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Trans solidarity forever

There will always be more that unites us as working people than divides us

(June 27, 2024)

It’s a rough time to not be rich. Prices at the grocery store and gas pump are high. For most workers, wages haven’t caught up. Childcare is expensive. Healthcare is expensive. Climate chaos is ramping up. Working people are concerned about the quality of our air and our water. Our economy is extracting profits from working people’s hands and putting them in the pockets of increasingly wealthy billionaires and corporations. 

Do you know who’s not causing these existential problems for working people? Trans folks. 

But that’s not the narrative pushed by anti-worker politicians and pundits, and the billionaires who’ve bought them. Our social feeds and news channels are dominated by outrage culture, by sensationalized coverage of people and their genders.

Union members at the 2023 Seattle Pride March

We all know that the problems that working families navigate every day take real work to solve. Those problems are born out of the exploitation of working people at the expense of maximizing profit. And the bosses, pundits, and politicians who profit from this exploitation have no intention of righting that wrong. So out comes the well-tested distract and divide handbook: identify a marginalized group of people and make them out to be pure evil. 

That’s the position our trans coworkers, neighbors, and loved ones have been forced into. And it’s as ridiculous as it is dehumanizing. 

Trans people are not masterminds of a powerful shadow movement imposing woke on the people. Less than 2% of the US population is trans. They have worse health outcomes than many cis people, face astronomical levels of interpersonal violence and targeted hate, and are more likely to lack consistent housing. The vast majority of trans people are poor and working class

In short, trans people are our compatriots, and our comrades. The same wealthy elites who push anti-trans rhetoric also demonize unions as greedy, anti-American institutions. They dismiss essential workers as “unskilled.” They call workers who want a day off a week with their families entitled. They aim to force workers out of their homes for the audacity of fighting for a fair wage.

But you are not evil because you understand that you deserve respect as a human being. That holds true whether you’re a union member, trans, or both. 

Organized labor is a natural home for trans workers because the best protection a marginalized worker – any worker – can have is a union contract. It’s why unionized women make more than our non-union counterparts, and why the union difference is particularly strong for Black women and Latinas. Our movement embracing this role as a shelter and locus of power for all marginalized workers holds potential to turn the tide on the divisive rhetoric and violent hatred targeting trans folks. 

Unions are answering the call in ways both large and small. Unions across the US are using their power at the bargaining table to ensure safe workplaces for trans workers, ultimately securing strong contracts for all workers. At the 2023 WSLC Convention, rank-and-file and union staff worked through complex questions about how stewards and reps show up for trans workers, from the perspective that fighting for trans inclusion is an opportunity to build power and worker solidarity. 

Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO constituency group dedicated to empowering trans and queer workers, has resources like sample contract language to protect and support LGBTQ workers. Union members can join chapters of P@W and build power locally

As working people continue to organize, as more and more workers clock-on to the exploitation we live under, our opponents will continue to weaponize differences between us in a cynical attempt to divide us. We must remember that no matter our differences – no matter our gender, our sexuality, our race, our birthplace – we will always have more in common with our fellow workers than we will with billionaires. 

There will always be more that unites us as working people than divides us. Together, we can reject division and embrace our opportunities to protect and empower our trans siblings.


Sarah Tucker is the Washington State Labor Council’s Interim Communications Director and the Entire Staff of The STAND.

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