OLYMPIA (Jan. 28, 2016) — On a party-line vote Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed SB 6443, sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Bellingham), which would reverse the state Human Rights Commission’s policy clarifying that transgender people can use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their gender identities. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO opposes this and other legislative efforts to reverse this policy.
WSLC Government Affairs Director Joe Kendo sent the following letter Wednesday to Senate Democratic members explaining that position:
Today, the Commerce and Labor Committee heard testimony on SB 6443, a bill to repeal recent Human Rights Commission rules which clarify the applicability of the Washington Law Against Discrimination to transgendered people’s use of gender-segregated facilities. On Monday, the Law and Justice Committee will hear a similar bill, SB 6548. The Washington State Labor Council opposes these bills, and we ask that all of you support our transgendered sisters and brothers in their struggle for civil rights.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination was a landmark piece of legislation for which we should all be proud as Washingtonians, and its unambiguous inclusion of a person’s gender identity is a marquee feature, not a loophole. The actions of the Human Rights Commission were correct and just. This law, and the rules which enforce it, are an important facet of the workplace protections that set Washington State apart as a high-road state. We do things better here, and this is part of the reason. Workers who have transitioned their genders face immense challenges in the workplace. While we all would hope that working trans-men and trans-women would be judged by the quality of their labor and not on their personal identification, we all know that this is not their reality. Securing the strength of the WLAD ensures that a person’s livelihood is not threatened when they transition — with all the familial, cultural, and community difficulties that can arise during a transition, these workers should not have to worry also about getting fired for using the restroom that best fits their gender-identity.
This is absolutely a workers’ rights issue. And that is why last July, hundreds of union members unanimously adopted Resolution 30 at the WSLC annual convention. Resolution 30 put the WSLC on record as opposing discriminatory healthcare practices against transgendered people, and encouraged all affiliated unions to pursue health equity for our transgendered sisters and brothers. I can think of nothing more fundamental to a person’s health and well-being than having safe access to restrooms and other facilities in the workplace.
By supporting transgendered people, and by steadfastly opposing these discriminatory pieces of legislation, workers, business owners, health advocates, human rights champions, communities of color, and legislators like yourself, will be on the right side of history. This is a pivotal moment.
Thank you for your consideration.
Government Affairs Director
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO