In honor of Pride Month, we are featuring items from the Labor Collections at Special Collections and University Archives that highlight the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the labor movement. This particular item will be on display in the upcoming exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” opening October 2017. LGBTQ+ people of all types are involved in every aspect of labor, although labor unions ignored or excluded them until recent decades. The Pride at Work poster calls attention to the role the diverse LGBTQ+ community played in American history and American labor history and demonstrates a reversal of labor union policy towards LGBTQ+ people.
In this poster, union members hold up signs representing various aspects of LGBTQ+ history in the labor movement. For instance, the “Stonewall” sign signifies how the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion first opened unions’ eyes to systematic inequality faced by the LGBTQ+ community. The eagle symbol signifies LGBTQ+ membership in the United Farm Workers (UFW), a major national union. “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” alludes to a protest song against repressive regimes often chanted at union rallies. On the left, the “Boycott Coors” sign refers to the 1974 boycott against Coors in San Francisco that spread nationally by 1977 in retaliation to Coors not hiring LGBTQ+ employees. The triangle on the poster on the left refers to the pink triangle that male homosexual prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps; it is now often rendered in hot pink for gay pride and gay rights. The multiple other signs signify the various protests and movements in which LGBTQ+ people changed history.
Pride at Work is a nonprofit organization representing LGBTQ+ union members and their allies, seeking full equality for LGBTQ+ workers both in the workplace and in unions. The organization’s mission is to work “towards creating a Labor Movement that cherishes diversity, encourages openness, and ensures safety and dignity” opposing all forms of discrimination on the job or in unions. The Labor Collections at Special Collections and University Archives now houses the archives of Pride at Work within the Labor Collections, including this poster and many others. I found this poster particularly compelling because it highlights the diversity of Pride at Work and the American labor movement while showcasing the LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for recognition.
Don’t forget to look for this poster when the exhibit opens in October 2017!
Jen Wachtel is a Graduate Assistant for the Labor Collections program at Special Collections and University Archives pursuing an M.A. in History (Modern Europe), a Master of Library and Information Science, and a graduate certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture. She expects to graduate from the University of Maryland in December 2018 to pursue a career in museum archives.