Open Letter to Mayor Gray on the Large Retailer Accountability Act

August 6, 2013

Dear Mayor Gray,

You have been tremendous on transgender issues. Since entering office, you have supported vital programs for our community, such as Project Empowerment; you have made strong showings of support for priorities, such as the Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act; and you understand the importance of following the community’s lead.

On that last point, please remember: labor standards are a transgender issue. As a trans activist who sees every advancement for workers’ rights as an advance for my community, I implore you to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act.

The transgender community needs money. According to the DC Trans Coalition’s recent Needs Assessment of the DC trans community, only 50% are currently employed, and 34% currently work in the underground economy. Money is vital, and for the trans community, in short supply.

But merely injecting small amounts of money into DC is not adequate. The Needs Assessment shows that of those identifying housing as a top priority, 30% cited access to affordable housing as a major issue. And of those that have worked, 45% noted having faced some form of discrimination at work.

If the trans community is to thrive, it needs employers that pay well, and can provide a guarantee that they will treat trans workers with respect.

Walmart, without the strong urging of the DC government via the Large Retailer Accountability Act, is not that employer. Walmart’s wages of $8.25 an hour do not match our living wage; my concerns about affordable housing will not be assuaged unless we can be sure that all companies pay a living wage. Furthermore, speaking to the discrimination point, Walmart–according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index–does not provide a program for cultural competency across the entire company. Non-discrimination policies mean nothing without a solid regime of enforcement.

The DC government has long been a champion of trans and workers’ rights, with a statutory living wage, and, again, the trans-friendly policies your Administration has supported so thoroughly. At the same time, you’ve stood tough against Chick-Fil-A for its anti-LGBT stance. Follow the example you’ve set so far; follow the tradition of DC government since Home Rule; follow the advice of so many of us in the trans community: if Walmart is going to put stores in DC, we need to make them accountable. You need to make sure they treat my community with respect, and an integral part of that is making sure Walmart pays a living wage. The DC government still has plenty of work to do ensure the safe livelihoods of transgender people, but there’s a decision you can make immediately that will help our community.

Sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act for workers, for transgender people, and for DC.

In solidarity,

Andy Bowen
Social Policy Organizer
DC Trans Coalition

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