SEIU 503’s Lavender Caucus is a member-led caucus within our union dedicated to facilitating open and respectful communication between the LGBTQIA community and the labor movement through visibility, education, networking, supporting, organizing, and promoting of LGBTQIA issues. Over the past year, members of 503’s Lavender Caucus have attended Albany’s first ever Pride March in July of 2017, tabled at Salem’s Capitol Pride, and engaged Governor Kate Brown in calling for state protections of transgender service members. With the leadership of Chair Taylor Bacon, the Caucus continues to expand and increase visibility within our union and the public.
Red Dress PDX is a charitable non-profit that throws an annual fundraising party in Portland that raises money to support queer youth, help community members living with HIV and AIDS, aid domestic violence survivors, and serve other community members in need. Red Dress parties began in the early 2000s with just a few hundred attendees, and have since grown into annual events bringing thousands from throughout the country to participate in a theme-filled dance party where everyone is required to wear some form of red dress. Tickets are $55, which includes food and drinks, with all proceeds donated to local charities, raising thousands of dollars each year.
OHA Compliance Specialist Gaby Tanaka has been working with Red Dress PDX for about five years, and has recently become involved in SEIU 503’s Lavender Caucus. After an SEIU 503 Leadership Academy training, Gaby met with Caucus Chair and 503 Board Member Taylor Bacon about the Caucus supporting the 2018 Red Dress Party. Since the party operates on the work of volunteers, the Caucus was an ideal place for recruiting members to staff this year’s party.
“We liked the idea of giving people the opportunity to get out and volunteer in the community while building the strength and visibility of the Lavender Caucus and our union at the same time,” said Gaby. “We had eight volunteers from the Caucus, they did amazing work and had a great night. I’m so appreciative that both organizations were able to join together for the community, and I’m looking forward to our involvement in next year’s party.”
2018’s beneficiaries were The Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls, building girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance; and Bridging Voices, a youth chorus for gay, straight and questioning youth which strives to be a safe, accessible place for those aged 13-21 to experience empowerment and unity through music. With over 2000 attendees at 2018’s party, Red Dress PDX was able to raise thousands of donations for Portland-area youth programs.
Though the Lavender Caucus is made up largely of SEIU members within the LGBTQIA community, all members of SEIU are welcomed to join and help support equality for all. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact SEIU 503 Lavender Caucus at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out to Lavender Caucus Chair Taylor Bacon (email@example.com).
The Lavender Caucus plans to participate in pride festivals around the state this summer, follow them on Facebook to find out when they will be in your area.