UPDATE: The fallout continues over the controversy involving GLAADâ€™s letter of support for AT&Tâ€™s proposed merger with T-Mobile and apparent opposition to net neutrality â€“ the latter of which the organization rescinded. On Thursday, GLAAD released a statement accepting the resignation of president Jarrett Barrios and announcing the resignation of Troup Coronado, the former AT&T lobbyist, from GLAADâ€™s board of directors. GLAAD chief operating officer Mike Thompson will serve as acting president while the board searches for a new leader.
UPDATE: Cathy Schwamberger, Equality California Institute board president, just issued this statement:
“Troup B. Coronado has voluntarily resigned from the Equality California Institute Board of Directors.Â We thank him for his years of board service, his generosity and his commitment to the LGBT community.”
Meanwhile, Mark Siegel, Executive Director-Media Relations at AT&T sent me this response to questions about how the telecom is reacting to the controversy:
â€śThereâ€™s been recent focus on AT&Tâ€™s efforts to obtain support for our merger from GLAAD and other LGBT organizations.Â These are part of our overall efforts to seek support, and have been based on two arguments we hope will be given weight within the LGBT communityâ€”the importance to all Americans of the massive mobile broadband build-out we have promised; and AT&Tâ€™s longstanding internal policies toward LGBT employees, which have received the highest ratings from the Human Rights Campaign, and which would be applied to the merged company.Â We feel these provide a compelling policy rationale for support within the LGBT community.Â We recognize, though, and fully respect that these organizations, which do important work, will make up their own minds about whether to support the merger or remain neutral.Â And, though it should go without saying, the decisions made by these organizations will not in any way impact our desire to work with, partner with, or support them in the future.â€ť
Siegel said he would have no further comment and suggested I contact Elizabeth Birch – former chair of the board at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who also served as Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign â€“ saying she might be an additional source. He didnâ€™t explain why and Birch has not yet returned my call.
Meanwhile, Pride at Work, a group that represents LGBT labor and allies, announced a media call about the controversy. Executive Director Peggy Shorey said AT&T did not ask them to sponsor the call:
With controversy surrounding LGBT organizations’ support for the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, join representatives from Pride at Work and LGBT union members on a press call (11AM, Friday June 24) to discuss the recent controversy and to correct the record regarding organizational motivations for backing the merger.Â The speakers will discuss why the merger matters for LGBT workers, the LGBT environment at AT&T and the protections and benefits in place for LGBT employees.
â€śFor regular working people, the ability to secure LGBT-inclusive benefits in a union contract is a vital priority.Â This merger matters for the LGBT people who work at AT&T and T-Mobile right now and for the wireless industry, which will for the first time have a majority a LGBT-inclusive, union workforce.Â This should be one of the highest priorities of our movement.â€ť
â€śToo often, the voices of working people and jobless workers within the LGBT community â€“ particularly women, people of color and transgender workers â€“ get lost in public messaging around what the â€śgay communityâ€ť wants,â€ť said Peggy Shorey, Executive Director, Pride at Work.
“We applaud the organizations that have endorsed the merger for standing up for regular working people and jobless workers in the LGBT community,â€ť said Shorey. Â Â ”This isn’t a case of ‘follow the money,’ it’s a case of ‘look at the record.â€™Â AT&T simply has the best record among wireless carriers on issues important to the LGBT community,â€ť she concluded.
â€śIt is important to cut through all the noise of organizational politics. Â I want to make clear that AT&T, though not perfect, has been a leader on LGBT issues and creating a safe and equal work environment for members of our community,â€ť said T Santora, President of CWA Local 9000, whose members include AT&T wireless workers. (Santora is also a retired co-president of Pride at Work.)
Speakers will highlight, among other factors, the following components of AT&T’s record on key LGBT issues that make it better for LGBT workers than current conditions at T-Mobile:
- AT&T offers domestic partner health insurance and, beginning in 2010, offers family and medical leave to gay and lesbian employees, even in states where paid leave for domestic partnerships is not required by law;
- AT&T is the only wireless carrier to offer transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, including surgical procedures;
- AT&T is wall-to-wall union.Â That means that, unlike other companies who may tout LGBT inclusive policies, AT&T employees have a seat at the bargaining table and their benefits are secured in a legally-binding union contract.
â€śT-Mobile workers have been struggling to form a union, but their company is aggressively fighting their effort,â€ť Shorey continued.Â â€śGiven that in a majority of states workers can be legally fired simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, a union contract is often the only protection LGBT workers have.â€ť
AT&T has a long history of positive stances on LGBT issues.Â In 1975, the Bell System parent company AT&T became the first major corporation to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation — a notable development given the Bell System’s status as the largest non-governmental employer in the nation at the time.