I've been out there at the NYC Pride March for more years than I care to count, and for the first time in many years, New York's Heritage of Pride Parade (Sunday, June 26) will have an economic justice contingent in the parade. It will be led by Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), and joined by many labor activists and unions, including the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Retail, and Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and the coalition to keep Wal-Mart out of New York City, the Walmart-Free Coalition.
Whether or not we have marriage equality in New York, LGBT New Yorkers are in desperate need of affordable housing, healthcare, jobs that pay livable wages and access to services. The time is right for Queers for Economic Justice and our friends to stand strong with labor, and for labor to stand strong with us. It is time to speak out against the targeting of public employees and their unions and the criminalization of immigrant workers, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer immigrants. We are in this together and we're proud to celebrate the power of the recent labor activism in Wisconsin and the Midwest. We hope our joint presence at the parade will remind people of the bread-and-butter issues so many continue to face.
National data all point to the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people, especially people of color, are more likely to be homeless, lack adequate healthcare, and be discriminated against in the job market. In 2010, Queers for Economic Justice released the results of a survey of 171 low-income LGBTQ New Yorkers and found that 70 percent of them were currently, or had been, homeless at some point in their lives.
Jay Toole, Director of QEJ's Shelter Project, knows what she's talking about when she says, "Today's part-time employed might be tomorrow's homeless." Jay meets queer people every day in the New York City shelter system whose main problem is that they are unable to get a decent paying job or any job at all. And you can't get housing without work. It becomes a vicious cycle.
While QEJ has largely made organizing and advocacy for queer and trans people who are homeless and on public assistance it's focus, it is laying the groundwork to be organizing more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who work in economies where there are a disproportionate number of marginalized workers.
Join us Sunday at Pride.
To march with this contingent of the Pride Parade, arrive at 11:30am on East 39th Street bet. 5th Ave & Madison Street. For more information visit Queers for Economic Justice | United Auto Workers | Wal-Mart-Free NYC Coalition| Retail, or Wholesale and Department Store Union.