Labor and civil rights activists with the Americans for Workplace Opportunity campaign went to work when Congress went into summer recess.
The activists, committed to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT people in the workplace, lobbied senators and rallied supporters in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The work will continue after Labor Day, when lawmakers return to the capital.
“Our campaign will mobilize the super-majority of diverse Americans who believe in workplace fairness and push Congress to act on ENDA this year,” said campaign manager Matt McTighe, who led the 2012 drive to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine with a people’s vote.
The ENDA campaign has about $2 million behind it, and steering members in the coalition include the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Unity Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Service Employees International Union.
McTighe said the coalition aims to mobilize 5.6 million people using strategies that helped win marriage equality in the states. “We will use all of our resources, including grassroots action and strong corporate support, to make it clear that the American people want action on this bill,” he said.
In July, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 15–7 for ENDA, which is sponsored by Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Utah, said ENDA – which has languished in Congress for two decades – probably will reach the floor this fall.
So activists are working on shoring up 60 votes, and to do so are targeting 10 Republicans, as well as three Democrats – Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Bill Nelson in Florida and Joe Manchin III in West Virginia.
“The promise of full human dignity, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us 50 years ago, depends on economic equality,” AFA president Randi Weingarten said. “Discrimination must never be tolerated. The time to pass ENDA is now.”
Studies show about 43 percent of LGBT people have experienced workplace discrimination.
Polls show that banning bias against LGBT in the workplace has the support of 85 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Independents and 70 percent of Republicans.