Today’s News & Commentary — October 26, 2018

Published October 26th, 2018 -  - 10.26.182


While the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief to the Supreme Court this week arguing that Title VII’s workplace discrimination protections do not extend explicitly to transgender or transitioning workers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic said the agency has no plans to stop enforcing the law based on its more inclusive interpretation.  Lipnic conceded that the EEOC will likely have new leadership in the future and acknowledged that the Supreme Court may take up the issue soon.  Still, she said that “[t]he EEOC has not relented and not retracted.”  In the past five years, the agency has recovered more than $6 million from employers who faced claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Julianne Tveten at In These Times writes that one way to defend transgender people from the Trump administration’s attacks on their rights is labor unions.  Tveten explains that union contracts can include protections such as anti-discrimination protections, gender-neutral bathroom access, and transgender inclusive health care coverage.  Because these provisions are enforceable even in the absence of statutory or regulatory protections, workplace contracts “countering the federal government’s potential erasure of transgender and non-binary people have taken on a new level of urgency.”  Jerame Davis, executive director of the AFL-CIO’s LGBTQ constituency group Pride at Work, emphasized that workers and their representatives need to fight for these protections in order to secure them in print.  A 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 15 percent of transgender workers surveyed were members of a union or were represented by one, slightly higher than the 11 percent of Americans now belonging to unions overall.

The National Education Association, the country’s largest labor union and one of its major teachers unions, reported that more than 1,400 candidates for elected office on November 6 are former or current education employees.  Over 1,000 of those candidates are Democrats.  With so many teachers appearing on the ballot, education workers now comprise 19 percent of the Democratic Party’s candidates in this year’s state elections.  Union leadership and candidates credit this year’s wave of teachers strikes as a mobilizing and educational experience that inspired teachers to run.  One Oklahoma teacher recently told New York Magazine that the teachers walkout in her state convinced her to change her ballot from red to blue.

The Wall Street Journal explains that the #MeToo movement has resulted in no discernable change in the promotion of women in corporate America.  While the rate of unemployment among women in the labor force is at a low of 3.3 percent, the percentage of women in leadership has stalled.  This year’s Women in the Workplace survey from LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. found that women still only account for 20 percent of senior leadership in the private sector, with women of color making up only 4 percent.

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