Unions and labor activists support the freedom to marry in Washington state

This week, Washington United for Marriage, the coalition working to uphold the freedom to marry at the ballot in Washington state, celebrated Unions Week by heralding the essential support that Referendum 74 has received from unions and labor organizations. Referendum 74 is the ballot initiative that will appear at the polls on November 6, and a vote to "approve" the referendum is a vote for fairness and equality for all families. 

Earlier this week, WUM trumpeted official endorsements from 19 labor unions and union councils in the state, many of which encouraged their members to volunteer their support to the Washington United campaign. Many union members spent the week staffing phone banks and talking with WA residents about why marriage matters.

Jeff Johnson, the president of the Washington State Labor Council, reflected on the strong support of the freedom to marry from within the labor movement. He said:

I'm proud, but not surprised, to see the overwhelming support for marriage equality and Referendum 74 from our union leadership and members. For at the end of the day, unions support strong families and strong communities, and marriage makes certain that all families have the respect and support they need and deserve.

Mark Mains, who belongs to the Mukilteo Education Association as a third grade teacher from Mukilteo, WA, said that there are practical and important reasons that unions are so strongly in favor of the freedom to marry. He said:

It is a labor issue. As a union, we bargain collectively for benefits- family benefits like medical care, life insurance, etc. Our union is dedicated to supporting the dignity of all its members, regardless of who they choose to love. But we can't bargain for any rights that aren't codified by state law. 

We've seen similar arguments before in the realm of business and economics: Businesses usually don't want to discriminate against their employees, but often, they're forced to divide their employees into two classes - people in different-sex relationships and people in same-sex relationships. They understand that that's not fair, and that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is at fault. Unions, which work together as a team so that employees receive fair and equitable benefits, wages, and working conditions, feel similarly. They don't want to allow the continued discrimination of gay and lesbian workers.

The unions that have endorsed Referendum 74 in Washington include: SEIU, Machinists 751, Washington Education of State Employees, Teamsters Joint Council 28, Washington Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE 8, United Auto Workers 4121, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 46, the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Washington State Labor Council.

Read more about Washington's path toward the freedom to marry HERE.