(On November 6, Long Beach became one of three cities in the country to pass minimum wage ballot measures, and the only one to guarantee paid sick leave to workers. This story is the first in a weeklong series of reflections on that important victory.)
Since the times of Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities have worked with labor organizations to improve the lives of people simply trying to stay afloat in the world. Through the Coors beer boycott of the 1970s, Milk not only laid the foundation for a solid partnership between seemingly disparate communities, he created something much larger: a space for individuals, organizers and union representatives to grow, expand and converse. He created the opportunity for bonds to form and for hearts and minds to open and understand how difficult it was in the 1970s — both for working people and LGBTQ people to be afforded respect, dignity and safety at work and on the streets.
The Center Long Beach is proud to strengthen the foundation of the LGBTQ and labor alliance initiated by Milk. As an organization that provides services such as free rapid HIV testing, low-cost mental health counseling, free computer use and social and support groups, we often serve those in the community most at risk of falling the through the cracks. We are a community organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our community, not just the LGBTQ community, has a place they can turn to for support, assistance and affirmation.
That’s why we were thrilled to support Measure N, the living wage ballot measure that voters overwhelmingly approved last week. Passage of the living wage measure will create stronger communities and increase the likelihood for success and self-sufficiency for thousands of people in our city.
Our partnership with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community began several years ago when The Center participated in a forum to discuss the intersections of the LGBTQ and labor communities. Since this initial collaboration, we co-hosted a second forum at The Center featuring legendary LGBTQ and labor activist Cleve Jones, and this year, along with more than a dozen other community organizations, we successfully produced the first ever People’s State of the City, which welcomed nearly 500 community members to Antioch Church to discuss the issues of greatest concern to working people in Long Beach. We were also thrilled when LAANE joined The Center this year as a community partner for our annual QFilm Festival, which drew record crowds and raised more money than ever before for The Center’s programs and services.
What is most important about our partnership with LAANE and the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community is that our communities are not mutually exclusive. We’re not a partnership of separate entities, but rather an alliance of LGBTQ people and straight allies who believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to live without fear of poverty and without the fear of having nowhere to live. We care because we are overlapping communities, fighting for equality, fairness and dignity on multiple and common fronts. Without a doubt, Measure N was one of those fronts.
Porter Gilberg is the administrative director for The Center Long Beach.