Remembering 1199’s History: Pride and Solidarity

June 16, 2021


1199ers will be among the tens of thousands of celebrants of LGBTQ Pride Month this month. They understand that queer liberation is an important labor issue.

The Union. Stepped up its LGBTQ activities at the beginning of this century with the formation of its Lavender Caucus. At the time, workers at two of the premiere LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National LGBTQ Task Force – were already members of the Union.

Members at HRC and the Task Force noted that the unions are an important force in the fight against workplace discrimination and harassment and that 1199’s mission to ensure equality, social justice and healthcare for all aligned with theirs.

In the ensuing period, 1199 significantly increased the number of members in LGBTQ organizations. For example, Washington, D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health is a community health provider specializing in LGBTQ+ and HIV care. It opened the nation’s first gay, community-based medical unit devoted to the evaluation and diagnosis of AIDS symptoms.

Whitman Walker members were among the first to win contracts affirming the rights of trans workers, along with full domestic partner benefits. They also won protection for “gender expression” in 1997, and transition-related healthcare coverage in a subsequent contract.

In recent years, workers at New York’s Callen-Lorde Community Health, Harlem United, APICHA, and Hetrick Martin Institute have voted to join 1199. They were followed by Chase-Brexton in Baltimore. Members at these institutions, together with their straight and queer sisters and brothers throughout the Union’s districts, have been on the frontlines of 1199 campaigns for issues such as same-sex marriage and comprehensive stigma-free health care for all.