You want a cold with that lettuce?

UFC21-LogoThe United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)* is currently in the middle of their collective bargaining efforts. Why should you care? Because the big name grocery stores are proposing to eliminate health benefits for part-time workers. Even worse, they are asking workers to waive their right to paid sick leave (if they work in Seattle) and any rights to paid sick leave that local or state government might pass in the future.

WHAT?!?—you rightfully exclaim, shocked that the folks who handle the food we eat wouldn’t be given access to healthcare to stay healthy, or paid sick leave so they don’t contaminate the lettuce.

But wait, what does this have to do with domestic violence?

I’m so glad you asked. Like I’ve said before, money (and jobs) have a lot to do with domestic violence. There are plenty of grocery store employees whose jobs are helping them survive violence in their relationships. Their jobs provide healthcare (even for part-time workers), a wage that they can live on, and for those who live in Seattle (and hopefully soon for everyone else), paid sick leave. Paid sick/safe leave in Seattle also allows workers to take time off to deal with domestic violence (like if they need to go to court, relocate, or go to support group). So you see, these benefits can play a critical role in the lives of those experiencing abuse. I recently heard a worker at a UFCW event share how her job was the thing that helped her get out of an abusive relationship. She said that without an income and health insurance for her kids she would never have made the decision to leave.

So what can you do about it? Excellent question.

Let the workers at your local union-represented grocery store know that you support their efforts to have healthcare and paid sick leave. Let the manager know that you are a regular customer and you expect their employees will have a contract that does just that. Get the word out that we need to support good jobs in our communities. Good jobs help survivors stay safe!

*WSCADV is a community partner with UFCW Local 21

Thank you Mr. President

President Obama is finally out of the closet. Last week, after years of dropping hints, he became the first president to declare his belief that “same sex couples should be able to get married.” New clarity and leadership is especially welcome as North Carolina becomes the thirtieth state to adopt a constitutional amendment banning marriage between same sex partners. So it seems like a good time for a refresher on why gay marriage matters (not just for gays!), and why Washingtonians should be paying attention.

  1. For better or worse (get it?), marriage is a really important civil and cultural institution. Denying GLBT people access to the civil right to marry cuts deeper than the rights themselves. It communicates that GLBT people are not equally valued or protected by law. And that makes us more vulnerable to violence at home and on the street.
  2. The anti-gay agenda is not just anti-gay. In North Carolina and 19 other states, the marriage amendment not only bans same sex marriage, but any type of civil union that is not marriage. Among other lost benefits, domestic violence and stalking protections may no longer apply to unmarried partners, gay or straight. When Ohio passed a similar amendment, courts denied domestic violence protections to survivors for two years until the state Supreme Court settled the issue.
  3. We’re all being played. Strategy memos from the National Organization for Marriage don’t mince words: “The strategic goal…is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies.” This isn’t just about defeating gay marriage; it is about using homophobia and racism to keep people divided from each other and politically weak.

Marriage equality is likely to be on the ballot in Washington State this November. We have the chance to be the first state to defend marriage equality by popular vote. I’m ready for us to make history.