2 min

She’s a covergirl

Mom's coming out is poster perfect

HIYA, FELLOW EMPLOYEES. Pam Diggs (with son Cory) is coming out with this poster. Credit: Xtra files

Pam Diggs isn’t even out. But she’s now a lesbian poster girl for the union – for the sake of her kids.

“By saying yes to the poster, I was setting an example for my sons. I don’t want them to be hindered in any way to do the right thing, to stand up for what you believe in or be who you are.”

The new Canadian Auto Workers poster features London’s Diggs and her child Cory, who designed it. And it was showcased during the Apr 14 weekend, at the union’s first ever gay conference.

Close to 100 members gathered in the CAW’s conference centre

in Port Elgin, and recommended that the get-together be held every two years. Regional conferences, said delegates, should be held in alternating years.

They networked, shared stories and planned for confronting homophobia in the workplace.

Tools include This Ain’t Going Away, the CAW’s new video on workplace harassment.

It was also the message homos delivered to the union leadership.

Some locals declined to send delegates, alleging lack of finances. The leadership made it clear that money shouldn’t be an issue. Locals should ask the national office for support.

While the numbers surpassed expectation, organizer David McLean says that “not everybody is out. A lot are afraid to acknowledge they want to attend the conference.”

This is not the case for John Watts, who works in Chrysler’s minivan plant in Windsor. “I’m completely out and it’s not a problem.

“I am out, but there are many that aren’t.”

“If you’re not out in the workplace, you’re not as strong to combat homophobia,” said Air Canada employee Brian Nolan (from Newfoundland), adding that coming out at work can sometimes alienate you from other homos and certainly straights, even those

who are supportive, but uncomfortable.

Find allies, Nolan said, and put the onus on your supervisor or shop stewards to enforce the anti-harassment policy. Go at your pace. “Remember,” he concluded, “you’re not confessing to a crime.”

While there are gay caucuses in London, Windsor and Vancouver,

there are none in Toronto.

Says London’s McLean: “They’re so spread out and many people working inside the city live outside. But a new one is being planned for the greater region and (the London And Area Caucus) will be there to help.”

One of Canada’s largest unions, the CAW has members in the automobile, aerospace, transportation and hospitality industries.

Though the union has done a lot to achieve same-sex benefits in workplaces, an internal June 1999 document recognizes that “there are still a substantial number of collective agreements that do not currently provide for this.”

Call David McLean at (519) 453-5710 or the CAW’s National Office at (416) 495-3781 or 1-800-268-5763.