News & Commentary

July 22, 2014

Monday, President Obama signed an executive order which bars federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. The executive order also expands federal workplace protections on the basis of gender identity. While some have applauded Obama’s bold move to address bias, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that some lawmakers, such as Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, have criticized the President for not carving out an exemption for contractors tied to religion. “In seeking to curtail unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Hatch said to The Salt Lake Tribune, “we must ensure that legal protections do not trample upon basic religious liberties.” Commentators, including The New York Times Editorial Board, argue that an exemption would be inappropriate, and some activist groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, have backed off support of the federal nondiscrimination bill that cleared the Senate and has yet to be debated by the House because they fear it makes it too easy for companies to claim a moral exemption. University of Utah law professor and Chairman of Equality Utah Clifford Rosky gave his comments on the matter. “Religion cannot be used as an excuse to justify discrimination against gay and transgender individuals.”

Huffington Post reports that workers at a Subway location inside a Pilot Flying J travel center in Bloomsbury N.J. voted Friday to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The 13 workers are employed by Pilot Flying J, which is the Tennessee-based family business of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Gov. Haslam’s actions and statements during the union drive at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, including threatening to condition financial incentives on VW’s union status, are being considered by the NLRB. We have covered the Chattanooga Volkswagen story extensively. In February, a group of cashiers, gas pump attendants, and maintenance workers at the same Pilot Flying J travel center voted in favor of joining RWDSU, a foothold that undoubtedly helped the Subway workers in the center organize, despite the professionally managed anti-union campaign staged by the company.

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