July is Disability Pride Month, and AFGE is proud to show solidarity with the disability community during this month of reflection, visibility, and concrete action.
In 1990, the first Disability Pride Day was held in Boston, the same year that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. While not federally recognized, the disability community has continued to establish July as Disability Pride Month with parades and celebrations held across the country, including Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and more.
The Disability Pride flag was created by Ann Magill, a disabled artist. The black field in the flag represents the color of mourning, for those who have suffered from ableist violence, and also for rebellion and protest. The zigzag/lightning bolt design reflects how people with disabilities must navigate barriers, and the creativity in doing so; breaking free from normative authority and body control. The five colors in the flag represent the variety of needs and experiences (mental illness, intellectual and developmental disability, invisible and undiagnosed disabilities, physical disability, and sensory disabilities). Finally, the parallel stripes represent solidarity within the disability community and all its differences.
AFGE's advocacy for people with disabilities
AFGE continues its efforts to advocate for policies that support people with disabilities in the government workforce. The union has been a strong advocate for expanded paid family leave, which would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of this paid leave.
Legislation introduced in the House in January (HR 564) and in the Senate in April (S 1158) would give federal workers 12 weeks of paid leave to care for seriously ill or injured family members, to tend to an employee’s own serious health condition, or to address issues stemming from a family member’s current or recent military service. It would build upon legislation enacted in 2019 that provided federal workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child, effective Oct. 1, 2020.
The Center for American Progress explains that paid family and medical leave is important to the disability community because, "there are more than 6 million people with a disability in the U.S. labor force, and these individuals may need access to paid leave to take time away from work to care for their own health condition or to provide care for a family member. Additionally, the 61 million Americans with disabilities may need their family members to take paid leave to provide them with care related to their health condition."
AFGE recently testified before Congress on this critical issue as it relates to federal employees and will continue to advocate for this important legislation. In addition to legislative avenues, the AFGE Women's and Fair Practices Departments (WFP) work tirelessly to represent employees who face discrimination at work because of their disability or other protected class.
Through the union's equal employment opportunity (EEO) attorneys and the AFGE Human Rights Committee, consisting of national fair practices affirmative action coordinators and national women's advisory coordinators, union members can receive critical representation and guidance on EEO matters. AFGE WFP also has a robust training curriculum that provides education on EEO processes for union activists who want to grow their skills in protecting and advocating for themselves and their colleagues against discrimination in the workplace.
AFGE WFP recently announced its comprehensive suite of EEO self-paced training modules that cover topics such as EEO protected classes, process and timelines, diversity and inclusion, theories of discrimination, burdens of proof, remedies in EEO matters, as well as protected traits and filing process and deadlines for D.C. government workers. In addition to self-paced training, AFGE WFP consistently offers online training and has an extensive guide that focuses on employees’ equal employment opportunity rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and anti-discrimination laws. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the federal government from discriminating against applicants and employees with disabilities.
AFGE WFP launched a survey this summer to better learn about the issues our members with disabilities are facing in the workplace so AFGE can improve its advocacy on their behalf. AFGE WFP will use the survey results to expand training offerings and continue our union's critical representation and advocacy work.