Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Yesterday's ENDA Hearing: Use It To Pass ENDA

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 24, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA

Yesterday morning, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on ENDA. It was very good for the bill, raising awareness in many different ways and among many different consituencies. (See Austen's summary and our liveblog, as well as the archived webcast and the witness testimony on the Committee's website.)

In and of itself, however, the hearing is not going to get the bill passed. Hearings have been held on previous versions of ENDA since 1994, and we still don't have a law.

What will get the law passed are votes in Congress, and that is the only thing that will get them passed. You can use the hearing to help get those votes. Here's how.

Keep in mind that the real fight is in the Senate. Yesterday's hearing was held in the House. In the deluge of information overload that is DC, Senators don't know about the hearing or what was said there. A lot was said there, and even those of us who watched it probably don't remember a good deal of what happened.

We must get the Senate up to speed on what happened in yesterday's hearing.

That is important not only for those Senators who are wavering, but also for those who strongly support ENDA. The most effective way to inform people in a body like the Senate is by their peers. Telling Senator Schumer about the hearing will mean that when it comes time for Senator Schumer to support ENDA, he'll be able to point to a recent hearing in Congress for specific guidance. That's very persuasive; a lot more than "it's the right thing to do."

What makes it the right thing to do? That's the question that must be answered by our Senatorial allies.

So how do you educate a Senator about yesterday's hearing? It's no good sending them the webpage or the Youtube links and telling them to look at it. They won't.

Instead, contact them and tell them that the hearing occurred and something specific about it.

Here's some ideas -- choose one:

1. Call your Senator's office, and tell them about a specific witness who testified at the hearing. (Find your Senator here and call at 202-224-3121.)

Examples: At the hearing, Yale Law Professor William Eskridge testified about the state of the law and how it has failed to protect workers even where they are well-qualified for their jobs, including the professor himself.

At the hearing, Vandy Beth Glenn testified how, despite her many qualifications for her job in the Georgia statehouse, she was escorted from the building and fired when she told her boss that she was preparing for gender transition.

2. Send your Senator an email mentioning a specific fact brought out at the hearing. (Find your Senator's email here.)

Examples: At the hearing, Acting EEOC Director Stuart Ishimaru noted that many of the nation's top businesses recognize that discrimination is bad for business, and 87% of Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies.

UCLA Williams Institute Director Brad Sears presented a study showing that one in five LGB public sector employees in the 2008 General Social Survey reported being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

3. Write a letter to your Senator in the mail and talk about what a specific Member of the Committee said or asked.

Examples: At the hearing, Committee Chair Rep. George Miller said that ENDA is needed to cover 172 million Americans who are subject to legal employment discrimination, including those who work for state governments.

(Find your Senator's mailing address here and call at 202-224-3121.)

I would resist the temptation to try to cram too many facts into one communication. You can always call them tomorrow or next week. The important thing is to keep up a steady rain, rather than a flood at the end. After all, the Senate vote is probably going to come up months from now, and there's plenty of time. But, like studying for a big exam, you can't do it all the night before. A little bit every day is the key to success.

If you want to see where we are in the Senate, look here.

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