WASHINGTON – The bipartisan campaign Americans for Workplace Opportunity announced today that it had formed in order to take advantage of a historic opportunity to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act 19 years after its first introduction – a bill to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The group plans to spend more than $2 million on the effort and has hired Matt McTighe, a veteran strategist who most recently served as Marriage Project Director for Gill Action after winning the campaign to bring marriage equality to Maine, to serve as the campaign manager.
A majority of states lack laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from workplace bias and there is no federal law explicitly barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“No one should be fired for who they are or who they love, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a bipartisan, common-sense way to put those values into federal law,” McTighe said. “Our campaign will mobilize the supermajority of diverse Americans who believe in workplace fairness and push Congress to act on ENDA this year.”
The steering committee of Americans for Workplace Opportunity is a diverse and bipartisan group of organizations composed of: American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Unity Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the Service Employees International Union. Dozens of other organizations that support ENDA will also be involved in the coalition.
ENDA was introduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as well as Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) on April 25, 2013. ENDA was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on July 10, 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 15-7, including three Republican Senators.
“With the tremendously successful mark-up of ENDA earlier this month, we have strong momentum as we build to reach 60 votes on the Senate floor,” McTighe said. “We will use all of our resources including grassroots action and strong corporate support to make it clear that the American people want action on this bill.”
The campaign will be engaged in grassroots activities in key states such as Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The eight steering committee members alone represent a grassroots army of more than 5.6 million members and supporters.
Nine out of 10 Americans mistakenly believe federal law already protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination, as the law protects on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability.
77% of all Americans support such legislation including 85% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 70% of Republicans; as well as 77% of observant Christians, 72% of Deep South residents and 69% of seniors.
Studies show as many as 43% of LGBT, and 90% of transgender employees say they’ve experienced workplace discrimination according to the Williams Institute and data from NCTE and the Task Force. Yet only 5% have reported it because there are few protections against anti-LGBT discrimination and they rightly fear repercussion.
More resources on ENDA are available on the campaign’s website
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Full equality for LGBT Americans means not only the freedom to marry, but also ending discrimination in the workplace. It’s an outrage that Americans can still be fired or denied work for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Congress must act this year to correct this once and for all.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said: "The promise of full human dignity, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us fifty years ago, depends on economic equality. Discrimination must never be tolerated. The time to pass ENDA is now."
Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior advisor to the American Unity Fund said: “All Americans, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have the freedom and opportunity to earn a living without fear of discrimination. ENDA’s time is now and it recognizes the commonsense principle that in order for American businesses to compete in the 21st century they need talented employees who are judged on their own merits and hard work, and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Republicans and Democrats alike understand that it is wrong to fire a qualified worker simply because of who they are.”
HRC president Chad Griffin said: “It is shameful and embarrassing that past Congresses have failed to pass federal employment protections for LGBT Americans even though fair-minded leaders have advocated for its passage for years. As we experience the bipartisan sea change on LGBT equality, we call on Congress to seize this historic opportunity and ensure that workers are not unfairly treated based on who they are or who they love.”
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said: “Bias or prejudice should never stand in the way of a person getting or keeping a job. America affirmed this in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when it guaranteed women, people of color, and religious minorities the right to be hired, paid and promoted according to their merits and not shunned because of who they are. It is time for the federal government to lead the nation once again in protecting the right of every person in the U.S. to work hard, contribute to their communities, and pursue the American Dream with all the zeal they can muster.”
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling said: “A job is more than just a job. Having a job means access to health care and ensuring the security of our families. Today, too many trans people are denied that opportunity because of who they are. As Congress debates a bill that most Americans already believe is law, transgender and LGB Americans continue to be denied jobs, promotions and fair wages. Right now, Senators are the only ones who can take action to stop that. The U.S. Senate must act now to make it possible for all Americans to contribute to our economy and our country.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: “Most Americans believe that everyone should have access to the American Dream, free from discrimination because of who they are or who they love. The good news is that we can do something immediately to stop discrimination in the work place if the Senate acts now to pass ENDA.”
SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry said: "It's unacceptable that in the year 2013 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers have no federal legal protection against workplace discrimination. The American people overwhelmingly favor laws that protect people from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identify. Lawmakers should heed the public will, pass ENDA and send a clear message that we are not a nation that tolerates different sets of rules based on age, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, ethnicity, race or religion."