops and brooms, chant, chant, chant. Music to my ears. Did I just hear the song Pharaoh’s Army Got Drowned? Yes I did, giving hope to us all, as a great cheer went up. That old Pharaoh George David was brought to his knees finally after weeks of negotiations, more demonstrations and rallies the janitors of Hartford won a decent contract.

“There’s not going to be peace in this city. We did it in 2000, if we have to do it again, we will.” ( 6 )

One of the video’s that was shown to union members and others was this from LA and you can bet this is why we hate the pigs. Looking at this years later we cringe when we see the horror of the cops and the way they treated the janitors. But what else is new. Nobody should ever give these guys a gun and a billy club.

Songs are a important part of any struggle. This version of Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Don’t You Mourn is one of our favorites and we have sung it many times. As Pete Seeger use to say, the test of any good song is if you can take it change some words to fit the situation you are in and the song still holds up. Well this one has been sung whenever we needed to remind folks that that old Pharaoh, can and will be brought down and together we can drown the sucker.  Beware Pharaoh the power of the people. If I could I surely would, Stand on the rock where Moses stood.

 

Notes:

(1) The famous final phrase of the Manifesto, “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”, in the original German is: “Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!” Thus, a more correct translation would be “Proletarians of all countries, Unite!”

“Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!” is a popularisation of the last three sentences, and is not found in any official translation. Since this English translation was approved by Engels, we have kept the original intact.

( 2 )  Emma Goldman, The Unjust Treatment of Homosexuals. 1900-1923. Nonsense No Daring Is Needed To Protest Great Injustice. 

( 3 ) Stephen Richard Blair was born on July 19, 1917, in a sod house built by his father in Swanville, Minnesota. His parents, Louis and Eva (McPhee) Blair, raised a large Catholic family in Minnesota and Saskatchewan, Canada. Blair attended Duluth Central High School and the University of Minnesota in Duluth. In January 1936 Blair entered the U.S. Army and served as a field paramedic. He was discharged for suspicion of homosexuality in October of the same year. He later moved to San Francisco, where he met his partner Frank McCormick. Blair and McCormick’s relationship lasted roughly forty-one years, until McCormick died of lung cancer in the 1980s.

When Blair and McCormick met, McCormick was serving as a union officer for the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS). He was also on the executive board of the California Congress of Industrial Organizatons (CIO) and was actively involved in the Pacific coast maritime strike of 1936. NUMCS was a small union known for full integration of African American and gay members. NUMCS leaders were blacklisted in the 1950s, and the union was expelled from the CIO in 1955 for communist leadership. Blair became involved in NUMCS while working as a ship’s delegate on passenger cruise lines and freighters. He served as a delegate for a union-wide meeting on the S.S. Aleutian . Blair earned top wages waiting tables on luxury liners before being blacklisted in the 1950s by the Merchant Marines. He also held positions as an hospital orderly, a medical assistant for an Arctic oil rig named Kavik , and a studio prop man on Hollywood movie sets.

McCormick and Blair both had interests in theater and performance. In World War I, McCormick served in a drag troupe called the Pink Stockings. He also sang in the Fighting American Quartet to entertain troops. In World War II, Blair performed in the United Service Organizatons’ (USO) theater and entertainment shows. These experiences sparked a continuing interest in theater. Blair played in stock theater shows in Hollywood, San Diego, and Los Angeles, California. After visiting Hawaii with the USO, he decided to stay and work in advertising. He performed under the name “Mickey Blair” in a 1945 Honolulu Community Production of The Petrified Forest by Robert Sherwood.

McCormick and Blair moved to Seattle in the late 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, Blair was involved in Democratic election campaigns. In 1980 Blair sang in the Seattle Men’s Chorus, which formed in 1979. Blair was also one of five Seattle gay and lesbian elders who performed their own life stories in the 1992 Alice B. Theatre production, Hidden History: True Stories from Seattle’s Gay and Lesbian Elders. The play was directed by Patricia Van Kirk and was based upon interviews completed as part of the Alice B. Theatre Oral History Project. Stephen R. Blair died in April of 1997.

( 4 ) From That’s Revolting, Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation.  Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.

( 5 )  For an excellent article on the Coors Beer Boycott go to The Coors Boycott: The LGBT Movement and People’s Counter Offensive Against The Right.

( 6 ) Words spoken by Juan Hernandez during contract negotiations in 2019. In 2,000 when the sit-down in the street happened 25 people were arrested. Local news coverage had this to say, “With a strike against the 20 cleaning services possible as early as Tuesday, the 1,500-member union is stepping up its campaign — especially against UTC, the state’s largest private employer and an aggressive proponent of cutting costs to boost profits for shareholders. Frustrated UTC executives have had a hard time explaining the complexities of the situation to outsiders. Spokesman Peter Murphy points out that the janitors aren’t UTC employees and says the corporation has to accept the best bid it can, given a balance of quality and price. (we have always loved that “not corporate employees” bit. That has been used so many times it stinks each time we hear it. We answered, But who signs the check to the cleaning companies? Who puts profit over people? By accepting the “best” bid you can get you know fully well what you are doing. Another line that was always fed to us was, “The times are not right. The economy is sluggish.” To that reply it was said, “according to you guys the time is never right.”

To bring it up to date, Who is still working in your buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic? Who is sanitizing your buildings every day? Who are putting themselves at risk for you? Who continues to work even those over 65 because the cleaning companies will not lay them off for the time being? If they quit or stay home they end up losing their good benefits and of course will have no money coming in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* In 1970, the American Federation of Teachers became the first labor union to call for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation (in 2007, the AFT also went on record calling for an end to discrimination based on gender identity and expression).
In the intervening decades since 1970, the AFT has continually reaffirmed its support for the rights of LGBT workers in the workplace and in the broader society, including resolutions advocating for educational and workplace equity for sexual minorities (1988), barring the AFT from holding its conventions and conferences in municipalities that enforce legal codes discriminating against LGBT individuals (1994), supporting legal protections for transgender workers (2003), and endorsing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (2010).

In 1993 one thousand members of the Service Employees International Union met at Local 250’s union hall in Oakland and founded SEIU’s Western Conference Lavender Caucus. A few years later in 1997, Pride at Work, an organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of queer workers, with the AFL-CIO.

Pride At Work is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies. We are an officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations) that organizes mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBTQ Community to further social and economic justice. From our national office in Washington, DC, we coordinate and support more than 20 Chapters across the country. We organize in the spirit of the union movement’s historic motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” We oppose all forms of discrimination on the job and in our unions based on sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, religion or political views.

Lavender Caucus

The Lavender Caucus founded on May 1, 1992 is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex & Questioning (LGBTIQ) Caucus of the Service Employees International Union whose purpose is to facilitate open and respectful communication between the LGBTIQ community and the labor movement by:

Increasing the visibility of LGBTIQ rank-and-file activists, officers and staff members in their unions and workplaces, and in work actions;
Creating a visible SEIU presence within the LGBTIQ community;
Educating SEIU members, staff and leadership about LGBTIQ issues;
Educating the LGBTIQ community about labor issues and supporting workers’ rights within that community;
Networking with other labor and community groups to build a strong, visible coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and allies activists;
Supporting the AFL-CIO constituency group Pride at Work (P@W), acting as a liaison between SEIU and P@W and working with other international LGBTIQ organizations;
Organizing against all discrimination, specifically including discrimination based on sex or gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or perceived orientation and/or marital status; and
Promoting and facilitating LGBTIQ active participation and leadership through union democracy and rank-and-file development.

Stayed tuned for Part 2.

Comments
  1. “The struggle is our art.”

    • Hi Steve. I got to find the whole poem called The Struggle Is Our Art. One line I will always remember said, Our dance a million feet non stopping to those we oppose we are their danger and they will know.
      Can’t wait to finish Part 2. Have you seen the videos that Jerimarie and I did? We are now on 4 and it will sure shake up and ruffle some feathers. All facts, all from the archives and all very interesting. It is a look at the reformists vrs. the radicals and the dirty little secret of the Gay movement and white power.