OAW(ON) News, Volume 1 Number 2, March 1995

Letter from the Steering Committee

The Steering Team has decided to focus the organization's programming
energies for 1995 into producing three or four high-quality, valuable
events similar to our very successful December event at ComEd
(Commonwealth Edison).

Although the monthly meeting format provided a good networking
opportunity, particularly for people newly involved in lesbigay
workplace issues, we hope this new focus will use our resources
more effectively.  We will continue to work with newly-involved
people via individual meetings, telephone contacts and information
sharing.  Typically we speak to and mail information to several
people each week who call us for assistance.

The first event for 1995, scheduled for late April, will be a
one-half day leadership conference, to be held on a Saturday morning,
providing useful tools and information to employees working on
lesbigay issues.  Please see the enclosed brochure.  A keynote
speaker plus a number of workshops will allow attendees to pursue
their specific interests, whether proven strategies for winning
domestic partnership benefits, or ideas on how to network effectively
with other diversity groups at your company.

Details about other events being planned for 1995 will follow.  Let
us know if you would like to help plan these events!

December 7, 1994 Executive Forum: Are You Listening To Me? On December 7, Out at Work (Or Not) hosted a forum of senior executives discussing their views of lesbigay workplace issues. The evening, which was hosted by Alan Amberg of Lesbigay Radio Chicago, (8am to noon Sundays, WCBR FM 92.7) was co-sponsored by CEEGLO (Commonwealth Edison Employees Gay and Lesbian Organization). Many of the 120 people in attendance were themselves corporate executives seeking to learn how their peers perceive lesbigay employee needs. The panel included senior vice presidents of Commonwealth Edison, Baxter, and AT&T. Hewlett-Packard flew in a manager from their Palo Alto, CA location. A highlight of the evening occurred in the response to a negative comment from an audience member. The person stated that he is an employee of ComEd. He said that ComEd's policy of not discriminating against lesbian and gay employees (which was announced formally that very day!) violates his religious beliefs. He asked how ComEd would respond if he urged a boycott of the company. The audience laughed at the thought of someone trying to boycott a monopoly (kerosene lanterns, anyone?), but more seriously, Stan Graves, vice president of ComEd, said he would consider disciplinary action against an employee who actively worked against the company. He pointed out that the company has employees and customers with a broad range of religious beliefs and can't make policy based on that. The contrast between the CEEGLO employees, who have been carefully building relationships with ComEd management for several years, and the employee who threatened to boycott the company was very clear and compelling. Many people helped make the evening a success, but special thanks go to Greg Ward, event manager, for his extremely effective work, and ComEd, which was strongly supportive in a thousand ways. An 80 minute, professionally edited video tape of the event is available. Please call CEEGLO at 312-394-4665 to place an order.
Horizons Brings Gay and Lesbian Issues to Corporations Horizons Community Services' second annual Gay and Lesbian Issues in the Workplace conference was held at the Chicago Hyatt October 27. Nearly 100 people attended, about 60 of whom were human resources professionals, the targeted audience. Most of the companies that sent HR professionals were those that have lesbigay employee groups! This is a positive indication that the presence of an employee group is an effective way to show management the importance of learning about and addressing the needs of lesbigay employees. In fact, virtually all of the companies that sent more than one representative have groups that participate in Out at Work (Or Not)! Mayor Daley began the day. Referring to groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Police Officers Association, Daley said, "It's great to have groups like that. We welcome that!" Laura Gold, director of benefits at Lotus Development Corp., gave the business case for diversity, as illustrated by her company's experience. Out at Work (Or Not) has copies of Lotus' position paper. Panels and workshops looked at homophobia's negative impact on productivity and ways to address lesbigay employee needs via training, hiring and career development, benefits, communications, employee assistance programs/employee relations, and working with an employee network. Out at Work (Or Not) helped facilitate the final session, and several Out at Work (Or Not) participants played other roles in the conference. Many thanks to Horizons, Holly Anderson, Nancy Ring, and all the other planners, speakers and facilitators for staging an excellent, professional conference. We look forward to working with Horizons on future conferences and other activities. Our contacts and Horizons' resources and experience will continue to provide an effective, complementary working relationship.
National Workplace Issues Conference The Fourth Annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Workplace Issues Conference was held in Denver October 15-16. Three Out at Work participants, Jason Cohen of Andersen Consulting, Kasey Reese of Ameritech, and Greg Ward of Commonwealth Edison, attended. It proved to be a great opportunity to share ideas and meet people from around the country who are working on these issues. For example, attendees who work at various telecommunications companies decided to form a network to share ideas and monitor each other's progress. A newly-forming umbrella organization from Minneapolis, which seeks to be similar to Out at Work (Or Not), was well represented and asked to host next year's conference. Digital Queers' demonstrated the benefits of e-mail networking. They focused on increases in speed, decreases in cost, and ability to share large amounts of current information. Richard Jennings of Hollywood Supports, a major domestic partnership benefits organization, had copies of their sample policies and affidavits and pointed out that a few years ago it took a lot of work to design a DP benefits program since it was a new concept, but in 1994 "it's not rocket science anymore."
Activists Rely on E-Mail For Success The radical right is able to reach huge numbers of people each week via their television and radio programs and supportive churches. Lesbigay activists have been at the disadvantage of not having similar means of mass communication. That deficit is shifting somewhat thanks to electronic mail. As the large number of software companies that provide domestic partnership benefits suggests, lesbians, gays and bisexuals have a strong presence in the high tech world today. Using the Internet and the very gay-friendly service America OnLine, activists are able to quickly share information such as which companies need to be contacted about an issue (see the article about AT&T and the American Family Association). Online resource directories and news groups include such information as the text of legislation and lists of companies with domestic partnership benefits. E-mail is also a much less expensive way to distribute information. It's even possible to have on-line meetings or send a message to the White House. Good places to find this information online are the Queer Resources Directory on Internet, and the Gay and Lesbian Community Forum on America OnLine. Do you have an e-mail address? Please let us know so we can begin sending you Out at Work (Or Not) information electronically. We've created an Out at Work (Or Not) mailbox on America OnLine, accessible at OAWon@AOL.com. You might also want to contact the group Digital Queers at Suite 150, 548 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114, phone 415-826-0500, digiqueers@aol.com. DQ has lots of information including suggestions of what equipment to purchase.
Domestic Partnership The rush of companies adding health care benefits for the same-sex partners of their employees continues to grow. ABC-Capitol Cities is a recent addition, as is the Boston Consulting Group, thus becoming the first major consulting firm with DP. Seven Washington, D.C. law firms which buy health insurance as a group announced they're adding the benefits. Thus five of Washington's ten largest law firms will have the coverage, according to the Washington Post. Our friends in Minneapolis report that quite a few companies there are on the verge. The Illinois AFL-CIO passed a resolution this fall urging all of its member unions to attempt to include DP benefits in their contracts, according to Windy City Times.
FAA GLOBE - Winging Its Way Toward Better Workplaces Most lesbigay employee groups don't have to deal with the threat that the Ku Klux Klan will protest their events, but in many other ways the experience of FAA GLOBE (Federal Aviation Administration Gay, Lesbian, Or Bisexual Employees) is a great illustration of the route that most employee groups will fly. Jim Garrett, founder of the Midwest chapter of FAA GLOBE, spoke to Out at Work (Or Not) about the development of the group. Garrett, an air traffic controller for eight years, works at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Illinois. Despite the fact that President Clinton lost on gays in the military and crafted "don't ask, don't tell," Clinton allowed his cabinet chiefs to set policies within their own departments. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena chose to include sexual orientation in his department's EEO policy, and in June 1993 he joined Congressman Barney Frank at a Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. The Western Pacific chapter of FAA GLOBE was born around that time, followed by the creation of the Midwest Chapter in February 1994 by Jim Garrett and air traffic controllers he had met in Indianapolis and Kankakee. A Southwest Chapter and a national coordinating body have formed since. FAA GLOBE decided to split off from the parent Department of Transportation group when it appeared that the leaders of the Washington, D.C.-based parent didn't feel comfortable allowing formation of a truly national organization. Going to the Top for Justice Early on the Midwest regional office of the FAA dragged its feet on GLOBE's request to be treated equally with other employee organizations. GLOBE wanted to publicize their existence in the employee newsletter and meet with officials. Although the somewhat military culture of the FAA in the Midwest was changing with retirements, the old thinking held on, until GLOBE called Secretary Pena's office in Washington and demanded equal treatment. FAA Deputy Administrator Linda Daschle agreed, and instructed the Great Lakes and Central regional administrators to work with GLOBE. That was a turning point, and today GLOBE has won the respect of the regional offices and relations are good. FAA GLOBE currently has about 110 members nationally, but Garrett is the only out person in Chicago. His open presence clearly threatened some of his co- workers. A protest against GLOBE occurred in the Aurora center. Some employees came to work wearing buttons that said "HOMO," which stood for "Heterosexuals Opposing More Organizations." Management quickly acted to ban these. More buttons then appeared, plain white to avoid being banned, but representing "White Heterosexual Intellectually Thinking Employees." This protest soon died away. Working for Union Support Garrett was approached by Jim Poole, regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Poole knew of the harassment of someone perceived to be gay and expressed support of GLOBE. The union should be fighting the battle against discrimination for its members, Garrett told Poole, and Garrett was invited to the union's next executive board meeting to make the point officially. The meeting was very tense, but the union president suggested a statement of support be drafted and volunteered to help write it. That resolution, seemingly an uncontestable statement against discrimination, was presented to the general membership and tabled. With defeat from the general membership, the resolution went back to the executive board, which passed it overwhelmingly. That evening GLOBE generated thank you letters to the union, including from the National Gay Pilots Association. Since the minutes of the meeting hadn't even been published yet, the union officers were very impressed. The vice president said it was the only time he had ever gotten a positive letter! Homophobia in the Heartland The greatest challenges GLOBE has faced occurred during a series of events at the FAA's Indianapolis facility. In June 1994, Tony Kelly, who had been out at work for years, was assigned to conduct cultural diversity training. He started a bulletin board for GLOBE on his office door. Soon the board was defaced and bible verses were being taped to the door. A petition was started demanding that GLOBE's presence be removed from the building, and people who refused to sign were harassed. Kelly demanded that management intervene and end the harassment. For two difficult weeks no visible action was taken. During that time the local management was consulting with the Justice Department, which ruled that the facility must intervene to maintain a non-hostile work environment. Indiana senators Richard Lugar and Dan Coates both wrote letters in support of the petition against GLOBE. "It's more than just the gay thing," said Garrett. "It's the black thing and the women's thing, anything that's not white and male." A noose was hung on a loading dock to intimidate African-American employees. During a management training class small groups were given the project of choosing an FAA program that could be eliminated. When one group wanted to name GLOBE as their choice, Ron Mulgrew, who is a leader of GLOBE but was not known to be gay by the others in the class, challenged the homophobes and stated facts about GLOBE (such as that it's an employee group and thus not a "program" the FAA would have the authority to eliminate). GLOBE's national chair Scott Sorenson later contacted the training organization, which apologized for not having stepped in to handle the situation. Hoping to bring some education to the tense atmosphere, Kelly and Garrett decided that GLOBE would host a National Coming Out Day event in Indianapolis. The American Civil Liberties Union was invited to speak, and the location's facility manager and an Equal Employment Opportunity representative would participate, too. Anti-gay employees leaked word to the press, and negative publicity began when the event was misrepresented on the G. Gordon Liddy radio program. Local TV stations expressed interest. The local controller's union urged its members to stay calm, but would not come out in support of GLOBE. By the day of the event there were rumors that there would be thousands of protesters, including U.S. Senators and the Ku Klux Klan. Arrangements had been made for state police to escort the speakers if necessary. Management was supportive and responsive, banning protests from the grounds the day of the event and keeping it strictly for employees. Large protests didn't develop, but the meeting room was totally filled with fifty people. Some wore T-shirts saying "I work for the FAA and I'm straight." There were probably other anti-gay employees present, but it was impossible to tell who was who. During his presentation Garrett spoke to the straight people. "I'm just like you. You work with me all the time," he told them. "I've never been so frightened in my life," he said. Overall, the day went smoothly. In the aftermath, GLOBE and the FAA have brought in Chicago's Horizons Community Services to help design sensitivity training and to recruit a trainer/diversity person. Brian McNaught, the well known gay diversity trainer, may be hired to make a presentation. Preparing for the Future Organizationally, GLOBE's goals include remaining visible, continuing to educate management, expanding into more regions, and educating and supporting members so they can come out and feel able to stand up for themselves. A monthly newsletter will now be produced and dues-paying memberships are being established. The steering committee has already used e-mail (America OnLine) to have a meeting, and may require computer and e-mail accessibility of all steering committee members. It was decided for now to have regional directors rather than chapters. Although the leaders of the organization are currently appointed, elections are slated for the spring. Garrett believes much of GLOBE's success has been possible because of the support of the Clinton administration. But what happens if Clinton doesn't win reelection? Garrett said, "We need to build an organization that's independent of the FAA so it can survive no matter what happens with the agency and the administration." Postscript In January Senator Jesse Helms introduced legislation that would prohibit federal agencies including the FAA from allowing GLOBE chapters to meet on government property, and that would prohibit government sensitivity training from including sexual orientation issues. Helms' last round of anti-gay legislation was defeated in the previous Congress, but with the change in Congressional leadership the battle may now be more difficult.
The American Family Association Versus AT&T The American Family Association (AFA), a right wing organization, has targeted AT&T and other companies that have publicly been supportive of their lesbigay employees. The AFA claims in its communications that "If you are an AT&T customer, you are helping to promote homosexuality in America." They also list Proctor & Gamble, Philip Morris, Nestle, Unilever and Ford as the "worst offenders." As the people on the front lines in working for change in corporate America, we need to make sure these companies and our companies know that their support is appreciated and makes good business sense. It is obvious that the lesbigay community has not been able to generate a volume of pro-gay communications on issues of vital concern (e.g., gays in the military) to match that generated by the radical right, but these communications will probably remain one way to impact corporate policies. When we meet with the management of our companies and they express fear of anti-gay backlash, we need to be able to tell them that such backlash is countered by strong lesbigay support of and loyalty to supportive companies, and to say that the backlash usually passes quickly. Please express your support by writing or e-mailing AT&T at the Chairman's Executive Response Center, 295 North Maple Ave., Basking Ridge, NJ 07920, E-mail: csc@attmail.com. Tell them you appreciate their attempts to make the company supportive of its lesbigay employees, their sponsorship of community events (e.g., the Gay Games), and their marketing to our community. If you are an AT&T customer, be sure to say so!
Workplace Issues Resource Directory The Out at Work (Or Not) Lesbigay Workplace Issues Resource Directory has been updated for 1995 and is now ready to ship. The Resource Directory includes contact information for hundreds of employee groups nationally, lists of companies with domestic partnership benefits, sample DP documents, various companies' nondiscrimination policies, a list of diversity training vendors, organization structures for various lesbigay employee groups, and an index of hundreds of articles, reports, and books about lesbigay workplace issues. The Directory, 15 pages long, is available free of charge, though a $5 contribution is requested. Many of the articles, reports, sample documents, etc., referenced in the list are also available, for the cost of duplication and postage. To order the Resource List or items referenced, call Out at Work (Or Not) at 312-794-5218 or send us an e-mail message to OAWon@aol.com.
Workplace Issues in the News Our December 7 meeting was listed in the Weekly Planner in the Chicago Tribune business section December 6. The Chicago Reader included a mention of our October meeting in their calendar section. Crains' Chicago Business wrote a good article about lesbigay workplace issues in the October 10 issue, focusing on National Coming Out Day, with quotes from several Out at Work participants. The Chicago Sun-Times also did an article that week, but the local angle was buried in a national story and Out at Work was called "Out of Work." Both stories occurred largely due to the work of Holly Anderson publicizing the Horizons Workplace Issues Conference, but unfortunately both articles neglected to mention the conference. The Chicago Tribune wrote a good article about the homophobia at the FAA in Indianapolis October 10, focusing on FAA GLOBE's Jim Garrett. The local lesbigay press continues to call on us as a resource. Windy City Times had good articles about workplace issues in the November 2 and December 8 issues, and reported on Commonwealth Edison's addition of sexual orientation to the EEO policy in the December 22 issue. Outlines profiled several people who are out at work in their October issue. We have copies available of all of these articles. Computerworld ran a good article, "Gays at Home in High Tech" in their September 26 issue. Out at Work (Or Not) participant Sarah Siegel, who works for the IBM/Sears joint venture, Advantis, had a follow-up letter to the editor printed. In her letter she said she looks forward to the company getting domestic partnership benefits so that she will be earning what her heterosexual peers earn today.
Plan Ahead It is quite possible that within the next two years all of us whose companies are becoming more gay supportive may face anti-gay backlash. If this comes in the form of a well orchestrated campaign from the radical right, we could be facing a formidable challenge! How will you respond? Are you developing relationships with your public relations /communications people in addition to the human resource/diversity management people? How does your company respond to negative mail? Is the CEO shown reports with total "pro" and "con" numbers? Who decides which "typical" letters to show? If you needed to generate supportive letters how would you do it? Does at least one person in your group have e-mail access? Does someone know how to write a press release? We need to make sure we're not caught unprepared!
Obituary George Kronenberger, a pathfinding activist in the field of corporate and workplace equality for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, died November 1 in San Francisco after a long battle with AIDS. Kronenberger was the former Workplace Project Organizer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He co-founded the NGLTF Gay and Lesbian Workplace Issues Conference, first held in 1991. Kronenberger, born January 10, 1953, was a tireless movement champion, battling companies that discriminated against their gay employees, and creating change in corporate America. He was dedicated to equality for all people, a principle he carried out in his 16-year career as the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) project manager at Pacific Gas and Electric and as a supervisor with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Kronenberger is survived by his life partner of 15 years, Gregory Dawson; his mother, Eleanor, of Columbus, Ohio; and many loving family members and friends.
Networking In 1994 more than 225 people called the Out at Work (Or Not) hotline, more than four each week. (This number excludes those RSVPing for the December 7 event.) Information was requested by 145 callers, while 80 just listened to the message. In October we gave presentations about workplace issues to the student/staff lesbigay groups at Loyola University, both Lakeshore and Water Tower campuses. We've had opportunities recently to provide detailed information about domestic partnership benefits to non-gay human resources professionals who were researching the topic for their companies. Several lesbigay employee activists also requested this information. A group similar to Out at Work (Or Not) has formed in Minneapolis. We were able to provide them advice on how to get started. A similar group in Los Angeles is in the early idea stage and we're working with the organizer to share ideas. Although our work often brings us in contact with people whose efforts at their workplaces are going well, that is not always the case. In three instances in recent months we provided legal contacts and advice to individuals who felt they were being harassed or fired due to their sexual orientation.

"I believe very strongly now -- this is partly ... because I no longer know what else to do -- in the little work. All of us have to do that ferociously: literacy programs, adequate housing, newsletters, demonstrations, fundraising for progressive candidates. I think we haven't done enough of that.... [W]e have to stay involved in the day to day, ... 'the earthworm action.' " Tony Kushner

Out at Work News is published by Out at Work (or Not), an umbrella organization of Chicago-area lesbigay employee groups. Please contact us at OAWon@aol.com for permission to reprint information in Out at Work News.

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