September 24, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Progressive lawmakers call on Pelosi to move on ENDA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are circulating among U.S. House members a letter intended to encourage U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move forward with legislation barring job discrimination against LGBT people.

The letter obtained by the Blade, which a Democratic aide said isn’t yet final, urges Pelosi to work to pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act on the basis that it would contribute to her stated goal of creating and protecting American jobs.

“Now is a dire time for the American worker and we believe, H.R. 3017, the Employee Nondiscrimination Act is a vital piece in our economic recovery,” the draft letter states. “With the support of the Democratic leadership and the demonstrated commitment of the Administration, we believe this Congress will finally shut the door on employee discrimination.”

Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, already have their names on the letter.  Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker, also has signed his name. He’s a member of the House Education & Labor Committee, where ENDA currently sits.

The letter cites analysis conducted by the Williams Institute showing “a persistent and unacceptable trend” of job discrimination against LGBT people. Additionally, the letter says ENDA is particularly necessary as the nation copes with high unemployment.

“Already struggling with an unemployment rate of over 9 percent, the American worker should not need to contend with an employer’s personal discomfort or bias against the sexual orientation or gender identity of an employee,” the letter states.

The letter maintains that ENDA will put LGBT people “on an even footing with every other employee” and that “turning a blind eye to harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community has too long been a stain on our otherwise proud record of worker protection.”

Whether Pelosi will schedule ENDA for a floor vote by the end of this year remains to be seen. She has said ENDA is a personal priority, but also that she wouldn’t bring the legislation up for a vote until legislative action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is complete.

Download a PDF copy of the draft letter here. The text of the letter in its entirety follows:

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
US House of Representatives
H 232, the Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Madam Speaker:

Members of the Progressive Caucus thank you for unrelenting support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and for making American jobs a top priority
for the 111th Congress. Now is a dire time for the American worker and we believe, H.R. 3017, the Employee Nondiscrimination Act is a vital piece in our economic recovery. With the support of the Democratic leadership and the demonstrated commitment of the Administration, we
believe this Congress will finally shut the door on employee discrimination.

For nearly 20 years progressive members of Congress have been fighting to end discrimination and create a fair and equitable workplace for the LGBT community. In a metaanalysis conducted by the Williams Institute, statistics revealed a persistent and unacceptable trend towards open harassment, unfair hiring practices, unwarranted firings and unequal pay. As a caucus concerned with open-minded and progressive views, we take exception to this blatant
mistreatment.

As our economy works to recover, now seems the right time to thrust the American workforce into the 21st century with legislation that addresses discriminatory workplace
practices. Already struggling with an unemployment rate of over 9 percent, the American worker should not need to contend with an employer’s personal discomfort or bias against the sexual orientation or gender identity of an employee. States that have adopted anti-discrimination laws report higher employee satisfaction and company morale. Unfortunately, there are only 20 states and the District of Columbia with these policies in place and 12 that also encompass the
transgender community.

Employment, promotions and retention should be based on merit and merit alone. For the individual this means a safe and productive work environment where there is a focus on
results not a preoccupation with their choice in partner or gender identity. Employers, too, should set their sights on an egalitarian workplace that encourages a sense of community and teamwork. In fact, 94 percent of Fortune 100 companies have antidiscrimination policies protecting lesbian
and gay employees and 60 percent protect transgender employees. The best companies hire, promote and retain the best talent, all of which is only made possible by creating a supportive and accepting environment.

ENDA will put the LGBT community on an even footing with every other employee. Turning a blind eye to harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community has too long
been a stain on our otherwise proud record of worker protection. It is imperative to shine a light on this issue and add yet another achievement to this exceptionally accomplished Congress.

We look forward to working with you and to enact ENDA in the 111th Congress.

Sincerely,

_________________________
Raul Grijalva, CPC Co-Chair

_________________________

Lynn Woolsey, CPC Co-Chair

______________________
Jared Polis, CPC Member

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

3 Comments
  • Assuming Pelosi moves it out of committee…. and onto the floor for a vote before November… what good will that do if the Senate has absolutely no chance of considering it this session, this year, and not for many years after that?

    They missed the Golden Moment this time last year. Since then, it’s been Kabuki theatre, and not even very good Kabuki theatre.

  • Pelosi will go down in history as one of the most ineffective House Speakers of modern time. The Democrats have a majority of 75+ members in the House, but she was either unable, or unwilling, to bring this bill to a vote. This issue isn’t even controversial — extending job protection to LGBT people is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. With friends like Pelosi, who needs enemies?

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