Union Unanimously Votes to Create Transgender Healthcare
BY MANDY LINEWEBER
Just over a month ago, North America’s fastest growing labor union, Service Employees International Union, held its 25th international convention in Denver, Colorado. Hundreds of delegates from the union’s 150 locals voted to pass resolutions supporting pro-labor candidates who fight for public services, backing a program to establish members as new union activists, and “confront[ing] the myriad attacks on the 99%"
Another resolution was passed, unanimously, at the convention. I’m inclined to call it ‘controversial’ or ‘disputed’, but then I would be lying. I can say that for many union members it was the most important one up for consideration at May's convention. Delegates agreed that all SEIU local unions will begin bargaining for transgender health plans that exceed the one currently active in San Francisco, universally recognized as the standard in the field. The resolution was passed after several people testified in favor of it; nobody testified against it. Everybody who was anticipating an argument, a big fight, or even a discussion, were pleasantly surprised when the resolution passed so easily.
Several trans health surveys have proven that transgendered individuals don’t visit doctors on a regular basis, face depression, suicide, and lack the funds for healthcare at rates significantly higher than the rest of the population. It happens like this: people who are trans often have a harder time getting a job because of discrimination. When trans people are able to get a job that provides healthcare often times it's only a basic plan that does not cover trans-health needs. That same job might not pay so well, and for a group that often needs extra services that are not covered under the average insurance plan, this often becomes an issue. When a trans person is in the difficult situation of being unemployed and/or without appropriate health care, depression and suicide attempts can occur.
Living in a city with organizations such as Whitman-Walker and the DC Trans Coalition, it's sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has these types of services readily available to them. SEIU’s resolution makes a healthier, happier lifestyle more of a possibility for its trans union members. While the news is fresh and needs to settle into real healthcare coverage, this fast-growing union now offers a major trans social right to people who work in labor fields-- such as security guards, janitors, bus drivers, and healthcare workers-- people who often need it the most.
A few weeks ago SEIU hosted their annual Pride reception. The rooftop party was packed with young activists from not only the union but also the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, and several other organizations around DC. Leaders gave inspiring speeches, and with lots of cheering, everybody enjoyed the open bar. For the organizers, especially, the fact that the resolution had recently passed made the celebration incredibly special.
We all need to commend SEIU for this resolution. If you know the realities of service work, or if your friends know it, or your parents, you know why unions matter, and in the current political climate, we all can see their political significance and the risks they face. SEIU’s blatant, unanimous choice to support basic trans rights is, today, a brave choice. It is also the right choice.