Friday, April 23, 2010

Protest Against Hornblower Cruises: LGBT and Union Activists Join to Fight Bigotry

Vincent Atos and Josue Arguelles

On April 19 more than 50 activists from the LGBT and labor communities joined to protest alleged bigotry and anti-union organizing by Hornblower Cruises at Pier 33, the landing for voyages to and from Alcatraz. Members of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Pride at Work, the San Francisco Labor Council, and Unite Here! Local 2 gathered with friends to wave signs, hear speeches, and picket on the Embarcadero. It is an area with heavy foot traffic since it is near The City’s number one tourist attraction — the Pier 39 complex. Dozens of visitors dressed for Southern California weather stopped to look and listen and distracting athletes ran by every couple minutes.

Rafael Mandelman in the picket line

The focal point of the event, Vincent Atos, spoke to the throng about his comfort at being openly gay while working for Hornblower Cruises and how much he enjoyed his duties as a deck hand. Then he alleged that suddenly he was fired for “acting too gay” and for attempting to organize a union for boat employees. Atos spoke with emotion and made it clear that he is assertive and angry, and that his filing of a discrimination complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission is meant to make his case public. The Milk Club’s letter about the situation to Hornblower Cruises with a suggestion to meet has not been answered, and the company denied that it discriminates.

Josue Arguelles and David Waggoner

MC Josue Arguelles held the bullhorn for eloquent speaker David Waggoner, who is the co-president of the Milk Club. And Rev. Jorael Alvaran spoke about Flipinos working in the U.S. to help their families and how much they need unions to protect their rights. Among the prominent LGBT’s who joined the picketing were Milk Club co-president Denise D’Anne, former Milk Club president and District 8 supervisor candidate Rafael Mandelman, union and housing activist Robert Haaland, and agitator Jack Fertig.

Some of the many activists at the protest

The Milk Club is presenting "A Fierce Alliance For Justice: The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club's 32nd Anniversary Dinner With Keynote Speaker Professor Angela Davis" on May 27. The Milk Dinners are a traditional gathering of progressive politicos that draw LGBT and labor activists to discuss cases like the one of Vincent Atos and honor individuals and groups that have excelled in the spirit of Harvey Milk and his demand for equality.

Activist Chris Emerson

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