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Unions must be part of LGBTQI+ dialogue

12 December, 2022Global Union Federations came together in Amsterdam on 7-8 December for a strategic planning roundtable on LGBTQI+. Affiliated national unions representing most sectors came from around the world to share their work, their challenges, and their stories. 

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure that workers feel safe in their workplaces, in their communities and in their unions.”

said James Cavoluzzo from PSI and Global Unions LGBTI+ project coordinator.

National union representatives expressed that so many unions are working hard to ensure that they are developing workplace policies inclusive of LGBTI+ rights in the aim to build a more inclusive movement.

“But how do we connect this work to the work on global level? How do we create networks to share the good practices and valuable tools and resources?”

Unions globally are at very different stages when it comes to including and protecting LGBTQI+ workers and advancing their rights. The main objective of this roundtable was to take stock of the work done and to set a strategic plan. Working with allies and connecting union LGBTQI+ activists with one another is going to be valuable in amplifying workers voices on these issues. Global Unions present were keen to facilitate this.

“It matters that unions support LGBTQI+ communities. Why? Because their issues matter, and while some union members are not from the community, their kids or grandkids are, and they want to see their union take it seriously.

An injury to one is an injury to all,”

said Michele Kessler from the UFCW in Canada.

Nthabi Maine ,“Chris”,  from, IndustriALL affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) shared her experience of coming out as gay in her union. She described the types of discrimination that she experienced as she moved up in her union role. For Chris, speaking to people about who she is and educating them on her sexuality was key. Her experience led to LGBTQI+ rights at work being taken more seriously by her union and more importantly it led to more union members feeling safe to come out in their workplaces and in their communities.

Intersectionality and decolonization are terms used frequently today when we speak discrimination. A session led by the South Feminist Futures group explained the concepts and clarified how it can be an essential tool for trade union work on social justice. 

When addressing LGBTI+ discrimination, Intersectionality is a crucial and essential tool, which help to see and understandthe multiple and overlapping structures of oppression that impact people. Coloniality is the continuation of western imperialism even after the end of political colonialization it is the imposing of Eurocentric thinking values and control over key aspects of life. It’s more, imposition of racial and gender classification of the global population is in fact the corner stone of that model of power.

“Trade unions have an important role to play in building an inclusive world free from discrimination and intolerance. In the trade union struggle for social justice, intersectionality reminds us that there are inequalities within inequality and oppressions within oppression,”

said Nancy Kachingwe from South Feminist Futures.

Understanding the complexity of societies and how social inequalities are historically constructed is key if trade unions are to be representative of their members and potential members. Understanding how different forms of discrimination work together to oppress and perpetuate social inequalities in society and the workplace is an important tool for trade unions to contribute in building an inclusive world free from discrimination and intolerance  on national and international level. 

“We face serious pushback when it comes to the promotion of gender equality and LGBTQI+ communities’ rights worldwide, unions must play a role in resisting to the progression of discrimination and hate speech.

Our organisations should be agents of change and promote inclusion.  IndustriALL understands that to be inclusive we must practice lifelong learning. We need to learn about the types of discrimination that our members face 

Listening to trade unionist stories about their journey to be themselves within their families and their movement is inspiring. 

Discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, is unacceptable. IndustriALL must act and take a leading role in promoting LGBTQI+ rights in its sectors. 

We will continue our work with our affiliates and with GUFs to strengthen our fight against all forms of discrimination” 

said Armelle Seby, IndustriALL gender director.

The organisation of online global unions joint meetings/trainings and webinars on LGBTQI+ rights, increased engagement of, exchange with, affiliates in the work on LGBTQI+ communities, and development of a manual on best practices, are among the actions that have been identified under the project for 2023. 


GUFs representing workers throughout all sectors formed this working group in 2018, following a CGU decision to exchange, build on good practices and strengthen existing networks, cooperation and visibility of TU initiatives on LGBTI+ workers’ rights. With the aim of educating on LGBTI+, building structures, and strengthening existing structures. 

This website shares the global union work in promoting LGBTI+ rights at work at national, regional and international levels. On the website, affiliated unions can share their work onpromoting LGBTI rights at work across the world. The website also provides a dedicated space (forum) where trade union members all over the world can discuss LGBTI issues, and what they and their unions are doing to build a more tolerant and discrimination-free world.