USW’s Fred Redmond Talks with Leslie Marshall about Steel Pride

USW Vice President Fred Redmond stopped by The Leslie Marshall Show as Pride Month came to a close to talk about the union’s latest LGBTQ+ initiatives, as well as the significance of the Stonewall riots.

The flashpoint in queer history that exploded in Greenwich Village 50 years ago was not only a tipping point for so many in the community, Redmond reflected, but also a reminder of their power.

“If it weren’t for that one night, it’s possible that many of the victories the LGBTQ community won might have never happened,” he said. “It kickstarted the modern movement we’re now familiar with, the movement that fought for marriage equality, the movement that fought for their lives during the AIDS crisis. It kickstarted the movement that continues fighting today.”

Redmond spoke of the moment the light went on for the union when Anne Balay, a former professor, published a book called Steel Closets, which included 40 personal accounts of LGBTQ+ steelworkers who described living at the intersection of queerness and traditional industry.

“She gave a voice to this previously silent and invisible population in our union,” said Redmond. “These stories were alarming, they were heroic, but most of all, they were devastating.”

USW leadership recognized that there was a lack of connection between the LGBTQ+ community and the union, Redmond said. With the help of members who brought some of their concerns to the table, the Steelworkers created the first ever LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee earlier this year.

The committee includes members from multiple union districts and industries from across the United States and Canada. Their first meeting took place in February at the USW headquarters in Pittsburgh.

“The commitment was to listen to our members in that community directly as they educate us on their thoughts and concerns as members of our union,” Redmond said. “We’re going to work to really build a structure in our union that recognizes our members in the LGBTQ+ community and also build leadership of members in that community.” 

Redmond also touched on the importance of Congress passing the Equality Act, which would help bolster LGBTQ+ Americans’ rights at home, in public, and on the job, as well as the importance of unions bargaining inclusive and intersectional contract language.

To listen to the whole conversation, click below.

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